How Content Influences the Buying Process and Grows Business

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

New Rules of Marketing and PR  |  Buyer Persona  |  Case Studies  |  New Rules of Sales & Service  |  Best Practices

sales_funnelToday when people want to buy something, the web is almost always the first stop on their shopping trip. In any market category, potential customers head online to conduct research. The moment of truth is when they reach your site: Will you draw them into your sales process or let them click away?

Many marketers now understand that content drives action and quite a few have embraced the idea of inbound marketing. That’s great because when I started writing about content on this blog ten years ago, very few understood the value of creating information to market a product or service.

Top of the funnel isn’t enough

While it is encouraging to see many companies deliver information to their buyers, the vast majority focus their content effort only at the top of the sales funnel. In other words, they create content to attract people, but the content provision stops once the salespeople take over. This is a big mistake.

Marketing is communicating to many buyers. Sales is communicating to one buyer at a time. Both require content.

Effective marketers take website visitors' buying cycle into account when creating content and organizing it on the site. People in the early stages of the sales cycle need basic information about the product category and maybe a little about what you offer.

Those further along in the process need more detailed information. When a salesperson is engaged with a potential customer, it’s a great time to deliver content and a perfect reason for a salesperson to send an email. A YouTube video, blog post, ebook or whatever can be precisely what a buyer needs. It’s so much more friendly to send a buyer with a link to an appropriate video then to do the typical “are you ready to buy now” sort of email.

A focus on understanding the buying process and developing appropriate content that links visitors through the cycle to the point of purchase is essential. And the salespeople, who manage one deal at a time, are the perfect way to share the content.

Learning Centers for self-service buyers

Over the past month, I’ve been researching bamboo flooring. It’s time to update some floors in our home and are considering bamboo. When I started my research, I knew absolutely nothing about bamboo floors. So I turned to the Google Machine and searched on “bamboo floors” and perused the first few pages of results.

There were a number of sites that helped me, but the one I found the most valuable was BuildDirect. They have excellent product pages for their bamboo flooring and offer free samples.

There’s the BuildDirect Learning Center with valuable text-based information I enjoyed such as The Durability of Bamboo Flooring and The Sustainability of Bamboo Flooring. And there’s a YouTube channel where I watched videos like How Hard is Bamboo Flooring? Which features BuildDirect co-founder Rob Banks (and which has 26,000+ views).

There were many more videos and reports that I didn’t check out. In other words, BuildDirect has a lot of content to share!

All this excellent information led me to request five free samples from BuildDirect.  I also ordered samples from two other suppliers.

Salespeople as content curators!

This is the point when at many companies, marketing’s job has finished and sales’ job is just starting. I think a better approach is for sales and marketing to work together to provide ideal content to buyers as they continue their journey through the buying process.

After I placed my free sample order from BuildDirect, I received an email confirmation that looked like a basic order form: Just the facts. This would have been a great place for BuildDirect to point me to additional content – a video or a report on their site such as How Bamboo Flooring is Made.

The BuildDirect samples arrived very quickly and I enjoyed imagining my floors with each of the options. Interestingly, the samples I ordered from the other bamboo flooring suppliers never appeared.

A few days after the BuildDirect samples arrived, I got a nice follow-up email from my salesperson at BuildDirect. It was to confirm the samples arrived and to offer to answer any questions I had. Standard sales stuff handled well. But again, there was a missed opportunity to share content that people in my stage of the process might be interested in.

An extra paragraph in the email reading something like: “By now you’ve likely compared the samples we sent. At this stage many of my customers want to learn about installing bamboo flooring so I am attaching a report that might interest you “How to Install a Bamboo Floor”. And here’s a link to a video made by our co-founder that answers How is Bamboo Flooring Graded?”

BuildDirect has excellent online content and I liked the samples. I’ll likely buy from them. But I could use some nudging to get me to the point where I’m ready to pull out my credit card.

Yes, product superiority, advertising, the media, and branding remain important to the marketing mix. But on the web, smart marketers (and salespeople too) understand that an effective content strategy, tightly integrated to the buying process, is critical to success.

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