Here’s a confession (and maybe TMI): Until very recently, I slept in my makeup. Yep, you read that right; I’ve been treating my skin like I’m 16 years old for many years. I’ve had one facial at a spa in my entire lifetime, and honestly, never thought twice about this until compelled to do so by a glossy magazine. (Note: this story is not about makeup, it is actually about content marketing, so read on.)
When I fly and when I’m at the hair salon, I read fashion magazines… and yes, I’ll even cop to reading a trashy tabloid once in a while. (A girl’s gotta have a vice and as long as I limit it to the salon and aircraft, right?)
While recently perusing a fashion magazine, I stumbled upon an article that reviewed skincare recommendations for women by age; what they should do in their 20s, 30s, 40s and so on. The article contained research information about what happens to your skin during that time period and recommendations for the reader on approaches to take based on those changes.
I was horrified. I learned in this article that that leaving your makeup on overnight is a definite no-no. Don’t get me wrong, I knew this at some level, but the article hit me with the proverbial one-two punch: not only is this a really stupid idea that does some pretty bad stuff to your skin, but the majority of women my age were not only taking their makeup off at night, but proactively using regimented skincare programs. Wait, WHAT? Do these women know something I don’t? Maybe my minimalist approach to skincare has been the wrong choice? I mean, some pretty smart researchers in this article had data to support that I wasn’t doing it right.
Insecurity abound, when I got home I sat down with my trusty laptop and began looking at articles about skincare, different skincare products, and their ingredients. That weekend I headed to Sephora and dropped $400 on skincare goop. Ka-ching!
CONTENT LOOSENS THE STATUS QUO
I was not in market for face goop. I never have been. This article changed my view of my world by presenting me a compelling case, substantiated by some pretty credible research, that what I was doing was possibly not the best approach. Further, it established a precedent that I was doing things differently than others like me were. GASP, suddenly I was interested in a product to solve a problem I hadn’t realized I had! I was in the market for a solution.
Folks, this is the role of content marketing and a big part of our job as marketers; to inform the market of a different way of doing things, ferret out those who are willing to consider their current state of being as not optimal, and then help them follow the path to doing something about it.
I had taken control of my own buying process. After discovering my problem, my web research led me to particular products, largely due to the role of SEO in the hands of some crafty marketers.
WHERE CONTENT MEETS PRODUCT
There is an inflection point with content where the discussion transitions from one about the buyer’s current state and alternative states of being, to one about solutions that make it all better. Savvy marketers have to become masters of knowing precisely when to pivot in a buyer-driven process.
The only way to do this successfully is to become an expert in how your buyer buys (and there may be more than one way) and then enable yourself with the metrics to know how your content, informed by those insights, is performing with your audiences. It is really that simple, and yet not simple at all.
If I had searched the web and encountered product information when I was attempting to learn more about what I’m supposed to be doing for my skin, I would have stopped reading. That is the risk we all take when we present product pitches too early.
Working for Aberdeen, I talk to many marketers who are concerned that our content doesn’t talk about their product. THAT IS THE POINT, it shouldn’t, for all the reasons I’ve outlined above.
The questions marketers should be asking their buyers include:
- What happened just before you decided to look for a solution?
- What type of information did you seek?
- Where did you go for that information?
- How did it change the way you thought about what you were doing?
These questions are easily asked in a persona interview. For more about buyer personas, see my prior blog post, Using Personas to Feed the Content Machine.
CONTENT IN THE SALES PROCESS
The need for content does not stop at the middle of the funnel. In fact, there is an often-overlooked need for non-product related content that occurs at bottom of funnel. Here is where a buyer re-visits what their peers are doing and compares it what they’re planning. You should make certain your salespeople are equipped with this information.
The cheery salesperson at Sephora has been well-trained to explain what most others my age were doing. She knew the ingredients and what their effects were on different skin types. She was able to tell me what the most popular solution was and why. And, she could refer me to sources of information to substantiate my claim, which I secretly checked on from my smartphone while pretending to look at the perfume. Being a marketer makes me a skeptic, what can I say?
Equip your salespeople with the right talk track to support the sale, but make sure they also have content, from a variety of sources (you and third party) that substantiate the story. No brainer, right? Best-in-Class sellers cite content, especially 3rd party content, as effective or highly effective when used during the active selling cycle,yet only 43% of marketers are providing content to their sellers to use it in the field.
Don’t be THAT marketer. The bottom of the funnel is about reinforcing the buying decision.
AND FINALLY, SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR
With only a few days until Turkey Day, I’m feeling grateful. As a consumer I’m grateful for this kind of marketing that puts me in the driver’s seat of my buying journey. As a marketer, I’m grateful for this reminder that we, as B2B marketers, must put ourselves in the shoes of our buyers, and consider the real process that turns a cold prospect into a warm lead, and into a happy customer. Great content can make that happen (and keep my skin healthy… who knew!)
 Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Primer on Successful Collaboration, Aberdeen Group, March 2014
 Sales Enablement: Fulfilling the Last Frontier of Marketing-Sales Alignment, Aberdeen Group, September 2013