The Long Sales Cycle: How to Keep Your Product on the Short List in B2B
Just about every B2B marketer knows that there are four little words that can put you on pins and needles: “shorten your sales cycle.” Marketing to potential leads and seeing successful conversions from the clients you’re working with is more than enough work for one person. The idea that you should somehow accelerate that process, squeeze in more clients or somehow make yourself do more in less time can be a stressful proposition. Some marketers love the excitement of a good challenge; others dread it.
Content Factor has an excellent white paper that puts the sales cycle into perspective. The Internet has fundamentally changed just about every aspect of business, from top to bottom, and B2B marketing is no exception. The traditional sales cycle as we used to know it has changed into something else: something Content Factor calls a “buying cycle.” All the necessary information on just about everything is already out there, and that accessibility shifts the power of information out of a marketer’s hands, and passes it directly to your potential leads.
Understanding this shift from a “sales” cycle to a “buying” cycle is the key to succeeding in today’s B2B market. Here are some tips on how content marketing can help you shorten your sales cycle and improve your sales overall.
Trust That Your Leads Can, and Will, Help Themselves
Clients and customers nowadays are more curious than ever. With all sorts of information at their fingertips, can you blame them? You can find just about everything about a product or service online, from technical specifications to previous user reviews, and everything in between. The vast majority of that information had to be supplied to the various corners of the internet by the company that sells the product. That information is part of a vast content marketing strategy, and if you aren’t putting information out there, you simply aren’t content marketing correctly.
Whether you’ve invited them or not, your leads are going to pursue as much information about your products as possible. If you aren’t putting information out there, the only things they’re going to find will be user reviews and past customer testimonials, which you can more than likely assume other people have put online already by now, or they will soon. How do you want your business to be represented online—by the gripes and praises of your previous clients, or by content you’ve specifically tailored to encourage sales and drive business?
Traditional sales cycles become stagnant these days because the process has become inconvenient to today’s business people. Content marketing allows you to make every step of your sales cycle available to anyone, at any time, so that they can explore your product for themselves and move towards a sale at their own pace.
Content Marketing Allows You to Supplement Long Sales Cycles with More Volume
B2B sales can be a lengthy process. There’s a huge difference between an entire corporation signing up for multiple seats on a new cloud-based management service and somebody running to the grocery store to get milk. There are all sorts of meetings with representatives, budget-holders, managers, and everyone else involved in the purchase of a major B2B product.
Just about everyone has had one of those days where they needed more hours in the day, or the ability to be in two places at once, in order to maximize their sales potential. Content marketing lets you do exactly that.
You have to go back to that idea of the buying cycle versus a sales cycle. By putting all of your “sales cycle” information up on the internet as convenient, accessible marketing content, you’re empowering your customers to buy at their own pace. Having your necessary information and sales material online allows your potential leads to accelerate the sales process on their own terms. If they’re moving too slowly, you can easily step in with more informative content prepared just for them. You can also reach out to more prospects more easily, and you can offer a variety of support and contact options along with that informative material to boot. Content marketing allows everyone to move through the sales cycle happily and comfortably, and you can manage more concurrent sales opportunities at once to boot.
The B2B Sales Cycle Leaves More Time to Read
One great luxury of the lengthy sales cycle for B2B products is that your interested prospects will be very willing to read the content you produce. Readership is a huge concern for just about everyone that produces content on the internet for any reason, and if you’re producing content explicitly for your clients, they have a vested interest in what you prepare for them.
This is one of the biggest benefits of content marketing: you can publish tons of highly informative, genuinely useful material about your products and services, and your potential clients will soak all of that information up. All you have to do is pique their interests one time, and with consistent content updating, you’ll secure a new client with little to no extra effort on your part. Potential clients want to be sure that they’re very familiar with purchases they’re considering for their company, and your content satisfies their need for research and reassurance.
Content marketing is one of the newest and most cost-effective ways to maintain B2B clients at all stages of the sales cycle. 90% of B2B marketers are already content marketing successfully, and those numbers will only continue to go up. If you aren’t practicing serious content marketing for your business, and you’re just not seeing the major improvements in your sales cycle that you hoped for, it’s definitely time to rethink your strategy.