In December 2012, the Information Technology Marketing Association (ITSMA) published the results of the study “How Consumers Consume Information”. The obtained data define the role of sales professionals in the implementation of content marketing strategies in the B2B segment. In addition, researchers show the role of content marketers in sales.
In particular, ITSMA experts asked consumers the following question: "At what stage of the purchase do you most often contact sales professionals?"
Answers of respondents were distributed as follows:
- 24% of respondents turn to sales managers at the stage of acquaintance with proposals. These consumers prefer to ask sales professionals general questions about the principles of operation and areas of product use, industry news and trends.
- 23% of respondents turn to sellers at the stage of detailed study of products. They ask specialists questions about the properties and qualities of specific products.
- 24% of customers are associated with sales managers at the decision-making stage. They consult with representatives of the sales department on the choice of one of the existing proposals.
It is believed that the sellers become the most useful buyers in the final stages of the purchase, when the customer assesses the cost of the decision and is preparing to place an order. We wrote about this in a publication about content marketing secrets.
It is clear that an experienced sales specialist successfully works with customer objections to the price and finishes the transaction in the end. However, ITSMA data confirm the important role of sales managers in the earlier stages of sales. As stated above, tens of percent of consumers need seller's advice at the stages of getting acquainted with the goods and studying specific offers. Content marketers working in the B2B segment can use this to achieve their work objectives.
It is worth emphasizing that companies that buy technical solutions worth $ 500,000 and more took part in the ITSMA study. However, the data obtained will be useful to all businessmen who want to achieve a synergistic effect from the joint work of content marketing specialists and sales specialists.
The results of the ITSMA study confirm the emergence of a class of social buyers whose behavior differs from the actions of traditional consumers in the process of choosing and purchasing products. This is not surprising, since customers are increasingly using the Internet in general and social networks in particular to search for information about products and services. That is why ITSMA experts called them social.
B2B social buyers are middle managers and top managers under the age of 40 who use social networks and other online communication channels in their buying decisions. They spend more than 6 hours a week studying content that helps them choose and purchase products.
Source - ITSMA.
Social shoppers spend more time consuming online content than traditional consumers. The former study the offers of suppliers within 6.5 hours a week, while the latter spend 4.3 hours on this task. And marketers are publishing more and more content that helps customers find the solutions they need. Social buyers are actively involved in online discussions. This indirectly confirms the effectiveness of investments in content marketing in general and the creation of educational consumer content in particular. After all, buyers really spend several hours a week studying the information they need to make a decision about a deal.
ITSMA also found that social buyers interact with sales managers in a different way than traditional consumers do. They try to independently study the information available on the Internet, after which they ask the experts specific clarifying questions. And traditional consumers often ask sales managers general questions and ask to offer "something appropriate." It would seem that this reduces the need to communicate with sellers in the early stages of sales. But not so simple.
These same advanced clients need advice throughout the entire purchase process, as evidenced by the findings of the ITSMA survey. They want sales professionals to tell them about unique offers, provide expert information, and help determine the benchmarks needed to assess the quality of products.
So, sales managers are involved in the sales process at the early stages, considered to be the patrimony of content marketers, even if the clients are advanced social buyers. It makes you think about the interaction of sales specialists with content creation experts. Content marketers and salespeople should work side by side. This gives businesses the following benefits:
- Wider audience coverage.
- Understanding customer behavior at different stages of purchase, as well as knowledge of content consumption patterns by customers.
- Understanding the needs of the audience in the process of choosing and purchasing a product.
Content and Sales Specialists
Content marketing provides business contact with consumers in the early stages of a purchase. Sales managers can use content created by marketers to realize the role of advisors and experts. Moreover, content marketers should consider creating special materials that will help sales managers to work with customers in the early stages of a purchase.
Here are some content creation ideas that will help your salespeople become experts and advisors for any potential customer:
- Materials highlighting market prospects and presenting concrete solutions. These can be blog posts, case studies, White Paper.
- Materials that change consumer thinking of potential customers. These can be articles, analytical reports, presentations, and other types of content. Product selection guides are examples of this type of material.
- Content created by recognized experts in a particular field. We are talking about webinars, video reviews, e-books, White Paper.
- The results of studies confirming certain market trends. This type of content can be an effective tool in the hands of experienced sales professionals.
- Materials to assess the result of the decision. The simplest example of this type of content is bank deposit calculators.
In addition, create materials designed specifically to support sales. For example, sales managers often use multimedia presentations to show consumers the benefits of a product.
Sales and Content Specialists
So, content marketing supports sales at all stages of interaction between the consumer and the seller. However, this medal has two sides - sales professionals can effectively support content marketing campaigns. They almost always have invaluable information that improves the efficiency of the content.
When planning marketing campaigns, provide the conditions for effective data exchange between front-office specialists and content creation experts. First-hand marketers learn about the most effective channels for disseminating information through this. In addition, sales professionals will tell content creation experts what materials potential consumers need most.
Use the following guidelines to ensure effective communication between merchants and content marketers of your company:
- Set common goals for sales and content marketing. Take into account the specifics of each unit - the sellers do not have to deal with an increase in site traffic, and content marketers can not be responsible for the number of closed deals. However, sales managers and content creation experts can work together to improve conversion rates.
- Create the conditions for coordinated work of sales and content marketing departments. In particular, content creators should have access to sales performance information. Also, department employees should share CRM and marketing automation systems.
- Clearly define the criteria for evaluating the results of joint activities of sellers and content marketers. You need to understand at what point a site visitor becomes a potential customer or buyer. This will improve the interaction between sales professionals and content creation experts.
Content marketing in the B2B segment involves the creation of materials to help consumers understand their needs, solve tasks and make an informed decision on the purchase of a product. Your company's sales professionals should be actively involved in customer training. They can do this by motivating customers and providing them with expert information.
After all, your company's content marketing and sales departments have a common business goal. They establish and maintain relationships between business and customers. Content marketers create materials that are addressed, by and large, at the same time to all potential and existing consumers of your product. You will increase the effectiveness of content marketing if you teach your sellers to use unified content to convey personalized information to each individual buyer.