Marketing automation systems—from vendors like Eloqua, Marketo, Genoo, Manticore and others—are great tools for moving prospective buyers along the path from interest to desire to action. But they’re just that: tools. Without a solid content strategy to support that movement through the marketing and sales cycle, all you’ve got is a nice email system. The brilliant Ardath Albee provides the missing piece, a reliable recipe marketing automation, demand generation and content marketing success in her new book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale.
Some business books are mere “information snacks,” but Ardath provides much more here, a substantial three-course meal of marketing strategy: she covers the “why,” “what” and “how” of using compelling content, email, social media and microsites to turn prospects into buyers.
Divided into six sections, as an appetizer the book starts off with eMarketing Essentials, the “why” of using content marketing for complex sales. Here she expounds on the shift in technology buying processes I outlined in a previous post, How Social Media Changed the Sales Cycle into the Buying Cycle. Buyers today expect to be able to gather the vast majority of the information they need to make a purchasing decision without ever talking to a sales rep. They begin in most cases with some basic online research, which is why web presence optimization has become so critical. From there, they will “raise their hands,” looking for more information from specific vendors, most commonly by downloading a white paper or registering for a webinar. What happens next is critical; prospects at this stage are not usually ready to be “sold,” but they are open to being convinced, through compelling thought-leadership content, that your company is uniquely capable of solving their problems. In this first section, Ardath explains this shift, what it means for marketing and selling complex products, and how the vendors who understand and capitalize on this shift will benefit in increased sales and a stronger competitive position.
Sections two and three, Customer Consensus and Natural Nurturing, begin getting into the meat of the strategy. Here the author outlines the crucial preparatory steps to a successful lead nurturing strategy. Begin by creating buyer personas—who are your buyers? What problems do they face? What keeps them awake at night? What information do they need to make a decision? Just as importantly, what information do they need to be your advocate within their organization? It’s critical at this stage to recognize the different personas you’ll need to appeal to in crafting a content creation strategy. The primary buyer for a complex b2b product or service is often someone in operations seeking to solve a problem or perform a process faster/cheaper/better. However, the purchasing committee will generally include someone from IT, the CFO, and in smaller firms possibly even the CEO. You’ll need different messages to appeal to all of these groups, based on their concerns (technical simplicity, financial impact, high-level business benefits, etc.).
Sections four and five, Contagious Content and Persistent Progression (gotta love the alliteration of these titles), are the main course. With an understanding of who your buyers are and what problems they are focused on solving in place, the chapters in these two sections walk through the creation, development and tuning of thought-leadership content to attract buyers and move them through the decision process. The section begins an explanation of the three types of content you’ll need to provide to buyers: education (what buyers need to know in order to think strategically about solving a problem or taking advantage of a new opportunity), expertise (showing why your product or service is uniquely capable of addressing their issues) and evidence (proving through case studies, customer stories and third-party endorsements that your offering provides real business benefits).
This is followed by a critical chapter (one of the best in the book) on “catch factors”—which are, in Ardath’s words, “the preferences and aversions that form a lead’s ‘gut reaction’ to your communication.” These include urgency (why you message is important to prospects, now), impact (what’s in it for the reader?), effort (how much energy is required to absorb the information—is it straightforward and easily digestible, or full of meaningless gobbledygook?), reputation (what’s known about your company, its image and brand?) and intent (do readers perceive that you are sincerely trying to help them, or merely doing a “hard sell”?).
The section continues with guidance on designing marketing stories, organizing content to move prospects through the buying process, scoring leads, and managing the interaction between marketing and sales, all illustrated with pertinent case studies.
The final section of the book—the “dessert,” if you will—is Meaningful Metrics, which provides a framework for what and how to measure results, for purposes of reporting and continual improvement.
The book is a bit repetitive in places, but it’s repetition with a purpose; this is important stuff! eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale is a must-read for anyone involved in making demand generation and marketing automation successful within their organization, and increasing sales using content marketing strategies.