Business-to-business marketing has its own set of rules. Typically, just one person decides on the purchase of a pair of shoes, and only a few make buying decisions on the family car, but corporate purchases can involve dozens of decision-makers and multiple steps. Entire teams discuss whether they’re going to go with you or one of your competitors, so it’s vital to make an impact on everyone involved in the process.
Content can be powerfully influential well before your prospective B2B customer has reached out to you. Whether it’s a review of your latest product line, a blog post linked by a colleague or an article unearthed via a Google search, your prospects already know plenty about you by the time they pick up a phone or send an email. Knowing how to connect with key influencers with your content is pivotal to closing the deal.
Researchers – the First Wave
In the earliest stages of decision-making, team leaders may assign research duties to lower-level employees to see what’s available. These initial window-shoppers aren’t experts in the field yet, and they may be fairly unfamiliar with the products or services you offer. They’re looking for something valuable enough to bring back to their supervisors yet easy enough to understand at a glance. Accessible information is a strong selling point for this first wave of browsers; they’re still searching broadly rather than in depth. Give them a clear, well-designed site that offers a white paper or useful article to show to the higher-ups, and you’ve done much to win them over.
Users – the Front Line
The people who will use your products and services almost always have a strong vote in purchasing decisions. They’re knowledgeable about their own pain points and the solutions they expect you to provide. Experience and industry knowledge typically matter most to them; they aren’t as concerned with cost as they are with effectiveness at addressing their needs. Give them industry-savvy blog posts, newsletters and webinars to get their stamp of approval.
Experts – the Cognoscenti
Few businesses make a major purchase without consulting at least a few experts. Whether it’s an in-house employee, a contractor or an independent consultant, the person who has in-depth knowledge can sway an entire team for or against a purchase. They typically have highly specific questions for you that a website’s FAQ can’t answer alone. They want hard data, proven results and clear evidence that you know their industry well enough to satisfy their high standards. They welcome in-depth information sources such as white papers and case studies. Making your team available to talk one-on-one with them earns points.
Reviewers – the Voice of the Crowd
People naturally turn to others when seeking information on a major purchase, and user reviews are as close as a Google search. Company-written or paid reviews without disclosure are illegal according to Federal Trade Commission, so you have limited control over reviews that appear online. You can, however, publish testimonials on your website, giving your loyal customers a platform from which to share their positive reviews. Should a negative review appear high on search engine results pages, a reputation management strategy can dilute its potentially harmful impact.
Financial – the Ones with the Purse Strings
No matter how convinced experts and end users are of your product’s value, the CFO or other financial decision-maker will inevitably have a vote on any purchase. Supply them with facts and figures that support your value while offering a competitive price, and you’ve earned their approval. Data sheets, case studies, infographics and in-depth feature articles citing respected sources are effective at reaching financial influencers.
Executives and Owners – Where the Buck Stops
Ultimately, all decisions are made at the top. To make a sale, you must convince its executives that you offer the right choice. Company owners and CEOs know their industry thoroughly, and they expect you to understand it too. They earned their position by being big-picture thinkers and respond to content that answers the big questions. White papers and feature articles that get to the core of a challenge and offer cogent solutions hold appeal for an executive audience.
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