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Content Marketing and the Path to Purchase

Posted by Laurel Miltner on May 16, 2012

purchase-pathLast week, I read an article by Mitch Joel (@mitchjoel), Welcome to “Less Is More” Marketing, in which he argues that marketers may want to spend less time focused on content, and more time focused on simplifying the buying process.

Marketers v. Consumers

A recent study from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) was a driving force behind this recommendation. Based on surveys of 7,000 consumers and interviews with 200 marketers, the CEB found a major disconnect in the marketing-sales process.

  • Marketers are focused on driving brand engagement and relationships.
  • Consumers simply want an easy path to purchase. 

In short, consumers don’t want engagement; they just want to buy something. And, if it’s not easy for them to buy from you, they’ll go to a competitor—no matter how great your content or Facebook page are.

Taking things back to Joel’s post, he says that marketers who are highly focused on pumping out content to entertain and engage—think Pepsi’s Live for Now campaign or Chase Sapphire’s Around the World in 80 Plates sponsorship campaign—may need to take a step back and focus on the basics.

“Take a look at your marketing teams and ask this simple question: who amongst us is responsible for ensuring that our consumers can get in, find what they need, and convert as quickly and efficiently as possible?”

Makes sense.

But, what’s missing from the conversation is that the CEB research was based solely on B2C buyers and brands.

And, as Joel alludes to early in his article, content and a simple buying process don’t have to be mutually exclusive. This is particularly true in B2B.

Savvy B2B marketers use content to guide buyers through the purchase process.

By viewing content as a conversation, you can develop resources—tailored to each of your buyer personas—that answer their questions throughout the buying cycle.

With marketing software, you can map this content into lead nurturing or marketing automation campaigns, keeping otherwise passive prospects engaged in the decision-making process. 

By creating content relevant to your buyers at the beginning, middle and end of their decision-making journeys, you can digitally walk them along the purchase path. Take this very simplified example:

  • A blog post optimized for relevant keywords helps someone find you when researching potential solutions to a problem.
  • After reading, he downloads an ebook that covers more detailed information—and provides you with his contact info.
  • He later receives a lead-nurturing email that links to your company’s ROI calculator, which helps him make the case for your service to superiors.
  • When he visits your site again, he’s sent a client case study and testimonial that seal the deal.

Rather than distracting from the sale, well-strategized and executed content can make a lengthy, complex buying cycle easier for B2B buyers.

What do you think? Has content marketing helped or hindered your sales process? 

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