How to Use Different Content Types Along The Customer’s Journey

It’s being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of your opportunities.”
Lee Majors

Timing is essential in B2B sales, as it is in our lives. And the right place and the right timing in B2B sales have a lot to do with the right content, the right value messages at the right time, to create a competitive advantage, to create value for prospects and customers. And that brings us to the content salespeople use or don’t use.

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In our 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, we asked our study participants how different content assets are used along the customer’s journey.
Let’s discuss what we learned!

Email templates (76.5%) and white papers (63.5%) seem to be the top assets for the early customer’s awareness phase, the prospecting phase.

It’s no surprise that email templates are important assets for salespeople during the prospecting phase. Whether this is a successful strategy or not depends on the messaging that is used in the email template itself. As we all experience on a daily basis, there are still way too many product-pushing and “it’s all about us, the market leaders in the XYZ space” email templates around. Instead, email templates should be tailored to the targeted buyer role and industry, addressing the potential business problems your products and services can help to solve. In an ideal case, salespeople tailor those well-prepared email templates to the specific person they want to send this email to.

The second most important content type for prospecting seems to be white papers. Here also, the success of using white papers in this customer’s journey phase depends on the content and the design of the white paper. As long as white papers address a business challenge your prospects are facing, and you can solve with your products and services, it can be a good choice. But too many white papers are product-driven and too technical, which is often misleading in this early phase, when prospects have to make a decision whether to tackle a certain business challenge or not. And even if the answer is yes, they still have to decide how to tackle their challenges to achieve better results in the future. So, whatever content type is used, the focus should be on how to approach a specific challenge to achieve specific results.

References (74.1%) and customer case studies (53.4%) are primarily used in the buying phase – why not earlier?

What a surprise to learn from the data that references and case studies are, apparently, used primarily in the buying phase and not also in the prospecting phase. Of course, attaching the right references to a proposal is part of delivering a compelling proposal, especially in large deals. But why aren’t these great resources leveraged earlier along the customer’s journey? As buyers actually don’t buy products, but the business value they get from your products and services, a compelling reference or case study can create tremendous benefits in the prospecting phase. There is nothing more valuable for prospects than learning how other organizations have solved similar business challenges and achieved better business results. A reference, case study or success story used in the customers’ awareness phase can significantly speed up the prospects’ process of creating a shared vision of future success and defining how to get there as well as the desired business results.

Only when the picture of future success is clear can prospects make a decision to change their current state and enter a buying phase. Avoid product-focused and too technical references, and focus on the business situation and the outcomes that could be created. Technical details can be presented later, in the buying phase, which is when they’re required. This approach requires references, case studies and success stories to be tailored to the appropriate level of detail for the awareness phase and the buying phase.

The top asset in the buying phase is the proposal template (83.8%), followed by business value justification templates (76.8%) and technical presentations (75.2%).

No surprises here! Proposal templates are usually provided by sales operations or sales enablement teams. Technical presentations are often created from marketing or enablement together with product management. Proposal templates also often include legal attachments that are created and owned by the legal department and/or product management.

And, there seems to be almost no plan for what content types should be used in the customer’s implementation, adoption and usage phase. This is the phase when salespeople should ensure that the value gets created the way it should be. Additionally, as value perception lies in the eye of the beholder, the right value messaging to the right buyer is essential to be able to create follow-up business with this customer. “After the game is before the game,” as Sepp Herberger said so wisely.

Another topic for another blog post!

Questions for you:

How to you define content types along the customer’s journey?

How do you encourage salespeople to use more customer stories and references for prospecting?

How do you provide content recommendations depending on the customer’s journey phase?

Related blog posts:

Building Better Playbooks

Dynamic Value Messaging: Part 1, Defining Messaging Criteria

Dynamic Value Messaging: Part 2, Different Buying Scenarios Matter

Dynamic Value Messaging: Part 3, Value Messaging Types Along the Customer’s Journey

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