Part I – Be The Buyer
Buyers are much more in charge of their purchasing than they ever have been because the information they need to make decisions is readily available via the Internet. Research from the Corporate Executive Board reveals that customers are 57 percent through their purchasing process before ever speaking to a salesperson. Forrester Research states it’s two-thirds to 90 percent. No matter what the number, marketers today know they are shouldering the load for their businesses.
The powerful tool at marketing’s disposal is content. The rise in popularity of content marketing is a direct consequence of more marketers waking up to the fact that their content has to be online and available to a buyer thinking about a purchase. Given the responsibility on the marketing team in pull marketing using content, it’s imperative that it has a strategy which takes the buyer into account. The most common mistake—one that will lower conversion, waste money, and even turn off your buyers—is sitting down to write content with a product, rather than a buyer, mindset. Many marketing teams fail to truly understand their buyers—how they think, how they make decisions, and what really turns them off. We’ll examine each of these in what I term the pull marketing “three-step.”
The first step in writing content that will attract customers is to “be the buyer”—that is, to understand how they think. This is where your marketing process should begin. You can think about this as an abbreviated process for creating a buyer persona, which I highly recommend.
- What do they read – If you know what your buyer reads, you can craft your content to be similar. Not that you should copy it, but you will get a sense of the writing style that’s appropriate. Do they read business magazines like Fortune or Forbes? Or more scholarly journals, like Harvard Business Review? Niche trade publications or academic journals? Blogs? Determining this is easy. You can conduct a survey or, better yet, go visit buyers at their offices and look around. Once you figure this out, you will have a sense for what type of content is of interest, along with writing style, use of charts, and other illustrations. If you find they do not read much at all, video may be the way to go.
- Where do they read – Prior to joining Incapsula I was frustrated that my former field reps weren’t reading the monthly newsletter I was sending them. Though not customers per se, the point is the same. My goal was to educate them on new sales programs and tools I had created. When I asked a sales manager what was going on, he told me what I was doing wrong. His reps were always on the road—in an airport, rental car, grabbing a Starbucks coffee in-between meetings—and were reading on their mobile phones. My beautifully-laid out newsletter didn’t render well, especially on corporate-issue BlackBerry phones. Great content doesn’t matter if no one can read it! Think where your buyers are located when they receive your emails containing more content than text alone.
- Who do they listen to – Not all content needs to be written by you. Find out who the influencers are in your market. They could be industry or financial analysts, well-known CEOs, or perhaps respected software developers. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a renowned researcher working in your company’s labs. Learn who the influencers are and then commission content from them. Interview them. Link up using social media, such as LinkedIn.
- How much time do they have – People are busy. Some have more time for reading than others. Make sure your content is easily digestible. (Or digest it.) I like to write content that can be understood if only scanned by a reader. To do this, make sure your headline, subheads and captions make your points.
Once you have a good handle on content that is right for your buyers, it’s time to think about how they’ll use it on their way to buying your product. We’ll cover that in the next installment.
Tim Matthews is the author of The Professional Marketer and VP of Marketing at Incapsula.