Content Marketing has been widely accepted in the Internet marketing world, regardless of industry or sector focus. In fact, roughly 80 percent of marketers use Content Marketing in their programs, according to HiveFire’s B2B Marketing Trends 2011 Survey, and 9 out of 10 B2B marketers are using Content Marketing, according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.
But each industry has its own sales cycle length, ranging from one day to one year or maybe even longer, like a retirement community client of ours. Does this mean that content marketing will work no matter the length of the sales cycle? The answer is yes.
Whether the sales cycle is a quick bike ride down the street or a vast Tour de France, B2B Marketing Trends says Content Marketing is still a preferred tactic:
Why? No matter how long it takes, the goals of content marketing are the same: brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation and customer retention. As time goes on and technology advances, customers are educating themselves more and more, delaying the point of contact with a sales rep. We have found that providing customers and potential customers something of value is the best (arguably only) way to be successful with content marketing. This means focus on education, not selling, at the top of the funnel. Buyers do not want to receive a hard sell before they are ready. Only after you have qualified someone as a hot lead should he or she receive your sales pitch.
How? In order to reach buyers before they go with your competition, align your content with every stage of your sales cycle. Indeed, Content Marketers with the most effective content are segmenting based on the buying cycle (45% of best in class versus 39% of industry average and 29% of laggards) according to Content Marketing Institute.
To do so, figure out exactly what type of information a buyer will need to make the decision to move into the next stage of the sales cycle. Content Marketing, if implemented properly, can shorten the sales cycle without rushing the buyer. This means a delicate balance of barriers to consumption compared to specificity and detail of your business’s products and services. For more details, check out Chad Pollitt’s post, “How to Properly Deploy Content Marketing in Your Sales Funnel.”
For those pieces of content that require no barrier to consumption, like blogs, the ability to move customers through the sales cycle is still outstanding, no matter how long your sales cycle is. In Hubspot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing, the percent of blog users who acquired a customer through their blog grew steadily when the company increased the amount of blogs they posted. Of those that posted multiple times a day, 92 percent gained a customer via the blog. The respondent profile of the surveys performed included a variety of sales cycles: “72% of these professionals worked in business-to-business companies and the range of industries varied greatly. Industries represented in the sample included retail, technology, professional services, and communications & media among others.”
Whether you are selling flowers, which buyers decide to buy and actually purchase within the same day, or you provide retirement community living, which requires years of research and decision making, content marketing works. During the short cycle, Content Marketing is responsible for filling the top of the funnel. For mid and long cycles, Content Marketing can accelerate the process. Simply map out your sales cycle and develop content for each stage. Your potential customers will appreciate the information and may become paying customers sooner than you think.
Photo: Dave Wilson Cumbria
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