Moilanen / Pixabay

You’ve probably seen these stats by now — up to 90% of the content that marketing creates is never used by the sales team, and 42% of content marketing is not effective. As a B2B marketer, I‘m aware of the fact that the sales team doesn’t always use the materials marketing produces for them. But, to find that 90% of content goes unused? It’s alarming, to say the least. So why does this happen?

Perhaps the problem lies deeper than marketing’s disconnect with sales. Possibly it goes on to show that 90% of what marketers create isn’t ‘good enough’ to get used to actually close business. Simply put, marketers are not as much tuned in with their customers and prospects as they should be.

One of the biggest mistakes I see B2B marketers make, when it comes to creating content, is that they focus too much on themselves and their product and not enough on educating their prospective customers. Go to any B2B website and chances are, you will see the word “we” and “our” thrown around a lot more than the word “you.”

So as marketers, what can we do about it? We can start by understanding what our buyers want and how to give it to them.

Understand What Buyers Want

We know that today buyers are two-thirds of the way (or more) through the buying process before they contact a sales person. This means your prospective customer is searching online to get educated – either from you, your competitors or from another source.

Is your organization producing content that helps teach your prospective buyer something new and ultimately solve their problem? While many companies hire full-time personnel to produce product marketing content – from capturing product features and technical specs to generic customer ‘benefits’, they neglect to create enough educational content – whitepapers, case studies, thought-provoking presentations – to help establish why the buyer should make a change in the first place. Research shows that only 16% of buyers are “ready to buy. So what are you doing to reach the other 84%?

According to Forrester Research, the vendor that gets in early and helps the customer turn a vision into a clear solution wins 74% of the time.

Don’t leave your customers to connect the dots to determine how or if your solution will solve their problem. Spell it out for them. No one has ever complained about a site (or form, app, etc.) being too easy to understand.

This means you need to communicate clearly the benefits of a product or service in terms that are relevant to the target customer and how exactly it adds value to their business. A.K.A. your “value proposition”.

Why You Need To Add Value

50% of marketers don’t have a content strategy or plan, and yet 70% of marketers say they will continue to produce more content. Considering an astounding amount of content is produced every minute, the last thing we need is more information without a purpose or plan.

I recently talked with a group of marketers about the concept of adding value in their content. We went through an exercise to outline where the marketers believed they were making an impact and adding value. However, the first thing we did is to clarify what’s “one of the most overused and misused terms in marketing and pricing” — value.

What is Value?

Right at the heart of sales and marketing practice lies the concept of ‘value’. In our book, Value-ology, we define value as:

Value = perceived relevant and distinct benefit − total cost of ownership.

In order to be relevant and distinct, you have to first understand what your customer cares about. For example, I talked with one company whose value proposition was to help “reduce IT costs by 35%.” When I asked if this message resonates with everyone, they said no. While reducing costs is always on the minds of business executives, sometimes they have more pressing matters to take care of – such as launching new products, acquiring or merging with another business, or expanding into new markets. In this case, the customer would perceive value in the form of how fast you can help them achieve the growth they are seeking.

While the real meaning of value may be subjective, you should try to understand it in terms of value assumptions and perspectives that take place in your business and influence the value solutions you create and communicate.

How Do We Add Value in Content?

On average, B2B Buyers are looking at 3-5 pieces of content before they talk to a salesperson. That means you have a lot of opportunities to provide value in your content and shape the buying criteria in your favour.

For example, IBM recently published a report and an interactive calculator that illustrates the cost of a security breach in your organization. Something to note here — they don’t just tell you the answer, they give you the tools to customize the information for your company, all while indirectly reinforcing that IBM has the security solution you need to protect your organization.

A good place to start is to map out useful content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, then figure out where your content may be lacking. You may find this chart to be a useful guide (which is included in my new marketing and sales book, Value-ology).

When in doubt, keep in mind that DemandGen Report has found that 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. And that 68% of businesses lose customers to “Perceived indifference”, that is, customers think you don’t care about them. So regular and personalized communication is critical.

Get Your Sales Team On Board

The most common complaint I hear from sales is “I don’t use any of the content or presentations that marketing creates”. Why not? Because it misses the mark and doesn’t help me close more business.

If you want to add value in your content, your sales team has to be involved in the process of creating it. Understanding what objections or questions they get from customers is a good place to start, as these are opportunities to further educate the customer. You can brainstorm whether or not a visual, article or video makes sense to create in order to address customer concerns.

Beyond talking with your sales team, another source of information is a win/loss analysis, which forces you to understand exactly why you did or didn’t win the deal. Oftentimes, “price was too high” is cited as the reason, when in fact this really means your customer “didn’t see the value in what you were selling.”

Simply put, if you fail to create value for your customers through your product or service, they will look for value in terms of price. And when that happens, you have to choose between earning a customer by reducing your price (and of course, profitability) or letting them go.

Therefore, the first and the foremost step in creating marketing or sales content should be to understand what it is that your customers value most. It is then that you will be successful in producing content that positions your solution in the right context… and find increased relevancy among your sales team and your customers.

Read more: