Does B2B Content Marketing Really Help Buyers Buy?

In B2B marketing organizations, content marketing aims to help buyers buy. Right?

Content marketing provides the information buyers need to determine the type of solution they need, develop internal support for a change, create a short list of providers and address objections, all while positioning your company as a trusted resource.

Wow, that sounds amazing. But is your content really what stood between a prospect and a purchase?

I had the opportunity to speak with Sharon Drew Morgen a couple times recently. Each time I came away thinking we can do so much more.

If you don’t know who Sharon Drew is, she is the creator of Buying Facilitation and has written multiple books delving into how and why businesses buy, including the behind-the-scenes issues that sales, content and marketing automation often do not address today.

So before you start creating more content to move prospects through your buyers journey, step back and consider how to help prospective buyers buy.

The Buyer’s System Works Today

Your prospect’s business works without you. If it didn’t, they would already be out of business. Your solution isn’t the difference between a spiral into obsolescence and a viable ongoing business.

If you sell a solution that automates a manual task, your prospect knows it is a manual task. They don’t need content and case studies telling them that automation would take less manual time and investment!

Instead, you need every stakeholder to be on board with moving from the manual solution to an automated one, from a known working solution to one that requires making changes. Being on board includes staffing, training and uncomfortable organizational changes, not just cost savings and feature or benefit lists.

The time it takes for everyone to understand and accept the organizational changes required to incorporate your solutions into the business (that was already working!) is the length of the sales cycle.

Buyers Don’t Need Experts

A coach’s expertise is not your business (although they are generally well versed in it). The coach’s real expertise is helping you overcome barriers, make changes and ultimately succeed.

To help buyers buy, marketers need to become more like coaches and less like traditional sales people and marketers. Rather than just convincing potential buyers that you offer the best solution or educating them on the market, your role is to facilitate change and help buyers succeed.

Or as Sharon Drew would probably put it, facilitating buying is really facilitating the change management process in the buyer’s organization such that every stakeholder is agreed to all of the organizational changes your solution will require.

Conclusion

Every time I read back what I think I heard to Sharon Drew, she tells me I’m understanding only a little bit of what she has said (yet that little bit is still insightful to me). I’m sure this post is no different, so if you are intrigued at all about the impact this could have, spend some time reading her blog or her latest book:

Your Turn

How many more sales would you close if you helped buyers buy instead instead of only educating them through content marketing? I don’t know the answer but I am convinced it would be a significant improvement for many companies.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Image Credit: Buy Sell image by David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Doug Kessler

    Great post, Eric. I love the coach metaphor.
    And thanks for turning me on to Sharon Drew Morgan.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks! I hope you like her book. I’m looking forward to digging into it myself.

  • http://twitter.com/MaureenB2B Maureen Blandford

    Wow. A lot here.

    Sharon Drew’s work and book are excellent. Wish it was required reading for all Marketers and Sellers.

    Content CAN do many things to help the buying process. It’s rarely used that way today. I’d love to ask Avinash this, but my guess is that 95% of “Content” today is to up numbers: Eyeballs, site visits, downloads. When numbers go up, most Marketers are happy. Content marketing is definitely not about educating buyers. Sheesh.

    SDM does a fabulous job at IDing all the complex issues happening at companies that stall their buying processe. Even when a solution is proven to help a buying company (and at a much lower cost than their current issues is costing them), buyers still don’t buy due to all the sticky internal issues. SDM has great insight here that we can all benefit from.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Maureen! I really like SDM’s perspective and agree it could benefit all of us in sales and marketing. I think the next challenge is to figure out how to bring more of that into marketing in a repeatable way. She is doing some work on this now and I’m definitely interested in seeing the impact it will have.

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  • Kat

    “So before you start creating more content to move prospects through your buyers journey, step back and consider how to help prospective buyers buy.”

    Wouldn’t you think that if your content helps your buyer get closer to making a decision, that your content may be helping him buy? How do you recommend helping a buyer buy without content – written or verbal or visual? I think they way your title calls out content marketing in general is a bit bold. After all, it’s content focus and quality that will make any difference. If done properly, with a strong strategy, one would be focusing on things from the buyers perspective anyway and address his or her problems with the right content.

    I just think your article seems misleading. You generally define”content marketing’ as a bucket of lame case studies and time saving articles when done properly, it is SO much more than that. What’s lacking, is that many companies don’t go through the strategic process of really understanding their prospects problems, so they take shortcuts by creating one-for-all content.

  • http://twitter.com/KevinSChase KevinSChase

    This is interesting to me as I just finished reading The Challenger Sale which runs somewhat counter to this ideal. While I think it does make the point that the goal is to make your customers better buyers, you do this through challenging their ideals and educating them on what they are buying.

    “your role is to facilitate change and help buyers succeed”

    I think this quote highlights something that gets lost in many cases in the B2B world. Setting expectations is crucial to creating a positive buying experience and one that leads to greater trust between buyer and seller. I think this is where content marketing can help the process. Having great content to support change management assists in developing the trusting relationship. I think many buyers are more interested in making the safe choice than making the best choice that carries more risk.

  • http://twitter.com/alexcliff0rd Alex Clifford

    Sharon’s right. If you help a decision maker, make a decision, then your content marketing will be much more potent.

    Ultimately good content marketing comes down to walking people through everything they need to think about. Don’t you agree?

    Content marketing should walk them through things. Assume that they’re going to buy your product, what happens next? What do they need to think about? What are the consequences? Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/KristaKotrla Krista Kotrla

    I vote for BOTH :-) For us it BECAUSE of the content we provide that our Sales team is given a seat at the table to even get the coaching opportunity in the first place.

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