B2B marketing is tough! As you know, there are countless ways to market your products and solutions and you’ve probably tried most of them with varying degrees of success.

The b2b buying process can often times be extremely complex and in today’s market, it involves more and more people with a variety of perspectives, concerns, and personalities.

Products and solutions in the b2b sector are often complicated, highly specialized and require an enormous amount of education before anyone at a targeted account will sign off on the purchase. This, then, creates a sell cycle that can last anywhere from a couple months to a year or more.

B2B Relationship Selling

A strategy that can make b2b marketing a little less tough is starting with building a relationship first.

Getting your prospective clients to take notice of you as a resource as opposed to a sales person will start the relationship by providing value as opposed to just a price list and you will begin that relationship by creating value for your prospective client. By creating value, first, you’ll have a much better chance at separating you and your company from your competition.

Separating you and your company from the competition will reduce the chance that you’re viewed as a commodity.

Relationship selling isn’t new, its been around for as long as people have been buying. However, what is relatively new is trying to get that relationship started, when the buying process is so heavily online.

Digital marketing has been a game changer, no doubt. The changes that digital marketing are having aren’t just impacting the marketing department, they’re also having a very large impact on how sales people do their job.

It’s difficult, to say the least, to get a prospect from a targeted account to pick up the phone just to get a conversation started.

Educational Information For Relationship Building

One of the best tools that a company has, today, marketing to prospective buyers is utilizing educational materials that demonstrate to a prospect the value of your products and solutions.

Historically, education was done when a sales person “called” on a company and spoke directly to the buyer. The beauty to this process was that the sales person was interacting with the buyer in “real-time”. The sales person could adjust the conversation, on-the-fly, to address the questions and concerns that they buyer was expressing.

Today, few salespeople get the opportunity of being face-to-face with a buyer, especially in the early stages of the buying process. There are countless statistics showing that buyers don’t want to have a conversation with anyone from your company until they’re well through their buying process.

A couple of b2b marketing statistics from Trust Radius found:

  • 87% of buyers want to self-serve part or all of their buying journey.
  • 57% of buyers will make their buying decision without ever talking to a sales person.
  • The average b2b buyer will use 6.9 sources of information to make their buying decision.

We’re also seeing, now, that the buying journey is not linear. B2B buyers don’t begin with the awareness stage and transition in one solid direction to the purchase stage. Instead, today’s business buyers are jumping from one stage to another and then back again, revisiting multiple places of information to gather more data.

This information that buyers are collecting presents a value to the companies that are providing it. Buyers find the companies that are providing the information, that they need to make their lives easier, to be among their “trusted partners”. In fact, buyers who found the information they needed to make their jobs easier were 3x more likely to buy a bigger purchase from the company that provided the information, with less regret.

Become Their Source Of Information

All indications point to the need to provide your prospective buyers with the information that they need, to make a purchasing decision, available on your website. But what’s the best way to do that.

There are two primary ways to make information available; gated and ungated.

  • Gated content which is information that you provide that visitors to your website can only access by exchanging some of their personal information to see it. In most instances gated content is hidden behind a form that the visitor to your website has to fill out in order to receive or view.
  • Ungated content, on the contrary, is information on your website that is open and visible to anyone that visits your website.

As you can imagine there are pros and cons to both.

Ungated information is very easy for someone to access, however, you’re not able to get any information as to who is accessing it. You loose the opportunity to “follow-up” with the visitor or even to know how engaged they might be with the information that they’ve received from you.

Gated information, unlike ungated information, gives you the information of the person that has requested to receive the information (generally name and email address). The down side to gated content, however, is that the form becomes a point of friction, often times causing the visitor to your site to abandon the process of requesting the information.

When a visitor to your website encounters a piece of gated content they are looking at this as a transaction. They are placing a value on the information that they have to give you in exchange for the value of the information that they are going to receive. Ask for too much information in exchange for too little value in the information and they will abandon and leave your site, often times for good.

With gated content, if you can get the value right, you’ll be well on your way to beginning that relationship and positioning your company and a trusted place for the information that your buyers need to make their lives a little easier.

Reduce The Friction

For obvious reasons most of our clients prefer to have their valuable information gated on their websites. This gives them tremendous power to understand who is interested in their products and solutions, who might be returning to their website for more information, along with the types of products or solutions that the prospect might be interested in. This data is enormously important as the time comes for a sales person to contact this prospect. But first you have to reduce the friction that the form for the gated content creates.

Here are some ideas that will help you reduce the friction and use gated content to generate higher valued leads and give your sales force more actionable information on the target accounts that are so valuable to your company.

The first rule in gated content is to not ask for more information than the person finds the information to be worth. Remember, online, personal information is a form of currency. The more personal information a person has to give, the more valuable the information they’re going to receive has to be.

As an example. Let’s say that you have a specifications document gated behind a form that asks for:

  • Name – required
  • Company name – required
  • Email address – required
  • Company address – required
  • Company phone – required

This is way too much information for a spec sheet. Most visitors simply will not give you this much information, especially if it’s their first time on your website. In this situation, consider how much information you really need from them to start building a relationship. I’d suggest that a simple email address should be more than enough at this stage of the relationship.

Types Of Gated Content

Next, lets talk about the types of content that typically do well behind a form:

  • eBooks: This form of content works well in showing your authority on a subject. An eBook is typically a long-format document that addresses a specific solution or strategy in a particular industry. eBooks take some time to put together however, once completed they should be able to be “up-dated” as needed due to industry changes.
  • White Papers: A white paper is going to be a shorter format of document than the eBook, however, it shares a similar goal in demonstrating your company as a subject matter expert. White papers are typically focused on a particular product, solution, or topic. White papers are written from an authoritative position and should not be used to “sell” a product, service, or solution. These are not sales pieces rather educational documents.
  • Webinars: In today’s market it doesn’t take much effort to find a company inviting you to an upcoming webinars. Webinars are quickly being used to replace face-to-face events and they’re success has been a life-saver for many companies. Our experience has seen little use of the webinars after the day that they are put on. Using this high quality content as gated content is a great way to take what you’ve worked so hard on and give it life after the webinar event.
  • Templates: There is literally few types of content that will generate as much interest as document templates and worksheet spreadsheets. These are tremendous pieces of content that you can make available to your site visitors to help them make their life easier. Does your product require specific calculations to determine either price or availability? Put together a spreadsheet to help them figure it out for themselves. Remember, 87% of buyers want to self-serve part or all of their buying journey.

Personalized Content

There is a lot of conversation about the importance of personalization in today’s b2b marketing. There are a number of ways to view personalization. Personalization can mean putting a person’s name in the subject line of an email message. Personalization can also mean putting an image that the recipient of an email or a visitor to your website will be able to relate to.

Personalization can also mean providing information to a prospective customer based on where they are within their buying process. You can take this strategy and develop your gated content and the information required to access that information accordingly.

With this in mind think about putting information together for people that are at the very beginning of their buying process. This will typically be more simplistic information such as general solutions that your company can creatively provide or very basic product information.

Because this information is to satisfy the buyer in the early stages of their process, the information that you require to get is should also be pretty simplistic. As stated earlier, maybe this is just an email address.

Next, make sure that you have information that would be relevant for a buyer as they move deeper into their buying process. This might be information that demonstrates how to install your products, more technical information or even a comparison of your product or solution as verse your competitors.

At this stage, you could begin asking for a little more information such as their name and possibly their company name.

By gradually increasing the value of the information that you are providing you’ll see less of a resistance for collecting more of the information that will assist your company in moving the sales process forward.