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Shortening the Sales Cycle Through Content Marketing

Greg Shuey
Feb 13, 2015

Over the past 5 years, the average sales cycle has increased by 22%.  Well-informed buyers in the decision making process, coupled with slow economic growth, creates for the perfect storm for lengthy B2B and B2C sales cycles. Furthermore, survey data from Crain’s BtoB Magazine reported that 43% of respondents saw an overall slowing of the sales cycle over the past three years. The problem isn’t new, nor is it getting any better.

The longer it takes to move a consumer from prospect to purchaser, the more tangible and intangible resources are drained from your firm. The bottom line is that a shortened sales cycle benefits the business as a whole.

Content marketing is the solution to long sales cycles. A recent Corporate Executive Board study from the Harvard Business Review found that among B2B consumers, 60% of a purchasing decision occurs before ever having communication with a supplier. That’s more than half of the buying process that remains untouched by any human from the company in question.

Related Article: Content Marketing Without This Extra Step Is Useless

Give the People What They Want!

While the focus here is on the role content plays in shortening the sales cycle, it’s important to note this is not a win-lose situation in terms of your firm and your customers. In reality, content marketing creates a win-win.

According to Roper Public Affairs, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information through several articles rather than through an advertisement. While 60% of those business managers believed a company’s content helped them make better product decisions.

The Sales Cycle and the Buying Cycle

To understand how content marketing impacts all but one stage of the sales cycle, the cycle itself must be examined.

Stage One: Acknowledge Buyer

Stage Two: Identify Specific Needs

Stage Three: Provide Solutions

Stage Four: Complete Transaction

Stage Five: Affirm Satisfaction

Those who are familiar with the sales cycle are probably also aware of the importance of the customer’s journey. A firm’s sales processes find roots in the customer’s buying process. And in content marketing, a customer-centric approach is necessary for success.

Stage One: Awareness

Stage Two: Consideration

Stage Three: Preference/Intent

Stage Four: Purchase

Stage Five: Repurchase/Abandon

Illustrating the buying cycle also serves to better indicate the content consumed by the consumer at each stage of the corresponding sales cycle.

Related Article: If Content Marketing Actually Worked, It Would Look Like This

Creating Content for the Five Stages

To expedite the sales cycle, you must create content for each stage of the buying cycle. Content marketing as a whole makes a marked impact on consumers. 70% of consumers say that content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company.

In order to create the right piece of content, you need to think like your customer. What questions do they ask at each stage? Take a look at relevant search queries at each stage for ideas on what their answers their looking for at different points in the process.

Beyond looking at search output, talk to those on the front lines of the sales cycle. What questions are pre-purchase customers asking? Internal sources are the greatest assets for content topic generation. 

Every firm will find unique content to best serve its specific customers. But generally speaking, certain content types are most valuable at each stage. We’ll look at each stage from the perspective of the buyer cycle.

Stage One: Awareness

Problem Identification – Fully flesh out every problem a consumer could have. Detailing a problem in its entirety aids consumers in their own problem recognition process and reinforces your brand as an objective and knowledgeable source.

Industry Education – Providing unique insights on the latest industry news serves a dual purpose. First, it communicates a sense of authority in the eyes of the customer. Second, it allows you to stay at the top of their minds.

Brand Storytelling – Previously, we mentioned a statistic regarding content marketing’s ability to bring consumers a feeling of closeness to the brand. Telling the story of your brand is the perfect way to foster that feeling of familiarity with your firm.

Stage Two: Consideration

Compare and Contrast – Describe, detail and highlight the differences between offerings in your industry. Be honest and show objectivity. Above all, show why your firm has the best product for the customer.

Specific Problem Solutions – You’ve already crafted content for identifying problems, now is the time to create the content to solve those problems. There’s really no such thing as too much detail in solution content.

Stage Three: Preference/Intent

Detailed Product/Service Descriptions – At this point, the potential buyer is serious about making a purchase. He or she will want full details on the product in question. Whether it’s accurate specifications of a piece of heavy machinery or 360-degree views of a piece of clothing, the consumer should feel as though she’s seen it with her own eyes.

Stage Four: Purchase

Discounts, Coupons, and Specials – You might not initially think that content can be tailored for the purchase stage, but it has a special place here. Create stories (i.e., blog posts) around every discount you run or specials that you offer. A single piece could be the catalyst in a customer purchase.

Stage 5: Repurchase/Abandon

Email Marketing Campaigns – Remaining on a consumer’s radar post purchase is essential. Through email campaigns, you can ask for feedback from recent purchasers, as well as provide continuing education on products. The main goal of content here should be to maximize post-purchase value.

Social Media Retargeting – Employing email retargeting, interest targeting and the like through the use of social media paid advertisements will effectively keep you visible to consumers inside of the environments in which they’re already interacting.

Everything Listed Above! – Regardless of how much we can hypothesize and predict, you’ll never be absolutely sure of what type of content will spark action in a consumer. So, keep creating quality content!

When you provide content for each stage of the buying cycle, you guide the customer through the process faster and easier. Ultimately, this results in shortened sales cycle durations. But it also creates satisfied, knowledgeable customers, who now view your firm as a trusted source of information.

Greg Shuey
Greg Shuey is a Co-Founder & Chief Evangelist for Stryde, a content marketing lead generation firm located in Utah. Stryde is driven by a belief that there is a better way to connect businesses and consumers. Through targeted content, they help business create more brand awareness, drive more traffic, educate prospects, generate qualified leads, shorten sales cycles, and increase customer/client retention.