As more and more non-IT decision-makers are involved in the IT buying process, the tech content strategy should account not just for lead generation, but also further down the line. It needs to be tailored to engage different buying personas and equip internal sales reps to have a more in-depth understanding of the technical space and offerings. In this article, we’ll look at how to strategically think and design your technology services and products (TSP) content strategy to stay up to date with the current technology buying change rate.
The current state of affairs
Most TSPs nowadays have a more or less advanced content-driven demand flow implemented, to qualify and nurture leads. However, the consistent flow and strategy usually end once sales contact the lead, and regardless of the result, the specific contact might be kept in a list to receive mass-company email updates, with no real objective of making sure they get personalized content.
Even if the top-of-the-funnel content (aimed at capturing and qualifying leads) is tailored to different buying personas and functions in segmented industries, this represents just a small part of the whole battle. Videos, landing pages, eBooks, social media, whitepapers, eBooks, blog posts, webinars, and events help qualify leads but only a small percentage of these turn into actual deals.
What few TSP marketers do at the moment is to develop and offer the kind of content needed for the expanding needs for internal education and enablement purposes. It means keeping up with the changing and increasing demands of the business buyers now included in the process of IT purchases decisions. Sales and marketing are, in the end, the most critical functions to making sure any TSP company is meeting its growth targets.
The next level
The content strategy to fit a tech company growth in the now (and future) aims to balance content creation appropriate for the identified buyer personas and roles, that spans from demand generation, lead nurturing, opportunity management and sales enablement. It needs to take into account the external-facing content but also the internal one used for different lead gen and sales roles.
Buying cycles have become increasingly complex nowadays, including new roles and personas in the process. The diagram below shows just how long and complicated this process can be and how vital validation and consensus are within the decision-making teams. IT buyers are still key decision-makers, but procurement, finance, legal, end-users, and experts are hard influencers in the process. Each one of these will not agree and buy into the process until they have their questions answered and their needs met. It means that TSPs need to drive value and build trust with all buyers involved, throughout all interactions. To be able to do so they need both valuable, personalized content for each of the persona involved in the buying process, but also be well informed and ready to clarify all questions the buyer might have.
While much content is produced to get a buyer to become a qualified lead or sign-up to be contacted, so for the top of the funnel, a lot more still needs to be produced once this lead is handed over to a sales rep to work on the opportunity. Likewise, more content needs to be designed for internal usage, so the sales teams can drive renewals or upsell and cross-sell with clients. This content shouldn’t be just some win/loss reports, competitive analysis, or customer-facing repurposed content.
The figure below maps some examples of content pieces that should be included in a proper content strategy to respond to the need of lead gen and marketing, sales education (enablement) and in-depth external-facing sales material. Case studies, analyst report and pricing guides are the kind of content pieces that are valuable and highly trusted in all areas and can be used at any moment throughout the sales funnel, given the prospect hasn’t seen them before.
Of course, marketers and product marketers need help from the subject matter experts and consultants inside the TSPs to be able to produce the kind of content that is valuable across all the business needs. However, they are the ones that need to take the call when it comes to the strategy, prioritization, and classification. The IT marketing function should help create revenue for the whole business rather than leads. Also, the biggest win the CMO and his team can have when it comes to it is to focus on creating higher-performing content that can serve more than one purpose.
The content strategy. Account for different buyers, personas and sales roles
Business buyers think differently than IT buyers and their interests in the benefits of the purchase not just come from different business areas but need to answer different needs as well. Alongside defining the TSP’s buyer personas, the content strategy that follows each persona’s buying journey needs to account for content that hits each buyer interests (externally) and sales role’s preparation (internally).
In some cases, new content is required to fit the purpose and audience, but in most cases, content can be just added to fit new contexts or depth required.
Ideally, the external focused content should address both the functions (central IT, business unit IT, procurement, marketing, finance, or specific lines of business) and personas (related more to a level of a person, responsibility or decision-making level within an industry or organization). However, a content strategy covering either functions or personas is just as good, as it is reaching the various business and IT buyers in a target company. If this is daunting and your internal resources cannot produce such an amount of content, the best way would be to prioritize your market segments, produce personalized content for those and use a more general content for the “other” segments.
For the internal focused content aimed at educating the sales reps and more technical people on the TSPs offerings, there’s usually a big difference between the content pieces that salespeople use, less technical, and the in-depth technical pieces. Given the variety of buying personas, this approach is no longer sustainable. Sales reps should be able to have a technical conversation as well, but also to be able to bring in subject matter experts for various in-depth matters. Therefore, content should be covering a wide range of topics, from general company overview and offerings to in-depth technical descriptions of products and services, and sales reps should have a pretty good idea of everything the company offers.
One final challenge to overcome is regarding the content repository and how easy it is to keep it updated and easily accessible by the sales reps and other interested people within the business. Best practices include:
- Keeping a single content repository for both internal as well as external content, that is easy to navigate, evident as to where is what, and easy to access and use even by dedicated sales enablement systems
- Maintain version control, so people know they are using the latest version (and mark them accordingly)
- Put guidelines in place as to what should be used, and in which scenarios. Ideally, if you can have a chatbot helping out navigating through the procedures and content pieces needed
- Enable collaboration amongst different people in the business that should contribute and use the specific piece of content
Content is king, and having a sustainable, robust content strategy to serve the whole business growth not just the lead generation and nurturing part of the journey is becoming a crucial opportunity TSPs should tackle. In an ever-evolving environment with innovation and technology driving change, selling is becoming a complicated process to navigate, and content is playing a pivotal role in showcasing possibilities and demonstrating excellence. Therefore, investing resources not just in content creation for all roles, but making sure it is readily available when needed and ideally within the systems that sales people are already using.