As prospects grow increasingly savvy, there’s less for marketers to stoke excitement. This trend of self-directed purchasing processes is gaining momentum as the buyer’s journey gets digitally oriented.
According to a joint report by Avaya and BT, even two years ago, 51% of buyers trusted social forums and reviews over organisations’ websites to make purchase decisions. The report shows how self-driven buyers travel halfway through the sales process without engaging any vendor.
In some cases, vendors get eliminated even before they surface on prospects’ search results. This could be the result of anything from vendors’ poor visibility on search engines to buyer’s proactive decision to eliminate the vendor.
How do marketers create demand and differentiate products?
The Answer Lies Within
Taking cues from the changing face of consumer behaviour, marketers can implement a buyer-led marketing strategy.
Studying user behaviour and B2B personas across social channels can reveal the habits, interests and pain points of a prospect. Based on this data, marketers can pitch customer-centric content, based on the simple philosophy of connecting by offering to help.
While positioning a product is equally important to support sales enablement, product positioning alone cannot turn prospects into sales-ready leads. For a superior customer experience, product marketing needs to be integrated with content marketing.
Product marketers are experts in writing about products within their sphere. In many B2B businesses, the product marketing department is closely connected with content and sales. However, due to the nature of organizational structures, or simply because of ownership disputes, a lot of informative product marketing content does not transcend departmental boundaries.
This siloing keeps other departments from accessing quality product marketing content, which could be otherwise utilized in creating a better brand voice.
But the truth is, product marketing alone cannot court a prospect’s attention. Well-informed prospects do not wait for product marketers to educate them. They have enough information to challenge the value of a product’s content, or even ignore it, depending on their needs.
So how do marketers handle that? To reach a prospect with relevant content, it is essential to include product marketing in an overall marketing process that goes beyond sales enablement. Enter content marketing – a vital part of the buyers’ journey.
Traditionally defined as two separate roles, product marketing and content marketing remained disconnected owing to their purpose. Each entered the sales process at different stages to educate and guide buyers through the journey. However, with buyers’ autonomy defining sales processes, the roles of product and content marketers require reassessment.
Today, prospects are bombarded with content on every channel they tune in to. Thanks to sales-led marketing strategies, content is falling short of the effect it was designed to create. When product marketing tries to fill in needs that marketers deem necessary, marketing runs the risk of losing potential leads.
Both content and product marketers need to take a holistic approach to plant the seeds of demand that will create a breeding ground for successful product pitching.
The situation further calls for an understanding that all efforts from individual marketing disciplines are largely wasted, unless they are aligned to meet customer needs. A connected business strategy is imperative for superior customer experiences, from the exploring stage to the sale.
Treating Content as a Product
With the digital revolution changing consumer behaviour, sales is at the beck and call of consumer sensibilities and choices. How do you inform an already informed person?
No matter how informed a prospect is, his search springs from a certain need or curiosity. And the best product always fulfills a buyer’s need. However, too many products often confuse the prospect. In turn,the buyer resorts to trusted sources for information and feedback. This can result in 8 out of 10 vendors written off before the buyer proceeds to the second stage.
This means all that brilliant marketing content failed to address customer needs. A study and dissection of every element of this need educates content marketers to pitch a story that addresses that need as a product.
Drawing a parallel from product marketing, when content (addressing buyer needs) becomes a service, marketers can relate to it from a product point of view. This perspective prompts the content marketer to ask relevant questions concerning prospect’s pain points, interests and needs.
By aligning marketing disciplines, businesses bridge the gap between them and the prospects. Content marketing is an ongoing process, evolving with changes in purchase behaviour. In order to make sense in this ever-changing digital environment, setting a cross-functional goal shared by all marketing disciplines is imperative.