Long complex sales cycles often confuse marketing people. Marketers at companies with long sales processes, such as software and technology companies, usually just focus on the top part of the sales funnel, mistakenly believing that their only job is to “generate leads.” These misguided marketers then toss the leads over the cubicle wall to the sales department and move on.
This strategy is ineffective.
Savvy marketing professionals understand that sales and marketing must work together to move prospects through the sales pipeline. This is especially important in the complex sale with long decision making cycles and multiple buyers that must be influenced. The good news is that Web content can drive people through and even shorten the complex sales cycle.
To cash in with Web content, marketers at many sites specifically design content to support the sales consideration process or draw a potential buyer into the sales cycle. People considering a purchase always go through a thought process prior to making a decision. In the case of something simple and low cost, say buying a new umbrella, the process may be very straightforward and only take seconds. But for a major item such as complex business-to-business sales, the sales cycle may have many steps, involve many people, and take months or even years to complete.
Effective Web marketers take Web site visitors’ sales consideration cycle into account when writing content and organizing it on the site. People in the early stages of the sales cycle need basic information on the product category. Those further along in the process want to compare offerings and need detailed specifications and lists of features and benefits.
To supply content to those in the early stages of the buying process, it is often best to supply “thought leadership” pieces. Don’t just talk about your company and your products at the early stages. Provide information about the problems that your buyers face. The job of Web content in the early stages of the sales consideration process is just to get a prospect to “raise their hand” to express interest. Later in the sales cycle, specific Web content that helps people to make the decision to more forward is appropriate. Consider Webinars, blogs, ROI calculators, feature comparison charts and other tools for the middle portions of the sales cycle. And make certain that your salespeople know about the content so they can point prospects there.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace with a complex sales process, Web content will unlock success, even in highly competitive industries where smaller players are beset upon by larger, better-funded competitors.