How to turn on the voice of the customer in your B2B content marketing
A few years ago, one of my colleagues told me that he felt like a teenage boy who got a girl to say yes to his invitation for their first date, but not to the second.
He was discouraged because he couldn’t close his large case sales, in spite being invited to finalist presentations. He admitted that there had to be something wrong with his sales pitch. He needed his marketing colleagues to help him nurture business leads before making the sales pitch.
He was right about where he went wrong: His interactions with potential customers were always about making a sale, not about explaining value propositions that addressed their needs and made them want to buy.
To state the obvious, marketing narratives and sales pitches must be relevant and resonate with potential customers. With the pressure on marketers to produce content that generates business leads and converts prospects to sales, it is ironic that only 17% of content marketers reported that their organization’s content marketing strategy was more successful when compared with one year ago.
A possible reason for this weak outcome is that there is a lot of content marketing that is more focused on making a sales pitch, which can be a real turn-off. Even if customers don’t quite know how to define their needs, I believe that it is necessary to incorporate the voice of the customer in marketing communication as a lead in to sales pitches and finalist presentations.
Henry Ford reportedly said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
And even if they would have said they wanted faster horses, the insight was that there was a real need for speedier form of transportation.
Here are three common mistakes that turn potential customers off, and how to avoid them
1.Large amounts of data and information that don’t add value.
Target audiences usually have seen or read about various solutions to the problems and challenges they are facing. The last thing potential customers need is a rehash of what they already know. Repetition is boring and so is data-heavy text.
One way of getting around this is to integrate the voice of the customer and highlight insights gained from customers’ input, which could then serve as the starting point to present potential solutions. By doing this, potential customers see that their needs are deeply understood and are being addressed. Quotes from industry associations, stakeholder groups and market survey results are generally regarded as good sources that echo the customer’s voice.
2. Jumping quickly to speak about your branded solution in communication material.
Potential customers don’t initially care about product features and brands. They have a problem to be solved and they need to know about the pros, cons and impacts of the solution. Promoting a branded product or service up-front can be a real turn-off as it sends the message that the sales transaction is all that matters.
A better approach is to be brand agnostic, at first. Explain the rationale for the solution options and clearly highlight how the needs identified by the customer are met. The branded solution can be introduced in a case study and in the call to action for potential customers to make inquiries.
3.Describing features and benefits without validation from a credible source
Potential customers want to hear the voice of other customers who are facing similar challenges and have similar needs. A call to action that does not ask for a sale, but makes a valuable offer (e.g. demo, time limited trial, consultation) is always appropriate.
The use of a real-world case study or customer testimonial in marketing communication, gives a voice to the customer in front of other customers and adds credibility to the marketing and sales plans.
Vendor or partner
From my own experience in the healthcare sector, the feedback from potential customers and other stakeholders always boiled down to the need for partnerships rather than vendor/buyer relationships.
Potential customers want to partner with providers who deeply understand their business needs.
Access to C-suite decision-makers is gained when vendors are regarded as trusted, credible partners. Credibility comes from using subject-matter expertise to help potential customers think differently about their problem and how the solution options create value for the customer.
Save the explicit sales pitch until after awareness, consideration and preference have been gained and trust has been earned.
Here are a few tips on how to create content marketing material that engages interest and builds trust –
- Light use of data to validate key issues
- Succinct summary of the challenges and issues
- Engage readers by giving each stakeholder group a voice
- Integrate stakeholder recommendations in the solution proposal
- Case study and customer testimonial to validate the solution
Camille Isaacs-Morell loves social media and enjoys reading articles and blog posts on content marketing. She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of business-to-business enterprises and non-profit organizations in a leadership role with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.