You might have heard about the 10,000 hours rule? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success he states that it takes about 10,000 hours to get good at something. We’re well past that magical mark for our time working on inbound marketing programs.
One of the lessons we learned is that inbound marketing program performance is directly affected by the delivery of content in context. What that means is when we present educational content at the perfect time in a prospect’s buying process, we get rewarded with increased lead generation.
Since the goal for our clients is lead generation, we want to do this as much as possible.
To effectively accomplish that goal, the first step is to map out your client’s buying process. There are a lot of different opinions on what the buying process looks like and, honestly, it’s probably different for every client.
One sample buying process model looks like this:
- Early: looking for education but unaware of a problem
- Early-Mid: looking for education on what needs fixing
- Early-Late: looking for education and aware of solutions
- Mid: looking for demonstration of expertise
- Mid-Late: looking for differentiation of solutions
- Late: looking for validation on service, product and company
Analyst firm SiriusDecisions presents a slightly different framework:
- Stage 1 - Loosening of the Status Quo
- Stage 2 - Committing to Change
- Stage 3 - Exploring Possible Solutions
- Stage 4 - Committing to a Solution
- Stage 5 - Justifying the Decision
- Stage 6 - Making the Selection
When it comes to figuring out what content to deliver at what stage in the buying process, one of the best ways is to get sales people to share the questions prospects typically ask during each stage.
For instance, an easy one is the later stage when prospects are looking for validation or working through a selection process. At this stage most prospects want to check references. The way we handle this is to send along a Reference Reel with short video vignettes from real clients answering the same questions they would likely be asked during a reference check. Click here to see our Reference Reel.
This content, delivered in context, makes the process simple for our prospects. It makes it remarkable. It limits the interruptions we have to cause our clients and it actually makes it easier on our prospects since they don't have to call the same people asking the same questions. Now there is no scheduling, calling, missed calls, voice mails, call backs—just a 2-minute video.
Content marketing isn’t just about the content you create, but when and how you deliver it. Typically content gets delivered via your website. This is primarily self-service. People visit your site and download what they want, when they want it. Content also gets delivered by the sales team during the sales process. This is where understanding the buying process is extra relevant. The better your sales team is at this, the faster your prospects will close.
Finally, content gets delivered via lead nurturing programs. These are automated and regular content delivery mechanisms like a monthly email marketing campaign or trigger emails which occur after key events in the sales process. For instance, you might run a series of three personal emails delivered every three days after a prospect downloads a Free Report from your website. This type of program keeps you top of mind, keeps them coming back to your website, keeps them reading your stuff and continues to emotionally connect your company to your prospects and their needs.
Start Today Tip – You shouldn’t consider any type of lead nurturing or content marketing program until you understand your own buying cycle. Take 30 minutes and map it out. Get your sales people involved to actually write out the questions prospects ask and when. Map those to your process. Now you are ready for content marketing and lead nurturing. This isn’t easy, so consider bringing in an inbound marketing expert to make sure your content is engaging, metrics are in place and the content creation can be sustained over time.
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