They are the holy grail of B2B marketing: C-suite executives who open the doors, make the decisions and write the checks. And they are increasingly difficult to reach through conventional marketing channels. The key to getting inside is providing executives with something they need but can’t get elsewhere: relevant content.
In today’s content-driven B2B marketing landscape, a compelling, user-centric content strategy can be a brand’s most powerful tool for connecting with prospects and clients. To be truly effective, a content strategy must be based on a clear understanding of and alignment to specific customer needs and consumption preferences throughout their decision-making process.
Customer journey mapping, the creation of a detailed visual representation of the different phases prospects and clients experience throughout the buying cycle and beyond, can be an extremely useful exercise for uncovering these insights.
It’s about the customer.
This may sound obvious, but the key to building an effective customer journey map is to think from the perspective of the customer. Not always an easy or natural task, especially if that is not something you are used to doing. We were reminded of this recently when developing a customer journey map with a B2B technology firm. The exercise was part of a larger content strategy workshop with key stakeholders from across the organization, including senior leadership, business heads, and sales and marketing executives.
Interestingly, it was the sales team, who had the most interaction with prospects and clients on a daily basis, that had the hardest time sticking to the customer-centric lens. Their natural inclination was to revert back to their own sales process – the activities, content and channels they used throughout the buying cycle.
“We have a well thought-out sales process in place. Shouldn’t we be basing our content strategy around that?” one of the sales executives asked.
The answer, of course, is both yes and no.
The goal was not to completely reinvent the sales process – although some opportunities for improvement did come to the surface. The goal was to identify how content could fuel sales and marketing activities and generate better outcomes for the firm (i.e. more qualified leads, shorter buying cycles, higher close rate). To get to there, we first had to understand how prospects and clients were thinking, feeling and acting at each stage in the decision-making process. Hence the customer journey mapping.
Getting out of your head.
What ended up being most useful for the sales team was focusing on the questions and objections they commonly heard from prospects and clients throughout the buying cycle. This helped them stop thinking about the more tactical elements of their own sales activities and get into the mindset of the customer. We then used this curated list as the basis for ideation around content topics, themes, and ideas.
There are many ways to get these customer insights. It’s less important how you get them, then what you do with them once you have them. To develop a successful content strategy, customer insights are a necessary ingredient.