The B2Bsales process is much more about discovery and research now than it was even five years ago (see these much cited survey results from Google and CEB, and my post about The Golden Rule of Buying Behavior) and, as such, spending less time pitching and more time providing your prospects with useful content, is increasingly important. Doing so positions you and your company as a subject matter expert, an advisor, as someone who can be trusted.
The catch is that the content you generate has to be real, meaningful and, paradoxically, not about your product. This can make it difficult to produce.
The following are five things in mind as you generate content; remembering these should make the process easier.
Put Yourself in Your Audiences’ Shoes
Think about the issues that your target audience has: what do they struggle with, what keeps them awake at night, what can you help them figure out? You are in an excellent position to help them unpack their problems because you think about these far more often and in much greater detail than they do.
At the same time you position yourself as a subject matter expert (and you are), approach this with a certain amount of humility: in most business situations, a technology solution addresses only one of a large number of issues that a manager – your buyer – juggles. While you may think that your product is more spellbinding and revolutionary than the invention of the wheel or the discovery of fire, this likely isn’t the case.
Generate Content Yourself
It is best if you write / develop / present the material that you plan to share with your audience yourself. You can find solid copywriters on eLance but the material they write tends to sound like it has been …well… copywritten. The wonderful thing about content that you produce is that it comes from the heart, it is real – your audience will intuit this and ascribe a higher value to it. You know a lot about the problems that your offering addresses and when you write about them, this expertise will show.
Now, I know that insisting that you produce content yourself is a tall order – you barely have time to attend all the pressing day-to-day issues that bubble up running a small company. But, your voice is important so this should be a priority.
Be Original But Do Not Reinvent the Wheel
Although your content should be authentic, it does not need to be groundbreaking research or Phd thesis material. Write / talk / present about issues and topics that you hear about everyday, that are significant in the ecosystem you operate in but that your prospects may only think about peripherally. What you think of as common knowledge is not likely to be so for your prospects.
Your Content Should Not Promote Your Offering
Or, at least, not directly. The content you offer your audience should help it with issues it faces – you might mention your offer but only obliquely. The primary thrust of your content should be neutral, as a trusted advisor. As you doubtless spend a good portion of your day hustling, extolling the benefits of what you offer, promoting what you offer to anyone who will listen, this can take some discipline and may even be a little unnerving at first.
Develop an editorial calendar to organize h0w you will generate material, structuring it in the way that you think about the business problem you solve and its context. This will enable you to re-purpose what you produce (e.g. into several white papers, a video interview or an eBook) and will make the process much easier, reducing the dread you feel as you face a blank computer screen while waiting for your muse to speak.