What if I told you that personalization isn’t what you think it is, at least when it comes to the buyer’s journey? Sure, you keep your personas in mind when you create topics and go wild with merge text fields. And that’s a good start.
But what I’m emphasizing today is the importance of personalization throughout the entire buyer’s journey. That’s because one of the most crucial underpinnings of personalization is true sales and marketing alignment.
You can’t truly personalize content to your buyer without strong interdepartmental alignment. Recent research reported that the average B2B buyer consumes about 13 pieces of content before deciding on a purchase—70% of which was directly through the vendor. Companies can’t risk providing the wrong content experience to a prospect simply because their sales and marketing departments aren’t on the same page. How can you make sure this doesn’t happen?
First step: Prioritize sales-marketing alignment
When it comes to B2B, the content experience you provide starts with your marketing activities (e.g., ads, emails, events, etc.) and extends to sales outreach. It’s critical that all of your marketing and sales content is not just personalized but also aligned.
Let’s say you put out a digital ad that focuses on how cost-effective your solution is and directs the viewer to a landing page where they can download a full-cost analysis. Then, after the download, your sales rep reaches out. But instead of following up on the cost-effectiveness message (which was the hook for your buyer), the sales rep shares a video that explains your product features.
Could you see how that disconnect might feel jarring to the buyer? There they are, going along with a seamless experience that’s answering their questions and appears to offer a solution to their problems, just to be sent a disparate piece of content that doesn’t tie in at all.
When you think about the experience you’re creating, you must prioritize content cohesion between sales and marketing. Both teams need to agree on what is relevant to the buyer at the right time—and this goes beyond just top-of-funnel content.
Second step: Understand the buyer’s journey
Today’s B2B buying journey isn’t linear and involves large buying committees. This is why a buyer’s path won’t neatly go from reading one of your marketing materials to talking with a salesperson to a purchase. The research report referenced above proves that it’s much more likely they’ll:
If sales and marketing are both attuned to the buyer journey, they’ll understand their needs at every stage of the process in order to make their content relevant.
So, what does relevant content look like in such a context? Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re planning to send a message to target accounts who are just becoming familiar with your brand and need more information about what you offer. You could start with “Bonjour, Samantha,” but, as mentioned above, that’s not personalization. Instead, follow your greeting with something completely tailored to that person, such as several content recommendations.
Think of it like this –– we’ve all binge-watched our favorite show on a streaming network just to finish the last episode and feel lost and confused. What on Earth are we supposed to watch now? Has the world just ended?
But then, along comes a content recommendation to save the day. Our provider suggests two shows that are similar to the one we just finished. And just like that, we’re hooked on our next favorite show, happily bingeing the night away.
The same has to happen in the world of nurturing. Marketers can now use intent data and content platforms to deliver content suggestions that show customers you really know them and offer solutions they haven’t even asked for yet.
Maybe the content you suggest for Samantha includes a blog post that recaps your top-selling products, a video tutorial of the one you think she’s most likely to use, and an infographic that shows a high-level overview of your products’ benefits. When sales is also given access to these assets and knows how to use them at the right stage of the buyer journey, the entire revenue engine becomes even more effective.
As your teams align and plan out their content strategy, remember to synchronize it with where your recipient is in the buyer journey. If a target account is early in the journey, their content topics and formats will look different than someone who is getting close to making a purchase.
The same person who just discovered your company might even have a different problem at the start of their journey than they do as they become more educated and move down the funnel. Make it a priority to craft a strategy alongside sales that tailors content based on a buyer’s unique needs at every stage of their journey.
Final step: Make it happen
The final step is often the hardest to take: Sales and marketing commit to staying in constant communication. Marketers should meet regularly with their sales team—and vice versa! Both groups should strive to continually share what they’re doing to ensure the right next steps in the content experience they deliver. And trust me, it’ll make all the difference to your customers.
For more information on B2B marketing and content, please check out: