The Best Content Types for Each Stage of the B2B Sales Cycle

The Best Content Types for Each Stage of the B2B Sales Cycle

By February 18, 2015Content Marketing
STRYDE | The Best Content Types for Each Stage of the B2B Sales Cycle 2

As content marketing moves from an industry-specific jargon to a widely-accepted business tactic, we’re privileged and excited to be on the forefront of a new frontier. More firms dipping their toes into the content marketing pool means even more brilliant minds taking stock of the landscape.

One firm doing just that is Eccolo Media. Eccolo recently published results from an extensive survey among technology buyers. The firm surveyed over 100 individuals who influence or make technology buying decisions.

Respondents ran the gamut from engineers to C-level executives. Here’s a breakdown of the respondents demographics:

B2B Content Survey Respondent Demographics

Eccolo’s survey sample size is minimal, but the breadth of job roles and industries gives an excellent snapshot of what business-to-business buyers are looking for when it comes to content consumption.

Eccolo Media’s 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report Findings

The goal of Eccolo’s survey was to determine what content is most helpful in each of the four sales cycle phases: pre-sales, initial sales, mid-sales, and final sales.

Here is the Eccolo Media 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report, Eccolo Media Inc. infographic. After the infographic, we’ll really dig into the survey findings and what they mean for your firm.

eccolo_buying_cycle_infographic-FINAL

Digging into the Infographic

Creating content is a common content marketing stumbling block for organizations. The best way to overcome it is to totally understand your consumers buying journey. After you understand their journey and questions that guide the search, you can create content based on the Content Marketing Pyramid.

The buyer’s core questions along her journey create the crux of the sales process. These questions then help to form what content customers crave and consume at each stage.

Now, let’s really dig into Eccolo’s findings on content types for each stage of the B2B sales cycle.

Phase One – Unaware of the Problem

Before the consumer enters the buying process, she is understandably unaware of the problem at hand. The most effective way to spark a problem recognition is through visually-focused and succinct methods of communication.

E-newsletters – Email is an essential content type in your overall content marketing strategy. Through an email newsletter, consumers are able to quickly identify a problem they’re facing. With short copy and a clear call-to-action, consumers can easily identify the gaps they need filled.

Blogs – As with email, blogs provide a perfect stage to communicate a concise message. Unless consumers are subscribers to your blog, they will most likely end up at your blog through social channels or search results. This is the perfect place to herd customers into your funnel, since these channels are built for first-touch interactions.

Brochures/Data Sheets – Again, the common theme with stage one content consumption is visually appealing and succinct. Brochures and data sheets are the perfect way to quickly communicate an overview of a problem to consumers.

Phase Two – Understand the Problem

In the second phase of the buying process, the customer is full-on understanding mode. Here, she’s trying to collect and synthesize as much information on her specific problem as possible. Not surprisingly, consumers crave content that is very detailed and descriptive in this stage.

White Paper – White papers are a great content choice in the second stage of the sales process because they are lengthy, detailed, unbiased, and informative. White papers provide objective and thorough information that customers love to read at this phase.

Case Studies – Similarly to white papers, case studies are detailed and informative. The customer here is looking for similarities between firms you have already served, and the subsequent successes in that interaction. Remember, at this phase, consumers WANT lengthy and detailed content.

Phase Three – Identify Solutions, Consider Vendors

Now that the consumer fully understands every element of her problem, she will begin to consider solutions and vendors that provide those solutions. Here is where your firm should shift from complete objectivity to really showcasing what sets your firm’s solution apart from your competitors.

Detailed Tech Guides – Technical guides go much more in-depth into problem-solution scenarios than white papers or case studies. With tech guides, the problem and solution are described in meticulous detail. This is precisely what consumers crave here, so give it to them!

Videos – We all know that images are processed faster than text. In fact, 50% of our brain is dedicated to visual functions. Cater to your consumers preferences here by describing more complicated solutions through a video. Videos provide a great opportunity to speak directly to your customers and explain more complicated concepts through voice rather than text.

Webinars – Webinars provide a one-two punch to customers in the third phase of the sales process. Not only can you provide crazy-detailed information, but you provide it in a visually appealing manner. What’s also great about webinars is that they allow you to communicate in real-time with your consumers and answer questions directly.

Phase Four – Finalizing vendor, purchasing solution

As the infographic points out, fewer consumers digest content in the final phase of the sales cycle. Nearly 50% of consumers utilized content in the second and third stage, but by the fourth stage that drops to just under 20%. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create content for that 20%. Quite the opposite, actually. By providing useful content at the final stage, you could greatly increase your firm’s chances of being selected.

EBooks – B2B consumers utilize eBooks in the final phase of purchasing. Quite separate from white papers, eBooks are conversational, highly visual, and easy-to-read. EBooks highlight what kind of firm is providing the solution, and how the firm itself views the solution options.

The Sales Cycle, The Buying Process, & Your Firm’s Content

What we loved most about Eccolo’s survey findings was that it reinforced the concept of consumer-driven content at each stage of the sales cycle. For B2B companies, it can be easy to dismiss content creation as a strictly B2C endeavor.

But, that could not be further from the truth! Whether you’re B2B or B2C, you’re always talking to people.

Let these people dictate what they do and do not want to see at each step in their buying process, and adjust your sales cycle around that. By simply putting yourself in the shoes of your consumer and answering each question that could arise along her journey, you’ll effectively create content for every stage of the sales cycle.

About Greg Shuey

Greg is a member of the executive team at Stryde and a seasoned digital marketer who has worked with thousands of businesses, large and small, to generate more revenue via online marketing strategy and execution. Greg has written hundreds of blog posts as well as spoken at many events about online marketing strategy. You can follow Greg on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply