"Marketing doesn't fully understand how buyers use content," warns Paul McKeon in a Pro article at MarketingProfs. "B2B marketing is no longer just in the business of brand management and lead generation," he states. "It must serve a huge demand for content that spans buyers' needs, from pre-awareness to post-sale." A daunting task, indeed.

So how can a B2B marketer match the right content to a buyer's needs throughout a lengthy buying cycle? "The B2B buying cycle has four recognizable stages," McKeon explains, "each requiring a wholly different content approach." He defines the stages—and offers ways to grab attention at each one.

Here are McKeon's Four Stages of the B2B Buying Cycle, and a sample of his advice:

  1. Unaware. The buyer is not explicitly in the market but should be. Content should be interruptive. Suggested attention-grabbers: Speak to their pain; provide "news," such as a research report.
  2. Tentative. The buyer is standing at the edge, or quietly wading into the market. Content should be educational. Attention-grabbers: Write about the buyer's problem and how to address it, not about your solution. Encourage buyer interactivity at your website.
  3. Engaged. The buyer is in a dialogue with your company. Content should be validating. Provide case studies detailing customer success stories. Provide third-party articles to support your vision.
  4. Invested. The buyer is a customer. Content should be exclusive. Personalize your email and Web content. Offer insider tips, using a conversational style.

The Po!nt: It's more about them than about you. The key to creating valuable marketing content is to identify where buyers are along the B2B buying cycle—and speak to their unique challenges. "Compromise nothing to internal drivers," McKeon advises. "Concentrate on the buyer."

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