What makes the difference between a piece of content that gets no traction, and another that encourages a potential client to buy?

Frequently, sales content is written as if it's either a sales brochure or a technical manual—either too pushy or far too clinical. The key, however, is to ensure the content—both substance and style—fits the buyer's needs.

That is the crux of all well-performing content: The collateral you create must fulfill the needs of the buyer, at whatever stage of the buying journey.

This article will help pinpoint the why and how of creating excellent buyer-focused content.

Identify audience needs and create content to help

An essential part of Marketing's skill set is the ability to identify and target relevant audiences and then create content that will reach them.

Building client personas will help with that process if you use data to truly grasp both who your ideal buyer is and whom you currently deal with, and then figuring out where those two align.

The content produced for external audiences should be created for each individual persona or audience, addressing individual needs, pain points, and requirements. Internal audiences should get a similar treatment, but the segregation will be different: Content should be divided by organizational schema, such as differing sales departments. (More on internal vs. external later in this article.)

Line up the buying and sales process

Often sales and marketing teams approach the sales collateral creation process without thought, and favor sales insights from only one source to create content, such as one particular data stream.

However, buyer feedback and insights are useful when creating sales resources. Businesses aiming to bring into line sales collateral with client's journeys should draft the sales process to match the potential routes to purchase.

To do so, use buyer feedback and site analytics; they will help sales and marketing departments understand the needs and value requirements of each buyer—how their buyers are searching for information, and making final choices at each stage of the sales funnel.

An ideal solution would be for marketing and sales team leaders to meet to map out the processes and journeys for buyers' and sales reps' needs, and then find where areas overlap and intersect and then capitalize on those areas.

Create content for two separate sales needs

We can pinpoint two reasons sales content is created—either internal or external—and they often correspond to sales funnel stages. Internal content helps prepare sales reps for prospective client interactions; external content is activated during client-facing sales interactions. The two are not interchangeable.

The sales and marketing team tasked with identifying sales reps' needs and corresponding content types should work out the messaging and the preferred medium at each stage of the buying process—before any content is produced.

Internal Content

The stage your buyer is at will influence which pieces of content your sales reps may need.

Early-stage buyers won't need tech-heavy paperwork, so providing product specs to sales people would be unnecessary at this point. It would be better to focus on content that shows the benefits and features of your product or service, and to look at how the mode of information consumption may change depending on the buying stage.

Early-stage buyers might look for content from a desktop, whereas field reps prefer to have content accessible via mobile devices when visiting late-stage buyers. That means images and infographics might be the better fit for a tablet, compared with wordy e-books or spreadsheets requiring close analysis, which would be better suited to a desktop screen.

External Content

It's important to thoroughly understand what particular information buyers are seeking at each stage of their journey, and how to go about answering their questions appropriately with relevant content.

Tools that can help bolster such knowledge include Web and marketing analytics, and sales enablement and CRM systems. These tools will steer your content creation by showing gaps in your resources with bounce rates on certain landing pages, common questions asked, and content with low engagement or traction.

Every piece of external content should be produced and handed to sales teams with a specific outcome in mind, which would ideally relate to moving buyers to the next stage of their journey.

Once existing content is mapped to these buyer stages, marketing and sales teams should be able to identify gaps in content or resources and therefore should be able to create collateral for each specific buying persona or interaction.

What does your buyers' journey look like?

Depending on the product or solution that your particular company offers, there are many potential brand or product discovery journeys that a potential client could travel.

Understanding the path your prospects take allows for more focused content, which in turn should be more effective in closing deals.

Determining the buyer's journey can be accomplished by various techniques, such as talking to current customers, analyzing lead sources, using marketing analytics, and employing a tool such as sales enablement software that will uncover how opportunities progress and what content they interact with.

Sales enablement provides functionality within Salesforce so you'll be able to look at the bigger picture in terms of prospect engagement throughout the full sales journey. You'll be able to see the content buyers have engaged with, which content drove initial awareness and every piece of marketing they engaged with along the way. And you should be able to attribute an ROI to your sales and marketing collateral. All within one place, the CRM.

Once your team members have determined what the buyer's journey looks like, the next step is to uncover what those buyers are asking at each stage. Queries at the start of the buyer's journey will look very different from those asked in the final stages, and questions that aren't covered by existing content will require the creation of pieces that fill those gaps.

Correspondingly to the need for tailored content, the format of the content should be tailored also. Top-funnel content and bottom-funnel content have uniquely different purposes, and so they should be presented in different formats. The form that content takes can be almost as important as the content itself. Knowing what format to use—whether whitepapers, infographics, or blog posts—will be informed by your buyer journey you have already mapped,.

The channel through which the content will be delivered is also a key factor to consider. Depending on the individual's position within the company and in the buyer's journey, content could potentially appear through a social media feed, an email campaign, or a one-on-one interaction with a sales rep. The buyer persona that you have already built should help you define which channels will be most pertinent.

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How to Create Buyer-Focused Sales Content That Gets Traction

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image of Adam Little

Adam Little is the chief marketing officer at Data Dwell, provider of sales software that makes business content work harder for marketers and sales teams.

LinkedIn: Adam Little