Depending on the research you read and the type of B2B product or service being considered, somewhere between 65% and 85% of the B2B buying process takes place before the prospect talks to a salesperson.
Statistics like this have major implications for marketers. Foremost among them: when it comes to the early, mid and even late stages of the B2B buying process, your marketing is
the salesperson. Your content plays a critical role in building brand awareness and moving prospects down the funnel.
If your prospects were interacting with humans early in the buying process, the seller would likely first assess the situation the prospect was facing and then respond accordingly. This is known as “situational selling.”
It’s relatively easy to train a human to ask questions and respond with appropriate answers or actions. This makes humans well equipped to practice situational selling. Your content marketing strategy, on the other hand, lacks the same agency as a human. This puts it at a disadvantage. When your content marketing efforts treat everyone the same — regardless of their situation — some prospects will quickly tune out your message because it just isn’t relevant to them.
Common situations faced by B2B buyers
People react differently when they face different situations. We know this is true because we experience it all the time. It even applies to B2B purchases, as there’s evidence that someone’s situation plays a much larger role in their purchasing intent than their job title or persona
When you’re thinking about your target audience (or developing your target account list
if you’re using an ABM strategy), it’s important to consider the different situations your prospects face. These include:
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- New customers vs. existing customers
- New investments vs. replacements or upgrades
(B2B Nation podcast)
New customers vs. existing customers
New customers and existing customers are in the exact opposite situation. When you market to new customers, you need to challenge the status quo. That could be a competitive solution already in place. It could also be no solution at all.
When your content marketing addresses your existing customers, however, you are the status quo
. You don’t want to lead with a message that is disruptive to a mutually beneficial relationship for both you (the vendor) and your client.
Existing customers have a bias toward your product. You can reinforce their bias by reminding them about the business impact of your solution and the advantages of partnering with your company.
Let’s use marketing automation software as our example of content marketing for situational selling. Marketing automation is an established, competitive market with a number of high-profile vendors.
Your content marketing strategy for existing customers could explore:
- Product upgrades and new features
- How your marketing automation product solves common marketing challenges
- Customer service success stories
- Training and deployment assistance.
Your new prospects don’t have the advantage of past results and interactions. They are receptive to a more disruptive message, as long as the content talks about positive disruption: better ROI, smoother processes, increased margins and more.
Your content marketing strategy for potential new customers could explore:
- Product features and comparisons
- Use cases and case studies
- An ROI analysis
- Pricing information
- Customer reviews
New investments vs. replacements or upgrades
Prospects looking to make a new investment are exploring products and services they have not previously purchased. They will benefit from content that educates and informs. They want to know the benefits of making such an investment.
Let’s stick with our marketing automation example. Marketing automation may not be a new concept to the marketers who haven’t yet invested in a solution, but they need to get their leadership on board. This requires a content strategy that talks about the opportunities and advantages of deploying marketing automation. It’s an enablement story. “ Here’s what is possible when you deploy marketing automation tools…”
Your content strategy for businesses making their first investment in marketing automation can explore:
- Educational content on marketing automation
- How marketing automation affects marketing strategy
- Essential features of marketing automation solutions
- Tips for building consensus for an investment in marketing automation.
Prospects exploring a replacement or an upgrade to a currently installed solution understand the broad benefits of the investment, but are looking to take the next step or improve their performance.
In this situation, you are up against the status quo. The status quo is often a very powerful advantage for a vendor. Some people and organizations are averse to change. Changing one application can create a cascading effect, where other applications and processes have to change as a consequence. Change also introduces risk, which everyone is trying to avoid.
That’s the challenge of marketing: finding the person who thinks the status quo is untenable and who can advocate for making a change. To find that person, you need to understand and then address their situation in your content.
Your content for prospects replacing their existing marketing automation platform can include:
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- Common pain points of marketing automation users and your product’s response
- ROI calculators
- Product and pricing comparisons
- Customer reviews
- “Versus”-type content featuring their installed platform
Your content marketing powers situational selling
B2B prospects are bombarded by messages. They come from their existing vendors, prospective vendors, vendors they’ve never heard of and more. Crafting content that is relevant to their situation is one way to stand out from the noise.
We can’t scale our content strategy to address every possible situation and concern (at least not yet), but that doesn’t mean you need to resort to one-size-fits-all marketing. By identifying the most common situations among your prospects and target accounts, you’ll be setting yourself for situational selling success.
Want to talk to content marketing experts about creating content for situational selling? Contact TechnologyAdvice today
and get started.