Content, Content, Content, Customers have more power and are able to gather more information about your product before you ever talk to them which forces you to sell differently. Information is free and readily available online. This goes for both B2B and B2C companies. If you were selling 5-10 years ago online and you are still selling the same way, whether it was online or offline, you had better changed your sales process. My guess is your sales are decreasing or getting more expensive to acquire if you have not changed how you sell.
To be successful in the online world you need to have a reason for people to want to learn about your product. I didn’t say buy your product I said learn about your product. If they hear about your product from their friends via social media, or do a search to find your product. They are looking for information about your product to learn and determine if it is a good fit or not for them. How do they learn about your product? They have found content about your product.
Give your customers something of value and they might return the favor
To beat the competition in your industry you have to become a publisher of interesting or useful information, not only about your product but likely how your product fits into your industry. For example, if you are selling financing to small businesses you should be talking about when you need to get financing, when you don’t need to get financing and what are the costs of financing options.
In doing this you would be educating the customer so they come to you for information in the future. You become a trusted source of information about that topic/product/service for them. If you become a trusted source you are creating a brand that has staying power. What is a great way to beat your competition and build your brand? Create content around and about your product.
Be social, talk to your customers
You are going to have to learn to be social. Just like your mom used to tell you “go out and have some fun with your friends”. Remember the most “social” kids in your school? Many of those kids were the ones who had good stories or told funny jokes. Being social with your business is the same way. Ask questions, tell stories and toss in some humor. Just act like a real human and you will see success with your content.
Having a presence on social media is no longer an option, it is part of any successful brand or business. I do believe it is more important for B2C companies to be social. But B2B companies cannot afford not to be connected to their customers directly via social media. Many B2B companies are using social media to learn more about their customers and if you are really smart there are also ways to learn about your competitors. No matter what type of company you have, you still need to have a method for your customers to engage with you and learn about new products or services. If you don’t believe me, type in Google “social media facts and figures 2014” you will likely see information like this about how important being social has become.
Content creation is a selling expense
Creating great content is a big part of your sales strategy but how do I pay for it? As you have just read content is critical to your sales process so you need to have a budget for it, like you do for every other part of your organization. Here is where I see companies struggling, they are not allocating budget to create content or to promote great content. You have to a person in charge of creating content and promoting it. It is best to have this person in house as they “know” your brand best and can plan better by being an insider. Do they have to be a writer? No, not always, but some writing skills is essential. They have to be marketer with a good knowledge of your product or service. Because in the end they are selling your product and all the benefits it has for customers. They need to understand social media and how information gets spread (virally) across all channels. They need to understand digital marketing and how to track and analyze data (Do they know what GA is?). Yes this sounds like a lot but this position is “ultra-critical” to the success of your sales team. Without revenue I am guessing you don’t have a good future. You have to commit to content like you would a sales/marketing plan because it should be part of your sales or lead generation strategy.
Create a place for Content
But the caveat is to create relevant content that your customers care about and want to learn more about. Content is more than just words; it can be videos, infographics, interactive decision tools, images and anything else you can think of that can be used. Be social, interact and engage directly with your customers by sharing insights, new ideas and challenges. Also make content something discussed on a daily basis by your sales and marketing teams. Most of all create a budget for creating content, it has little legitimacy in any business without money attached. With these pieces in place you will find more customers are finding you without you finding them first.
NOTE: I am not suggesting you allow your sales team to stop networking, knocking on doors, etc. You still need to be proactive in your sales approach but I am suggesting you change your perception on how customers are finding you and learning about your product. Many customers are already sold before they ever talk to a sales person because they have already done their research.
A CEB study of more than 1,400 B2B customers across industries revealed that 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier.