How do you reach out and grab your prospects’ attention? And how do you hold their attention from their first tentative inquiries all the way through their ultimate buying decision? Follow these guidelines to develop content that resonates with prospects whether they’re just researching, narrowing down their options, or justifying a purchase decision.
1. Before you begin, define the reader you want to engage. No matter what content type you’re working on, keeping your customers’ or prospects’ needs top-of-mind is key. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are we trying to reach? Are you targeting CIOs, IT managers, CMOs or other line-of-business managers, in-the-trenches IT staff? Are you targeting a particular vertical or a broader audience?
- What do they need? The pain points and informational needs for each group differ; make sure you know what issues are top of mind for your audience.
- How can you help? Remember, help doesn’t mean offering them a product; most prospects are looking for information first. Depending on where prospects are in the buying cycle, they may not be ready for product information. Lead with what you know, rather than what you sell. Your content goal should be to establish your company as a trusted partner on the buyer’s journey.
2. Determine the purpose of your content. Is it to provide awareness and thought leadership? Are you trying to help prospective buyers justify investments? Mapping your content to a specific stage of the buying cycle will help you determine what style and format to use.
- Early Stage: Content for this stage should focus on awareness and thought leadership. It is used to help identify a pain point or important industry trend that could impact business decisions. Such content might highlight the risk of maintaining status quo or discuss the importance of business agility and growth. Executive buyers are the primary stakeholders at this stage.
- Mid Stage: At this stage of the buying cycle, the reader is considering various solutions to solve a business problem or to take on an innovative business opportunity. Content should focus on helping readers understand what types of industry solutions can help them best meet their goals. Economic and technical buyers are the primary stakeholders at this stage.
- Late Stage: Content at this stage should focus on ways to help prospects justify and select technology solutions. It should include investment validation and information that substantiates the financial benefits. ROI and TCO data as well as customer success stories are important for this stage. Economic and executive buyers are the primary stakeholders at this stage.
3. Keep it relevant and authentic. Many tech buyers feel that vendor content is filled with “too much fluff,” according to UBM research. How can you make it more meaningful and useable?
- Facts and figures to support claims. Use research, tests, and other quantified results to give content credibility. Providing specific examples boosts trust in the material.
- Don’t forget the business value. Whether your content is giving advice or helping buyers narrow down a solution choice, always explain how the technique, service, product, solution, etc., can provide real benefits (growth opportunities, higher productivity, efficiencies) to their businesses.
- Keep it timely. Include of-the-moment incidents, examples, and trends wherever possible. Don’t refer to a customer case study written three years ago. Use current examples, anecdotes, and data.
4. Get the headline right. UBM’s audience research shows that online readers only register the first three words of headlines and subject lines. Here’s how to make those words count.
- Start with what’s most important. Get the keywords the audience cares about in at the beginning.
- Numbered lists grab attention. A headline like “5 VDI Myths Busted” tells people exactly what they’ll learn about VDI from your content. So it’s no surprise that numbered lists are among the best performing headline types.
- Speak directly to your audience. If you’re speaking to a particular group or vertical, put that in the headline. Audiences respond best when you speak to their specific needs. “4 Network Security Tips for Financial Services Companies” tells prospects that you’re speaking directly to their particular information needs.
- Optimize for search. Google recently changed its search engine results pages in an attempt to further optimize for mobile devices. Headlines are larger and wider, which means fewer words will be displayed (approximately 10 fewer characters). That means you need to think carefully about your headlines so that you can get the attention of mobile readers.
5. Offer readers a variety of content. Our research reveals that respondents use an average of eight types of information formats or sources to get information for their jobs. Whitepapers are a great source of education and awareness building, but also consider infographics, videos, slideshows, e-books, webinars, blogs, research reports, etc. And make sure all of it is easily sharable on social media sites.