A staggering 67% of the B2B buyer’s journey now takes place online.* The very first step a new prospect takes is an online search. This doesn’t mean your flesh-and-blood sales reps are locked out of 2/3 of the buyer’s journey (that’s a marketing myth). But, it does mean that prospects will be collecting all kinds of opinions, advice, information, and misinformation online. A lot can happen during that 67% of the journey without you. Here are five things you can do about it.
1. Get in the discussion early on. Create the kind of content that will catch a prospect’s attention when they first start asking questions that you can answer. Be the helpful expert, not the guy trying to make a quick sale. Offer insights, tips, and tools to help your prospect get a handle on their challenge/opportunity and figure out what to do next.
2. Make yourself easy to be found. People need the help you can offer. But they’ve got to be able to find you first. So build your online presence. Optimize your content. Keep adding new content. Participate in online discussions and social chatter. Never sacrifice quality of content for quantity, but remember that quantity does make it easier for people to find you online. This is basic stuff, but you can’t be found if you aren’t out there – and you can always do more to increase your online presence.
3. Ask the tough questions. In your online content, challenge the status quo. Be the contrarian. Have an opinion. Disagree (but do it politely and thoughtfully). Help your world see things from a different point of view. If all your content just goes with the flow, it will wash right over your prospects.
4. Keep in touch. Respond to comments. Answer requests. Build relationships. And yes, there’s a limit to this. No one has enough hours in the day to do everything that everyone asks of them online. But you can always respond with something. Everyone’s important – even the people who will never buy your solution.
5. Don’t wait too long to get sales involved. Sales and content marketing can both be more effective if they work together – not separately or sequentially. Many prospects welcome the help of a knowledgeable sales rep earlier in the buyer’s journey, and your online content can continue to provide valuable support right up to the point where contracts are signed.
All these things can be done online during that first 2/3 of the B2B buyers journey … and beyond. They’re how you build meaningful relationships across the entire buying cycle. And they’re what content marketing is all about.
*According to SiriusDecisions