How to Market Complex Products to B2B Audiences: Break it Down
Marketing complex products to a B2B audience requires a meaty content promotion strategy. The stakes are high for these purchasers, because complex products and services tend to be more expensive, usually are technical in nature, and are often deployed at an enterprise level so they have a significant impact on the organization. The good news is that your audience is likely to pay close attention to what you say. The challenge is to find the best way to communicate with your target audience.
While many promotion strategies will tell you to keep your content bite-sized, when it comes to complex products and services you can expand your word count. People buying a complex product are willing to do the research to make sure that the solution is a right fit for their organization, so the buyer journey must be highly educational.
Business consulting firm Bain has written an interesting piece on how to best develop and align your complex products and services for sale; the tactics they outline demonstrate the value of an educational sale, versus the traditional features-and-functionality pitch of the past. The bottom line: Educational content is an excellent marketing tool for complex products and services sold to a B2B market.
That said, a 10,000-word document might be too daunting for even the most conscientious of buyers. If you have reams of material to help your buyers make their decisions (or, enough ideas and background information to fuel said reams of material), then you will best serve your potential customer by breaking your content down. Here are some content promotion strategies for complex products:
Break it Down by Topic
You want to educate your prospect, but part of that is making it easy to learn. Create a list of every topic you can think of that could help your customer make his or her decision. Now organize those topics in outline form, with main bullets and sub-bullets. Each of those main bullets has the potential to be its own piece of content. Support each main story with sidebars, graphics, and callouts, and you have a very engaging piece of content that can help guide your prospect through the sales funnel.
The good news about this strategy is that many B2B publications are eager for multi-part contributed bylines. If you can tell your story in a series rather than as a single piece byline, you have an excellent opportunity to snag some high-value real estate in an influential B2B publication. This works online as well as in print, and this type of earned media serves a dual purpose: you are offering an educational resource to your target market, and you have instant credibility because an industry editor has chosen you as a thought leader.
Break it Down by Market
Do you offer your product or service to specific markets, such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, or energy? If so, create multiple versions of your piece, with each one tailored to focus on issues and challenges of the individual market. When you break your piece down by market, you create highly focused content that will resonate with your prospects.
Hint: include customer success stories for each target market to make your piece even more relevant.
Break it Down by Channel
The next strategy is to break down each piece of content for specific channels. Carve out certain pieces for your blog — today’s protocol is supportive of blog posts with 1,500+ words, and Google even rewards in-depth content by ranking it higher in search engines.
Do you have facts and figures? Create a version of the piece as an infographic — make sure to embed a link to one of the longer-form pieces so that readers can get more information if they are captivated by the short stat-heavy version, and can keep progressing through the sales funnel.
If you have an influential conference in your market, consider submitting a proposal to be a speaker. Or develop a webinar and market it to your target audience. It’s especially important to focus your topic in this channel, since most sessions follow the format of 45-minutes to speak/15-minutes for Q&A.
Break your pieces down even further for your LinkedIn company page or profile — embed links to the full-length piece on your blog or website to help customers get more info. Don’t forget to post on Google+ and Facebook, too.
If there’s a newsworthy angle, consider issuing a press release. Even if the press doesn’t pick it up, it can generate its own momentum — for example, LinkedIn is starting to pull headlines from wire-services into the news feeds it promotes to members. That’s a strong reminder of your brand, delivered to your target audience via a third-party resource. That’s valuable.
Tease each of these entries via your email marketing to your list, and don’t forget to promote often on your Twitter feed. Issue multiple tweets about each piece of content over multiple days, using a variety of headlines and at different times of day. Buffer finds that reposted content engages each time it’s promoted — even months after the fact.
Build it Up
Once you’ve broken your content down, you’re not done. (Spoiler: you’re never done. Just accept it now.) You still have more opportunities to market your content by building it back up. Combine two or more bylines on related subjects to create an e-book, repackage text with infographics for a white paper … you get the gist.
Of course, once you have this content, you need to market it to your email list, via LinkedIn, and Twitter. Assembling pieces together to create a comprehensive whole provides a valuable resource for prospects who are truly engaged in the research process. It also enables you to capture email addresses and other contact information — people are much more likely to provide their contact information when they perceive that the product they will receive is meaty. Experiment to find the right mix of free-for-the-taking content, and pieces where a prospective customer must trade contact details before download.