Journey to the End of the Sales Funnel

Journey to the End of the Sales Funnel

HOW TO SHORTEN THE PATH-TO-SALES BY USING DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTENT MARKETING TOOLS ALONG THE WAY

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If you were setting out on a journey through an unknown land, wouldn’t you appreciate the company of a knowledgeable and experienced tour guide?

B2B marketers are the tour guides through the sales funnel for all of the buyers in the world of B2B digital marketing, and their content strategy is their map.

Along the way, when the buyers start to grow weary, there are content snacks and full course meals to satisfy their hunger and give them the boost of energy they need to carry on. While social media content snacks can be both tasty and vital to curbing hunger pains until the next meal, the real sustenance comes in the form of marketing tactics such as white papers, case studies, data sheets, ebooks and digital magazines.

Just as our taste preferences vary, depending on the meal or even the day, certain forms of content are going to be more appetizing to the buyer depending upon where they are in the sales funnel.

In a recent report[1] by Eccolo Media, 500 US-based B2B (technology) buyers were surveyed about their interaction with various forms of content throughout the sales funnel. The study concluded that each content type influences technology sales in its own way, is consumed on mobile devices to a different degree, and has its own set of expectations from buyers.

As seen in the diagram at the top, each type of marketing collateral flourishes in either the beginning, the middle or the end (and sometimes in combination) of the sales funnel. Let’s take a look:

WHITE PAPERS: White papers are the most popular content type with buyers (49% of respondents say they consume them). However, while they find white papers useful, buyers also have some major reservations.

In 2011, 65% of B2B technology buyers said they found white papers to be extremely influential. In 2012, that number dropped to 57% and in this survey it fell even further to 50%. Why? Because buyers think that many white papers focus too much on vendor or product information (or, as one buyer put it: “Too much marketing hype”).

Instead, respondents say they want white papers that provide real insights and unbiased coverage of industry developments.

Where They Most Impact the Sales Funnel: Beginning.

B2B technology buyers say they use white papers most in the beginning (both in the “unaware of the problem” and the “understanding the problem”) phases of the sales funnel, though they are considered useful in every phase. Even after purchase, White papers are still likely to be consumed by a buyer.

Mobile Consumption: High. Buyers ranked white papers as the content type they would most likely consume on a mobile device (phone or tablet).

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Buyers ranked white papers as the content type they would most likely consume on a mobile device (phone or tablet).

DIGITAL MAGAZINES: Digital magazines have emerged as a powerful marketing content type in recent years, leading to their inclusion in the study for the first time. Although currently only 31% of buyers consume them, that is expected to rise over time.

Where They Most Impact the Sales Funnel: Beginning.

Buyers use digital magazines most when they are starting their research process, as well as when they are creating their initial list of potential vendors.

Mobile Consumption: Mid.

eBOOKS: When asked what they look for in vendor content, respondents often used terms such as “easy-to-read” and “digestible.” This preference may explain why less than a quarter (24%) consume eBooks, which inherently tend to be lengthy.

However, while the eBook audience is smaller, it is also more focused and committed, willing to invest more time in learning about technology and vendors.

Where They Most Impact the Sales Funnel: Beginning.

eBooks, like magazines and white papers, are often consumed at the top of the sales funnel, when buyers are getting the lay of the land and trying to learn about current trends in the space.

Mobile Consumption: Mid.

While eBooks lag in comparison to other digital content types in terms of mobile consumption, they are still increasingly accessed on phones and tablets. As the report notes, 71% of respondents say they consume vendor content on a mobile device—a number that is expected to reach close to 100% in coming years.

CASE STUDIES: The survey found that case studies are consumed by 36% of technology buyers.

Over the past few years, marketers have tried to spice up their case studies by presenting them in new formats, but this may not be to their advantage. The technology buyers surveyed say that overwhelmingly they prefer traditional written case studies to those presented as audio, video, or PowerPoint slides.

Where They Most Impact the Sales Funnel: Beginning and Middle

Buyers say they use case studies most in the Beginning and Middle (“identifying solutions, considering vendors”) phases of the sales cycle.

Mobile Consumption: High. Buyers ranked case studies second (only to white papers) when it came to content types they are most likely to consume on a mobile device.

DATA SHEETS / PRODUCT BROCHURES: Data sheets and product brochures are the second-most popular content type with buyers (used by 46%).

Not surprisingly, they tend to come into play once buyers have narrowed down their list of vendors and are trying to decide between them.

Where They Most Impact the Sales Funnel: Middle and End.

Buyers say they consume data sheets most during the Middle and Final (“finalizing vendor, purchasing solution”) phases of the sales funnel.

Mobile Consumption: High. Data sheets were the fourth most consumed content type on mobile devices (after white-papers, case studies, and video).

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Data sheets were the fourth most consumed content type on mobile devices (after white-papers, case studies, and video).

DETAILED TECHNOLOGY GUIDES: Detailed technology guides are consumed by 36% of buyers, and are used in many of the same ways as data sheets and product brochures.

However, technology guides differ a bit from these content types (which tend to be shorter) in that they are most frequently utilized at the end of the sales cycle. They are also heavily consumed after the sale is completed.

Where They Most Impact the Sales Funnel: End and beyond.

Mobile Consumption: Mid. The length of many technology guides leads buyers to either read them on desktop computers or print out hard copies.

Which type of content should you serve up on a platter to your prospective buyers? Ideally, all of them! They all have a place in your marketing mix along the way to the end of the sales funnel. Timing is everything.

Making the “right” type of content available at just the “right” time is crucial to nurturing your buyer along to the end. Keep in mind that the further down the funnel they go, the more you have invested in them and the more valuable they become.

 

Tweet this: Which types of content are most appetizing to your prospective buyer on their journey through the sales funnel?
Tweet this: When it comes to content, both timing and type are crucial in nurturing your buyer through the sales funnel.
Tweet this: Content is the sustenance that curbs the hunger pains of your buyer on their journey through the sales funnel.
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