By Abby Sorensen, Editor
Let’s imagine in-person events are back in full swing. Many B2B marketing and sales teams miss those days. Trade shows bring buyers to you, and that is a beautiful thing.
Now imagine this: It’s the first day at the biggest trade show of the year. Your sales team is caffeinated, excited, and eager to talk to buyers. Your marketing team has done the hard work to prepare the collateral, hone the message, and position your products and services to impress attendees.
The sales team members pick up their badges and march to the booth. But that booth is set up on an empty show floor. The event is actually taking place at another convention center, in another city altogether. Maybe your budget wasn’t big enough to have a booth at the real event. Or maybe you thought what you’re selling was so appealing that buyers would find their way to you. Either way, it doesn’t make much sense to have a booth on an empty show floor.
This nightmare scenario plays out every day in real life. It’s exactly what happens when B2B marketers insist on driving traffic to their own website and only to their own website. It’s a nightmare to create content with no plan to distribute it where your buyers are likely to engage with it.
Very few companies can buy their way to SEO success, just like only a few can afford the biggest booth on the trade show floor. In order to compete for buyers’ attention, you absolutely, positively, must put your content where buyers are likely to see it.
“Unfortunately, You’re Not Beyoncé.”
Marketing guru Neil Patel gives content marketers this wake-up call:
“Remember when Beyoncé released a surprise album without any marketing? In three days, she sold almost 830,000 albums. It was impressive.
However, if you’re trying to use this tactic to promote your content, you’re in for a rude awakening. Unfortunately, you’re not Beyoncé.
And that means you need to promote. Proper content promotion is really the key to getting attention to your content. If you’re simply posting links to your latest blog post on your Twitter account, you’re probably going to get ignored.”
Why do marketers love their own website even though buyers often ignore it?
First, websites offer complete control over your brand. And what marketer doesn’t love brand control? Second, marketers love “driving traffic” and showing off easy-to-measure metrics like page views. Finally, and maybe most importantly, promoting content on your own website is much cheaper than paying to promote it elsewhere.
These are easy traps to fall into, even for the smartest of marketers. But even if your brand is the metaphorical Beyoncé of your industry, you still need to take pause and think through how buyers engage with content.
How Buyers Actually Use Your Website
The truth is that most of your prospects – especially those in the very early stages of their buyer’s journey when they are most susceptible to your influence – are not likely to spend time clicking around your website. This is a hard pill for many marketers to swallow, especially if you’ve paid a small fortune to have your website designed, optimized, and modernized.
To be clear, you do need a website. A functioning website is table stakes in B2B marketing. Buyers will use your website, and they’ll occasionally fork over their contact information on it.
But put yourself in a buyer’s shoes for a second. Would you want to hand over contact information just to download a white paper? We wrote about this in “So You Want To Be Your Own Publisher…”
Buyers are stingy with their contact information.
We’ve all been there, entering our dog’s name and a fake email address just to see if a white paper will instantly appear without the repercussions of daily spam emails and weekly sales development representative (SDR) voicemails. It’s not that your buyers aren’t interested in your latest and greatest content. It’s just that they aren’t interested enough to trade their personal contact information in exchange for accessing that content.
The more information you ask for, the less your buyer wants to give. Nearly half of B2B tech buyers never talk to a vendor while making a purchase decision, and that’s not limited to the tech world. Buyers consider handing over contact information to be “talking to a vendor,” and they’ll jump through hoops to remain anonymous.
That leaves you with two less-than-ideal options.
Behind door number one, you can gate content. That likely results in a high abandonment rate or inaccurate/incomplete contact information from the few form fills you do get. Behind door number two, you can make your content freely available. You’ll get more eyeballs because buyers can remain anonymous, but you’ll lose out on valuable data on who your potential buyers are.
Your Website’s Role In The Buyer’s Journey
Even if you’re satisfied with generating limited leads or no leads from your website, remember when your buyers come to your website: Toward the end of their buyer’s journey.
By then, you are likely only competing based on price. Toward the end of the buyer’s journey, it’s nearly impossible to change a buyer’s mind, to introduce a new solution, or to stand out from your competitors.
Buyers are plenty busy before they come to your website. In fact, they spend about 80 percent of their decision-making process doing something other than engaging directly to suppliers (according to Gartner). Keep in mind, you don’t own that entire remaining 20 percent of a buyer’s attention because that buyer is then engaging with multiple suppliers.
Buyers have already largely made up their minds by the time they come to your website.
You need to influence prospects before they come to your homepage by positioning content that speaks to the early and middle stages of the buyer’s journey. That content – content that speaks to challenges and opportunities, content that positions you as a thought leader – is the content you need to syndicate elsewhere.
Your late-stage content – brochures, service capabilities, demo videos, data sheets, pricing information – that can and should be on your website. But if you want to drive the right buyers to that content in the first place, you’ll need to be where buyers are likely to find you. Just like buyers aren’t likely to find you on an empty trade show floor, they aren’t likely to find you on your website.
Where Are Your Buyers?
So where are your prospects likely to engage with content during the buyer’s journey? That’s a good question, one your sales and marketing team will need to research. Ask your current customers where they go to research information. Do your own research, too, just like you would research which trade shows are likely to have your target audience in attendance.
Chances are, when you do find your buyers, you’ll have to pay to access them. Before you scoff at the idea of paying for digital content syndication, remember that analogy of setting up a booth on an empty trade show floor. Exhibiting at a trade show has a price, and so does putting your content in front of a captive digital audience.
If you’re not willing to pay that price, then don’t expect much (if any) ROI from your content.
“You need to spend more time promoting your hard work than you do creating it,” says James Tenant, founder of Converge. “Because the competition for attention is fierce, and you need to cut through the noise and make sure people are actually engaging with your content. Otherwise, why spend the time creating it in the first place?”
Find the industry publications, social networks, groups, websites, and any digital source that already have a captive, engaged audience of your target buyers. That is where your buyers are likely to engage with your content.