5 Everyday B2B Sales Problems that Content Marketing Solves

potato chip marketing

by Carolyn Frith

A potato chip. A jet engine.

While it’s competitive and costly to market potato chips, most marketers would agree that it’s far less complicated than marketing a jet engine. Why?

The key to potato chip marketing is massive exposure. So you could, perhaps, use good old-fashioned TV advertising to create awareness and convince customers to buy. But you don’t have to worry much about educating the consumer. Some may skim through the nutritional information. Most consumers, however, in potato chip buying mode are likely laser-focused on treating their taste buds to a flavor-rich wake up call. They buy a bag, rip it open, munch on some chips, and if all goes well, get hooked and buy again.

On the other hand, whether it’s a jet engine, information technology solution, professional service, 3D laser scanner or some other business to business (B2B) product or service, marketing B2B is a labyrinth of challenges.

Luckily, for B2B marketers today, content marketing is form-fitted to solve B2B marketing problems.

What is B2B Content Marketing?

First of all, a quick definition of “Content Marketing” from the company that coined the term, the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

The 5 B2B Sales Problems and Content Marketing Solutions

So, what are the unique characteristics of marketing B2B products? And why is content marketing the perfect match?

1. B2B Products Are Complex

Not only are B2B products jam-packed with features and benefits, they also often have a plethora of applications. Also, potential buyers for these products have different levels of product understanding.

  • A Kaleidoscope of Industries and Applications

One of my climultiple B2B industriesents, for example, manufactures and markets 3D laser scanners, used for plant documentation. They market them to industries that include offshore oil, power generation, automobile manufacturing and more. Each of these industries is using 3D laser scanners to document as-is conditions of a plant, but uses range from retrofitting an offshore oil rig and expanding a power generation plant to retooling an assembly line.

Thus, prospects need education, which content marketing can provide, on how they can use products to help in their environments.

  • On Different Rungs of the Ladder of Understanding

Another issue is that your prospects’ product understanding may fall anywhere on the ladder from elementary to advanced.

ladder ladyIn the 3D laser scanning world, while some prospects know how powerful laser scanning can be for creating plant documentation, others are stuck in a rut with tape measures and rulers. They measure pipes and fixtures the way they’ve always done it. So, while some people need to learn how new technology can increase their speed to market, accuracy and efficiency, others just have to figure out how to choose the best laser scanner.

Clearly B2B marketing requires a lot of education, all of which needs to be tailored to the individual’s needs, applications, and existing level of knowledge.

While such teaching used to require hours and hours one-on-one with a sales person, prospects are now searching for answers online at their own pace. And that’s why content marketing is a perfect solution.

Whatever B2B product, service or solution you’re selling, you can educate your prospects with blog posts, videos, e-books, webinars, case studies and more. If you create content to answer your audience’s questions at each phase of the buying cycle, they can find and consume it when they have an appetite for it. Also, there’s no need for a one-size-fits-all message. You can address the different segments and industries with content tailored to their needs.

2. B2B Sales Involves an Army of Influencers and Decision Makers

The next twist in your B2B marketing maze is that you need to educate and persuade multiple people involved in influencing or making the buying decision. Having several buying influences makes for an intricate challenge because:

  • Each person involved in the buying decision looks at the problem from a different angle and may have distinct requirements
  • Team members get involved in the decision making process at different times
  • One person may want to buy your product, but he doesn’t have the authority to make the purchase

decision making armyFor example, the Director of Risk Management, Sue, may be clamoring for a software as a service solution (SAAS) that mitigates the risk of accepting credit card transactions. Sue knows it can make her life easier, and she’ll sleep better at night knowing fraudsters are not about to strike the organization. However, Sue has to convince the business owner, Ron, who wants to see the ROI calculation before dipping into cash reserves.

In this situation, the software company needs to develop content that not only proves the power of the solution to mitigate fraud, which convinces Sue to fight for the solution, but also how to crunch the numbers and determine the ROI it provides. Sue will use this to bring Ron over to her side.

3. The Sales and Buying Marathon

marathonTypically it takes longer to decide to research and purchase a B2B product or service than the proverbial potato chip. According to a study by Marketing Sherpa, the majority of B2B sales cycles are more than four months and 10% spill into the 1+ year category. That’s partially because, as we’ve discussed, products are complex and multiple people make a buying decision. Other reasons include:

  • B2B products and services rack up high price tabs, sometimes even creeping into the six or seven-figure range. Marketing Sherpa also notes “larger deal sizes and longer sales cycles go hand in hand.”
  • Because some B2B products have high risks associated with making the wrong decision, due diligence is in order. Think about it … the stakes are much higher if you mess up and buy an aircraft that leaks fuel than if you buy a pen that leaks ink.

Every marathoner needs good nutrition. So, along each milepost of the buying marathon — awareness, interest, consideration, decision — you need to serve up the content to fuel your audience. Thus, you’ll provide the sustenance they need to move faster and to cross your intended finish line successfully, purchasing your product.

4. Seeking a Large Fish in a Small Sea

2818308Usually the B2B companies are selling to a niche with fewer customers; however, each of them can add significant sales to their organization. After all, a jet engine and even a software solution cost more than a bag of chips. So it’s worth investing in multiple forms of content that appeal to various market segments and work to attract, convert and retain them.

5. Personal Sales Is a Larger Part of the Mix

In most B2B environments, there is a personal sales relationship, whether it’s an inside sales team or sales people who sit across the desk from prospects and customers.

There are a couple of issues here:

  • Sales people are expensive.
  • They tend to shy away from getting involved with prospects in the early part of their buying process because they prefer to deal with educated prospects who can have an immediate impact on their sales quota.

Content marketing that includes emails for lead nurturing is a cost-effective way to warm up leads to a point where your sales people are eager to pursue them.

To learn more about setting up and implementing a B2B Content Marketing Program, call Carolyn Frith at 610-340-0622 or email cfrith@carolynfrith.com for your free initial consultation.

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