B2B Social Media and Content Marketing in the Sales Funnel

B2B marketers are turning to social media marketing approaches in greater numbers, but they are still looking for ways to better leverage these platforms for stronger results. Content marketing allows them to restructure and repurpose existing content, like white papers, ebooks and product videos, and present them to buyers at the right stage of the buying process for maximum impact.

Content Marketing is Growing for B2B Companies
B2B companies have long relied on content marketing to promote their products, and social media has expanded both the need and the reach of content. B2B marketers allocate approximately 26% of their total marketing budgets to content marketing initiatives. 51% of B2B marketers plan to increase their spend in content marketing over the next 12 months, according to B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.

Establish Industry Credibility and Expertise in the Awareness Stage
One of the strengths of social media is to drive awareness of a company, product or service. Many B2B marketers set up Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages to promote product launches, trade show events and other company-centric ideas. Marketers need to share and promote content on social platforms that benefit the buyers to establish credibility and expertise. The most compelling content needs to be created so brand advocates will share it on professional networks like LinkedIn, and within niche communities. Marketing software company Hubspot is a master at publishing content to drive awareness at the top of the funnel. Each content item includes a call to action so the buyers can receive additional content. Content generated leads can be tracked in a company’s CRM system, along with the description of the content that drove the lead. Companies that can build awareness by sharing valuable and helpful content can generate more quality leads. Watch a short video with Kipp Bodnar, Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing Manager about their use of content marketing within the sales funnel.

Provide Customer Solutions in the Consideration Stage

Content created in a social media style and shared on social platforms can help B2B buyers as they progress through the sales process. As buyers move into the consideration phase, they are looking for more than just product information. They are looking for solutions to business problems. Marketers can re-purpose the top 10 frequently asked questions as solutions to common problems and publish them in a shareable ebook. Customers are doing more online research before purchase than ever before, and are further in the buying cycle before they ever have a conversation with a salesperson. This makes it vitally important to have consumable content, easily available and shareable, to keep a company’s products relevant and appearing in search results.

Content Helps to Close the Sale and Drive Revenue
B2B buyers are looking to make safe purchases, as these investments could have significant impact on company performance. By this point in the sales cycle, customer pain points are well known and the product team needs a clear understanding how the product addresses these. One way to demonstrate this understanding is to shoot a short video with members of the product team talking directly about the prospect’s issues, as well as sharing anecdotes from other customers. This private video can be shared online with the prospect team members, or can be sent via DVD if the company does not have access to social platforms. Content in this stage can help to shorten the buying cycle.

A New Way to Think About Content Marketing
Neither marketers nor sales people are thinking about the content support marketing can provide to help prospects in the consideration phase. According to a study by strategy consulting firm AMR International, the first and third priorities for B2B online marketers are lead generation (38%) and awareness (28%). While the second priority in this survey was customer retention, an important online tactic, there is no mention of middle of the funnel marketing. Once marketing and sales people understand the value of this type of content, they will need to talk to product managers, customers and prospects to develop appropriate content to serve this need.

Content Marketing Can Be Leveraged as a Major Component of Change
B2B marketers need to respond to the changing online environment and changing needs of prospects to make more information available on social platforms and in shareable formats to help drive buyer decision-making and close sales. Much of this information and intelligence is already available inside of companies, and raising the influence of the marketing department frees some of this knowledge from its silos. Assembling the right information in the appropriate format in the context of the sales cycle, allows marketers to leverage it in ways that were never possible.

Encourage Sharing
All social content needs to be created with two thoughts in mind. Does this show a prospect how their business need can be solved, and would they be willing to share this with other connections online? As business networks grow, B2B buyers are connected to others in other industries, and can provide benefit and value to their connections by sharing a compelling report or ebook.

Are you using content marketing to drive leads at different parts of the buying process?

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