Sometimes the massive amount of helpful information in the world actually makes it feel like complete chaos.
We have more options across all facets of our lives, and the paradox of choice is very real – especially for B2B buyers. In fact, B2B buying has become essentially the same as B2C buying – many options, lots of noise competing for our attention, and a myriad of decisions to navigate.
Let me give you a $3.99 example.
Last spring as I was getting ready for the Boston gardening season, I spent 30 minutes on Amazon picking out exactly the right packet of sunflower seeds to buy for me and the kids. 30 minutes. $3.99. Sunflower seeds! This is a tiny purchase, but I spent a relatively huge amount of time because it turns out there are so so so many variants of sunflower seeds in this world (who knew?). I’m not saying my time is the most valuable in the world, but it’s definitely worth more $7.98/hr. So why did I do it?
I realized in hindsight it was not about the money. It was about “getting it right”. I wanted to get the right seeds. I didn’t want to waste money, and I wanted my end customers (my kids) to be happy with the outcome.
It’s a small story about small money – but it’s playing out across all our lives and all our decision making a dozen times a day. Your B2B buyers are facing exactly the same kind of choice paralysis when they think about spending budget with you.
According to CEB, “Complex B2B deals often stall as customers get hung up on irrelevant details and conflicting information.” Even worse, CEB research found that there are now on average 5.4 decision makers on the buying committee for every B2B purchase. So each one of those people has their own concerns, checklists, and evaluation criteria that you are supposed to satisfy.
But with this challenge is an opportunity – the chance to make great prospects into awesome sunflower customers. We marketers now can (and must) help buyers through this difficult experience of buying. Not by producing more content to add to the noise, but by changing the content and experiences we produce to be more helpful. To create content that resonates for the buyer at each stage of the process.
The right content at the right time to the right person is massively impactful. In fact, we have a different name for this kind of content – we call it experiences, because they are so much more than just simple content. Content that really resonates – that becomes an experience – is impactful beyond words. Think about the first time you read that book that changed your life (as a boy, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time forever changed how I dreamed about the impossible).
But back to sunflower seeds. When I was buying sunflower seeds, what I really wanted was a sunflower seeds buying guide/wizard that took in my requirements and gave me a few potential choices that fit the bill and let me pick just from those. My whole buying process would have been much simpler.
And that’s exactly what your content should do for your buyers: understand their needs, pains, and goals and be prescriptive about what possible solutions they should take.
That’s what it will take in 2016 for marketing to earn the right for sales to get a phone call: make content that makes buying your solution easier. The other benefit is that you’ll start disqualifying prospects more quickly – so your sales team won’t waste their time and resources on potential customers who are not a fit.
What is Resonance?
What happens when the content you produce is easier for your audience to consume, and makes their buying process easier? It resonates.
Resonance is a physical phenomenon relating to frequencies and vibrations – but it also has an emotional definition: According to Merriam-Webster, resonance is “a quality that makes something personally meaningful or important to someone.”
This is the sense Stephen King meant when he spoke of his process in rewriting his manuscripts:
“What I want most of all is resonance, something that will linger for a little while in [my reader’s] mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it up on the shelf.”
You want to take the time to think about whether your content will resonate or not before you put it out in the world.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is this content all about me, or does it answer a question or problem for my buyer?
- Is this content uniquely valuable, or does it mimic content my competitors have already created?
- Would my buyer have fun while engaging with this content? Even if you’re publishing on a serious topic, find a way to pull your reader in and keep them reading/watching/interacting.
Producing and distributing resonant content should be top of mind for B2B marketers this year. There’s too much noise to produce anything that doesn’t make a huge impact for your audience – and resonating with them is the way to do that.
When you feel like you’ve got your head around this, it’s time for mental chess. Not only do your content and experiences need to resonate – they need to do so for each of the 5.4 buyers at each stage of your buying process. That means different content for each buying persona at each stage of the process, all focused on what matters to that person at that time. Yikes.
Hang on – some good news. If you pair just a few bellwether experiences for key decision-makers with your marketing automation to deliver them at the right time, you can get 80% of the way there – even if you haven’t finished splitting the atom.
What Does Resonant Content Look Like?
Resonant content embodies three key characteristics:
The folks over at CMI define “valuable content” as content that checks 5 boxes: Findable, Readable, Understandable, Actionable, and Shareable. The gut check here is if the content consumer comes away saying, “Wow, I am smarter and better off for the time I just spent.”
Where resonance and value intersect is by applying those pillars of value to your specific audience. What content does your audience want? Where are they in their buyer’s journey? How can you answer their question better than anyone else – or better yet, tell them the questions they should be asking before they even ask them?
We’re thinking about what will make our buyer’s process easier. Your buyer will value content that helps them through the buying decision, saving them time and headache.
Remember our definition of resonance? Making something “personally meaningful or important to someone.” It’s pretty hard to do that if you’re not thinking about personalization.
And I don’t just mean merge tags for first name and company. Align your content to personas, tailor it to buying stages, and follow up with content that makes logical sense. While you almost certainly don’t know the hyper-specific issues of each individual, you do know the broad themes and questions they face and you can surface these early, to demonstrate domain expertise and open the door for prospects to ask specific questions.
Personalization is also about making it easy. Your buyer wants to know: is this the right solution for me?
Which leads me to the next piece in the resonance puzzle:
Give your buyer the content that makes sense for them in their specific buying stage and process. Your content has no shot at resonating if your buyer looks at it and says, “Nope, not for me.”
Neil Patel says of relevance: “Relevance is a dynamic force. It is born in the identity of the user and responded to in the content of the marketer.” It’s about understanding who your buyer is, what they’re trying to do, and where they’re getting their information.
One way I’ve seen marketers do this that’s extremely effective is with “[Role] Guides.” As in, “The CMO’s Guide to Marketing Automation” or “The Demand Gen Marketer’s Guide to Interactive Content” (not to toot our own horn too much). Guides like these are signposts for your buyer that what’s inside will be tailored to the specific challenges and opportunities of their role.
In 2016, make marketing easier for your prospects. Create and distribute content that they’ll care about – and will help them answer their questions.
Your content might not be resonating today – but it should be. And it could be. Take a good hard look at your content and ask yourself: Is this valuable?
Are better content experiences in your future? Find out with this quick interactive assessment:
Select all that apply
Other interactive content
Some content, but not enough to segment carefully
More or less
Absolutely! Tons of content for all stages and buyer personas
You’re building out your content program and perhaps not quite hitting your conversion targets – now is a great time to experiment with small interactive touches.
When you’re ready to take your interactive game to the next level, you’ll want to think about how it fits into all your demand gen programs.
Now is the perfect time to get started with interactive content. You have a strong base of core content and are looking for ways to get your audience more engaged and boost conversion.
Kick your marketing into high gear by layering interactivity into all your existing campaigns and programs.
You’re creating a ton of great content and getting amazing results. You might already even be creating interactive content!
Make sure you’re getting the most out of the content you’re creating by layering interactivity into all your existing campaigns and programs.
Learn more about how to create content that resonates in our recent webinar, Crank up Your Content. Check out the recording here!