Mapping Marketing Content to Prospect Buying Cycles with Sales Enablement

Updated: June 27, 2011

The ROI on Relevancy

Most B2B marketers today skip the important step of building out buyer persona profiles (due to lack of time, money, or experience doing it), and as a result end up creating content that tries to blanket multiple different audiences across varying stages in their buying cycles. The outcome is the created marketing content doesn't get used because it isn't as relevant and isn't as effective at engaging and persuading prospects. In fact, the IDC reports that up to 80% of marketing content created never sees the light of day after it's handed off to the sales team!

According to the Content Marketing Institute, more than 1,100 North American B2B marketers are spending 26% of their total marketing budgets on content marketing initiatives. 51% say that they plan to increase their spend on content marketing over the next year. This is great news, but if marketers want these investments to return desired dividends, the content must be what buyers are looking for.

When content is not relevant to the buyer, it fails to influence them and has an impact on marketing effectiveness and the business overall. According to IDG Connect's IT Buyer Survey, irrelevant content can harm marketing efforts by:

  • Driving up content creation costs
  • Increasing the decision making process for buyers by 2 weeks or more
  • Lowering the chance of making the selection shortlist by 30%
  • Reducing the chance of getting the sale by almost 50%

Fortunately, making content more relevant is not overly difficult. Implementing a few best practices including buyer personas can drive tangible results, improve effectiveness of current and planned content, and create a significant competitive advantage for your business.

Building Buyer Persona Profiles

Just like you can't put the cart before the horse, you can't close a sale without the right buyer. The key benefit with building buyer personas is having a robust and detailed profile of your targets, so marketing and sales teams BOTH know exactly the type of person they are talking to. This gives sales a chance to truly empathize with target buyers and marketing an opportunity to create content and messaging that is most relevant and engaging to particular buyer characteristics - a combination that will get a prospect to a closed sale faster.

The process of building buyer personas involves identifying what information each of your buyer personas needs throughout the buying cycle, and usually follows these steps:

  1. Identify and define your buyer personas.
  2. Determine what questions and specific concerns your personas have at each stage of their buying cycle (early, mid, late) and answer the questions.
  3. Map the content you will use for each persona at various stages of the buying cycle.
  4. Do a content audit and determine if you have the content you need to answer questions and support various concerns your buyers will have.
  5. Create any missing content to fill gaps.

When building buyer personas for your organization, focus on a specific buyer role (such as the persona who will use your solution day-to-day, or the persona that calculates the cost/benefit balance) and better understand how a person in that role buys by asking the following questions:

  • What are their key pain points?
  • How are they dealing with those problems today?
  • What motivates them to make a business decision?
  • What sources do they use to get their information for purchase decisions?
  • What types of information do they find valuable when making their decision? High-level details or a deep-dive into a topic?
  • What organizations do they belong to and what events to do they attend (i.e. who do they trust as credible sources of information)?
  • At what point in their buy cycle do they engage vendor sales teams?
  • Who do they turn to for purchase validation (peers, analysts, media sources, etc.)?

Once you build out a detailed persona for one type of target buyer, repeat for multiple buyer segments until you have 3-4 clear buyer personas to develop messaging for. This will give marketing a clearer picture of WHO they are talking to and, more importantly, WHAT content will resonate best with them.

The next key principal to closing more sales and increasing revenue is the process of mapping content to the way your customers buy - to their buying cycle, not your sales cycle:

Early Stage In this stage, the buyer may be untroubled and unaware that they have an existing problem that can be solved with your product or service. The goal of marketing content in this phase is to help buyers diagnose and prioritize issues, quantify the cost of maintaining the status quo, educate them on what solutions exist, and make them aware that your solution could help. Given that B2B buyers tend to spend the most amount of time in this phase, it should be an area of strong focus. Content that resonates best in this phase includes educational white papers, best practices & industry examples, newsletters, and webinars.

Middle Stage Here, buyers are actively seeking more information and evaluating their options. Buyers in this stage are comparing you to your competition and will need content that builds a solid business case to justify the cost of your solution to executives. Case studies, data sheets, pricing, competitive feature comparisons, demos, customer testimonials and video clips will resonate most strongly with buyers solidifying their selection criteria.

Late Stage At this point, buyers are creating specific requirements and searching for the product that meets them. Therefore, this stage is all about buyers needing content that builds a solid business case to justify choosing your solution and assure executives the selected solution is the best possible value. Build their trust with case studies, customer references and support details to engage the buyer and help them realize that they can trust you with their hard-earned cash to solve their problem.

Again, it is necessary to map your content to your prospects BUYING cycle, not your own company's sales cycle because the whole point is to drive value for the buyer - which eventually drives value for your business via a closed sale. This content mapping process will help you know what to send out next, understand what your buyers want at each stage of their buying cycle, and present them with content that is relevant, helpful and valuable to them.

Mapping Content Needs of Buyer Personas in Sales Enablement

In B2B selling, sales cycles tend to be long and often require educating customers on the ROI and value of your solution at many levels of the organization and in various departments - sometimes all at once. To weave the web of customer engagement that is required to close most deals, it is sometimes most effective to share content based on buyer personas in a digital format that can be tracked and measured for effectiveness.

Sales enablement technology platforms can act as a central repository for all your marketing content and can help you utilize it most effectively. Platforms like RO|Enablement allow your marketing and sales teams to create Spotlights (tailored micro-sites) that present content in an attractive, engaging way. Spotlights can be built to highlight a particular buyer persona and present the relevant information during the stages in that persona's buying cycle, while tracking their interaction and interest with particular items. Pre-built spotlights assembled and branded by the marketing team make it easy for the sales team to grab-and-go and stay focused on what they do best - SELLING!

Recall the IDC stat presented earlier: an estimated 80% of marketing content never gets used by the sales team. Well, no more! RO|Enablement's built-in tracking capabilities also allow marketing to track what content is actually being used and what content is most effective with each buyer persona - making it easy to determine what's working and what's not. The tracking capabilities also alert sales when a particular buyer has acted on a spotlight, and what content that prospect found most engaging. This real-time data is crucial to knowing when to follow up and what topics to discuss, as well as knowing how motivated your buyer is and when they have signaled a move into the next phase of their buying cycle. Driving opportunities for meaningful conversation, when and how the buyer wants it, is a key benefit to sales enablement platforms.

By segmenting messaging by stage of the buying cycle and buyer persona, you can really kick up your dialogue with prospects. With your buyer personas established, and your content mapped to each of their buying stages, it is easy to build spotlights to deliver the information they need to have. Here is one example of a buyer persona and the suggested content to feature in sales enablement spotlights for each stage of that buyer's journey.

The Researchers - These people are the type that feed off information overload and won't make a decision until they feel they have done an adequate job of looking at the problem from all angles. This means they want a lot of information from you to sway their opinion, but are also looking to see how you are different than your competitors.

Early Stage Spotlight:

  • White papers
  • Analyst reports
  • Press releases
  • Recorded webinars

Middle Stage Spotlight:

  • Case studies
  • Data sheets/product sales sheets
  • Comparisons to the competition
  • Pricing information
  • Customer testimonials
  • Video demos

Late Stage Spotlight:

  • Audio/video customer references
  • Case studies
  • ROI calculators

Again, this is just one example of how to leverage a buyer persona and collateral pieces in RO|Enablement spotlights. Each organization has their own unique buyer persona profiles they develop based on their unique business model and product mix that must be accounted for when building spotlights. The main message is, no matter what the buyer persona, no matter what stage in their buy cycle, there can be a sales enablement spotlight made that speaks to them with the right information to make you most effective with them at the right time. The higher the relevancy, the more conversation they will have with you, the further down the funnel they get, and the more satisfied they will be with choosing your solution.

Best Practices of Sales Enablement & Content Marketing

Effective B2B content marketing programs start by understanding customer needs and detailing what those look like during different stages of their buying process in buyer persona profiles. But once the initial work is done, the next element of success is deploying the content. Sales enablement platforms can be excellent tools for doing just that. Not only are they a central place to store, tag and organize all your targeted marketing content, they are great for delivering the content and tracking buyer engagement to determine ROI. Here are best practices to consider to make your content marketing program successful:

Focus on the Customer Simply put - when content aligns with customer needs, magic happens! Effective B2B content marketing starts by understanding customer needs based on your customers' unique buying journey. Write descriptions of each content piece using your buyers words (keyword research and website SEO are great ways to see what actual words customers use to describe their problems) to increase their engagement by saying it the way they want to hear it.

Centralize Content Once marketing creates a content piece, it needs to be easy to find and accessible for the sales team - where and when it's needed. Sales enablement platforms act as a central repository to catalogue, tag, store, organize and alert sales that new collateral is available. This helps it get into the hands of the customers and sales teams faster. Dashboards also make it easy for sales and marketing teams to see what assets are being used, which are most successful at closing sales and more.

Pre-Load Content in Delivery Platforms Sales enablement platforms also act as the delivery mechanism for deploying content to prospects. Marketing can take delivery processes one step further by placing new collateral in pre-built micro-sites, saving time for sales teams. When marketing positions content in the tools the sales team uses every day, sales doesn't have to guess which content piece is best for their selling situation, ensuring the content is clearly defined in purpose and actually gets used in the delivery process.

Gather Feedback & Results Marketing is measured on deliverables and ROI. Effective B2B content doesn't stop at production and delivery - it stops at a converted buyer. Sales enablement platforms with built-in tracking capabilities help marketing measure what content is being used, when it's being used, what content is most engaging - and most importantly - what content is leading to closed sales, and what is not. Rating capabilities in systems like RO|Enablement also provide marketers with the why behind what didn't work to give them the opportunity to build that feedback into the next round of content development.

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