by Susan Fantle (guest blogger)
One of today’s hottest B2B marketing topics, along with social media, is content. The discussions are all about how marketers can use it to generate leads, nurture those leads and position their company as an industry thought leader. The mantra is that hard-sell marketing is a thing of the past and that offering access to valuable content is the best way to connect with and woo prospective customers.
For direct marketers, however, this topic is not new. It is the marketing technique they have been using successfully for decades. The only difference between then and now is that direct marketers called this tool by a different name. They called it the “offer.”
The quality of the offer and its appeal to the prospect has always been the second most important element in the success of a direct marketing campaign, with targeting of the prospective customers being the first.
In the world of B2B email marketing, the offer is almost always “content” or free information.
To be perfect, the information being offered must have real value to the prospect requesting it. This means that content should focus on one or more of the following:
- A better understanding of the causes of a specific business problem.
- Some best practices for solving a specific business problem.
- Advice from peers or experts about the problem.
- Some kind of self-assessment of how the prospect’s company is handling a specific problem.
- Industry advances being made to make solving the problem easier.
Informational content should not sell the company’s product or service directly (though it might precede a sales story and secondary offer). It should educate the reader and position the company offering it as a trusted resource.
So how does a marketer make sure the content they are offering has value? Here are four best practices:
- Provide content that matches the specific needs of each pipeline lead.
Send a short survey to your pipeline asking them to identify their three biggest challenges. Then target the content you are offering them (white paper, checklist, guide, Webinar, self-assessment) to the issues they have identified.
- Create content that has how-to take-aways that can be implemented without buying your product or service.
For example, if your solution is collaboration software, include usable advice on how to improve collaboration without buying your product. That approach positions your company as a trusted “thought leader” and shows that you truly care about helping them solve their problem — not just selling them software.
- Offer a mix of content that is available without registration and some that is not.
By not requiring registration for content, your company instantly positions itself as a valuable resource. With no registration, B2B marketers can boost the number of downloads of their content to expose their brand to a larger audience of potentially qualified leads. However, a B2B marketer’s ultimate goal is generating qualified leads that can be nurtured and turned into sales. To do this, one must require registration for access to the more in-depth content or informational offers being made.
- Provide content that satisfies the focus of each decision-maker and influencer in prospect companies.
Need the approval of the CFO? Provide content that positions the financial benefits of the company’s product or service. Do the same for the CEO, user, department manager, HR manager or whatever titles have influence on – or decision-making power over – the purchase.
Content is not designed to directly sell products or services. It is designed to educate prospects on how their peers are handling similar challenges and to subtly nudge them toward choosing the marketing company’s product or service.
Some marketers are successful offering a “kit,” which is a combination of white papers, videos, checklists and more, so that a single offer provides the information targeted at each of the influencers and decision-makers.
The last element in the perfect offer is the title. In an email, many prospects look at the title of what is being offered and use that as the only element in their decision whether to click through. So the perfect offer not only needs to be relevant, valuable content but needs to have a compelling title that promises that value.