The curiosity gap – the distance between what your buyers and customers know and want to know – is a moving target. It’s not a static place in time. With every interaction, people learn something that shifts their context and comprehension, whether forward or backward, positively, or negatively.
Your B2B nurturing programs must account for the dynamism of the customer lifecycle to be effective.
Unfortunately, many marketing campaigns provide the same content to both buyers and customers. I’ve worked on several projects lately where clients provided me with buyer personas to create customer retention programs. For – what should be—obvious reasons, there are problems with this approach.
- In B2B complex purchases, the end users are often not the buyers you sold to, so your audience has shifted
- Customers’ challenges and objectives are different than those they had as buyers
- Buyers take on buying in addition to their day jobs
- Customers use your solution as part of their day jobs to achieve outcomes they’re responsible for producing
The biggest difference between buyers and customers:
- Buyers still struggle with the original problem they’re looking to solve.
- Customers have solved that problem with your (your solutions) help.
Therefore, the same content isn’t useful for both contexts.
The Focus on B2B Nurturing for Retention and Upsell
As the uncertainty of the last two years has pointed marketers to focus more on customer retention and upsell, you may be thinking, yes, but…
- What if we’re selling them a module/solution they don’t yet use? That’s new…
- What if they’re not using some of the features and functions – then educational content would apply, right?
- It’s a new division of the company, they don’t know us yet, so they’re new buyers…
The point is > a net new buyer is different than a customer or a buyer whose company is already a customer.
Answering those three points above:
Even if you’re selling an existing customer a new module, their context is different from that of a net-new buyer. They’re not looking at the new module as a standalone scenario. They’re assessing how it will amplify the value they’re already getting from the other modules or solution you’re already providing. In contrast, a new buyer may be looking to solve the problem or gain the capability that one module gives them. How is it different if used as a standalone? Can it be? What considerations should they have about the related modules or capabilities?
I propose that the way you’d premise and focus the content is different and should be to increase relevance and answer the different questions that each scenario raises.
In the case where your buyers aren’t using the full capabilities of the solution you’re providing, why aren’t they? Do they understand why they should? How do they relate to or enhance the other capabilities in the solution? What added value will they gain?
Effective content in this scenario for an existing customer must motivate them to adopt something new in addition to what they’re already doing. For a net-new buyer, it’s more about either differentiating the value you provide or showing them the breadth of your solution in solving their problem. For the existing customer, it’s more about advancing the value they’ve already gotten from solving their original problem. It’s subtle, but it’s a difference that your buyers and customers will notice based on context and their familiarity with your product.
Don’t forget that customers adopt the “lingo” that goes with your products. Something that will just confuse buyers who aren’t familiar. As well as show them that the content really isn’t for them.
For a new division of the company, it’s likely that you’ll gain entry from a stakeholder in the division you already serve. They’ll review your solution, recommend it to their colleague(s) and give their reasons why to consider it. And they’ll do this in the context with which they use it. Your content will need to connect those dots for the new division, not present off-the-shelf rationale that may not match up with the experiences or use cases of the company they work for.
Many of these shifts are subtle, but what you’ll notice is the importance of context. This also means that the questions your content answers will be different.
The Nature of B2B Nurturing Calls for Consistency and Progress
Let’s be clear about one thing: B2B nurturing is not a campaign. It’s continuous. It’s not just a quarterly program based on a theme that changes next quarter. Nurturing is the story that supports the journey of buying across the entirety of the change process. And for existing customers, nurturing supports the ongoing adoption, usage, and repeatable and expanding value realization expected from promises made.
At the beginning of this article, I talked about the need to embrace the dynamism of the customer journey. This is why it’s so important to create your nurturing programs around a strategy that identifies context shifts across the entirety of the lifecycle.
Regardless of net new or existing customer, their interactions with you will shift context in some way. You are responsible for helping them connect the dots and make the transitions. If they engage with X, what should Y be to address whatever X shifted? In other words, based on the takeaway from your content, what comes next?
B2B marketers have often painted our audiences into a corner. It’s those doggone dead ends. The ones that leave people hanging because we’ve failed to show them what’s next. It’s the curse of campaigns that stop, of posting content in a hurry to get it out the door without thinking about continuation, as well as the mistake of thinking our responsibility has ended because we’ve handed the buyer off to sales or the customer off to the success team.
Because of the shifts in buyer and customer mindsets and expectations, marketers have a meaningful opportunity to impact the entirety of the customer journey by supporting revenue teams. And by doing so, ensure that the stories told are consistent, progressive, and on brand.
B2B Nurturing Programs Let Your Audience Drive
The other reason for the need to connect the story is the shift in who’s in control. Buyers and customers no longer are reliant on you for information. Google is only a browser tab away. The fallacy of nurturing is that we’ll create a program from step 1 to step n and our buyers will follow along on our schedule.
This fallacy is one of the reasons buyers and customers have made the shift to self-service. They want what they want when they want it. Without regard that it doesn’t follow the storyline you’ve carefully mapped out.
We need to give them what they want, BUT we also need to help them help themselves. By taking a “choose your own adventure” approach to your nurturing programs and content delivery and distribution methods, you can more easily enable your audience to drive based on what’s relevant to them. Doing this well means you’re also subtly guiding them to figure out what they need to so they can move forward.
Forrester’s recent Content Experience Report found that only 14% of respondents ranked giving buyers the ability to choose content based on interest or need as a top priority. Just one in 10 said an intuitive user experience that encourages content interactions is most effective.
This could also feed into the response that only 11% of respondents feel confident they can engage their buyers.
Using trigger programs based on content engagement, you can begin to learn more about their context and place in the journey. By including “what’s next” or “what you may have missed” or “don’t forget about…” CTAs in your nurturing content and emails, you can let your audience drive…with subtle guidance.
Grouping problem-to-solution content in a hub or by using a solution like Path Factory or Uberflip to do so allows for the self-service that audiences demand. However, what this means is that you need to understand all the questions that need answers—and who’s asking—so that the information they want, and need is available when they want it.
Never forget you are the mentor in the buyers’ quest to solve their problems and your customers’ objective to gain even more value from your solution than originally promised.