When a B2B company sits down to put together a content strategy, they typically build it in the name of all mighty thought leadership and brand awareness. And this is where they go wrong. Instead of focusing on being recognized as an authority in their field, they could be far better off focusing on helping their customers make a purchase.
Gartner has a nice framework to help you do just that – enable your customers to buy.
Before we start mapping content to each stage of a buyer's journey, let's first define what's so special about B2B buyers and how they differ from their B2C counterparts.
First of all, when you say a B2B buyer, you most likely talk about an entire group of people. It can involve six to 10 decision-makers, unlike in B2C, where the buyer is often an individual. All of these people gather information independently, which makes your content planning pretty difficult because you want to attract different buyer personas.
It takes B2B buyers a really long time to make a decision. After all, they need to agree on it with all the decision-makers involved. This means you shouldn't expect B2B buyers to convert immediately. Instead, you need to focus on creating valuable content that helps you develop relationships with B2B buyers and lead them from one step to another as they are trying to complete their buying journey.
Finally, in B2B the deal sizes are large. Because the market of buyers ready to pay a lot of money is narrow, your content strategy needs to be well-targeted. You want to make sure the leads you attract are the right fit for your business. Going viral on social media, for example, might work great in attracting B2C buyers, but it's not going to be effective in generating B2B leads.
Now when we've figured what differentiates B2B buyers, we can say it out loud: It's pretty hard to generate B2B leads.
But you know what, B2B buyers are having a hard time trying to make a purchase as well!
Gartner calculated: 77% of B2B buyers feel that making a purchase is very complicated. They called it “time-consuming” and even “painful.”
This is because the market of technologies, products, suppliers, and services is pretty large and getting even bigger. Buyers have a lot of doubts when it comes to making a decision. And the problem is, B2B marketers are not making it any easier for buyers to make a purchase.
So what can we do to solve this problem?
Simple – we need to create content that helps B2B buyers to buy. Gartner calls it "buyer enablement."
Gartner has a nice framework that can help you visualize the B2B buying journey and plan your content according to specific B2B buying jobs that customers must complete to arrive at a purchase.
Let's take a look at this framework.
At this early stage, the buyer realizes they have a problem. They are thinking:
We need to do something.
What solutions are out there to solve our problem?
What exactly do we need the product to do?
Does this company offer what we need?
We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.
We need to get everyone on board.
These buying jobs don’t happen sequentially, so you don’t need to think linearly when you’re trying to map your content ideas to this buying journey.
Now, let's look at how you can use this framework to plan content.
Let’s say you work for a Magento development agency that wants to attract B2B retailers to their website. Here’s what your reader’s path may look like:
In this first stage of the buying journey, your reader starts to experience a problem:
My customers want to buy online but I don’t have an e-commerce store.
At this stage, the reader might be interested in researching business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce transactions and B2B e-commerce trends. They’ll also probably want to know what other companies do when they’re in the same situation. Has everybody else in the B2B industry already adopted e-commerce?
After realizing they should be online (where their customers are) your reader is thinking:
I need an e-commerce solution that will work with my existing business processes and systems and will fit my buyers’ complex organizational structures.
The reader’s challenge at this stage is to find a B2B e-commerce platform that can easily integrate into their business processes. They might start searching for and comparing B2B e-commerce platforms.
Once the reader has chosen a platform, they can move straight to selecting a supplier and searching for a B2B e-commerce agency—or a Magento developer, for instance, if they’ve decided to build their website using Magento. In the latter case, the supplier will be a software development vendor.
This stage can happen before selecting a supplier when the reader is evaluating B2B e-commerce platforms and trying to choose the one that best fits their needs.
When your reader is finally at the validation stage, they need details about the supplier to be convinced they’re making the right choice. At this stage, you should offer customer success stories, client testimonials, and other content created for bottom-of-the-funnel prospects, or prospects who are very close to converting.
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Gartner's B2B buying journey is awesome, and you can use it for your content marketing projects. But it's not the only right way to build your content strategy.
Check out my blog post where I talk about how to map your content to five stages of awareness, another great framework for planning content that turns readers into leads.
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