If you’re a sales agent, a business development manager, or a business owner, I would wager (if I were a betting man) that you want to increase your sales revenue in 2014.

To increase your sales revenue, you need to maximize the number of qualified leads, and maximize your  lead-to-customer  conversion rate. So how do you do that?

  • How do you get more qualified leads?
  • How do you maximize your close rate?

First, you have to understand the buyer’s journey. Then, you have to use the buyer’s journey to anchor the content strategy of your website.

What is the buyer’s journey?

The phrase ‘buyer’s journey‘ is so new it doesn’t have a Wikipedia article — yet it’s  as old as humankind.

The buyer’s journey is “the active research process a potential buyer  goes through leading up to a purchase”.

If you’re selling something small (like avocados or dental floss) the buyer’s journey might be short. For these kinds of products, the buyer research process consists of going to the grocery store and poking and prodding the avocados to make sure they aren’t rotten. Or trying to find a dental floss container that looks like a slightly larger version of what the hygienist gave you at your last dental appointment.

If you’re selling something larger, more complex, and more expensive (such as computer software, solar panels, or trucking and logistics services), the buyer’s journey is probably longer and more complex. A 2013 survey of B2B buyers revealed the following facts:

  • 72% of B2B buyers start their research for a future business purchase on Google
  • 82% go back online at least two or three times before seeking manager approval on a business purchase
  • 89% say the cost of the item their researching affects the amount of research they do before purchase
  • 76% said that they prefer different content at each stage of their research process

This research shows that the buyer’s journey for B2B products and services consists of three distinct phases, each demanding a different kind of content:

  1. Awareness Stage – At this stage, buyer commitment is low. Content at this stage should inform and educate buyers about potential solutions to the problems they is experiencing: blog posts, e-books, and infographics are examples of appropriate content for this stage.
  2. Consideration Stage – Buyer commitment to your product/service is growing. You want to nurture their commitment by helping them establish buying criteria and providing opportunities for live interactions such as webinars.
  3. Decision Stage  – Your potential customer is ready to buy. However, you may not be the only vendor they are evaluating. Customers at this stage need case studies, vendor comparisons, product spec sheets, and (where appropriate) a live demo, free trial, or free consultation.

Your challenge is to structure your web content to demonstrate the value of your products and services at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

“When any conversation starts,” Dave Ramsey writes. “The customer sees a scale with their time and money on one side, and it is larger than the value of your good or service on the other side. Our job … is to load the ‘value’ end of the scale so heavily with education and information that the value outweighs the ‘time and money’ end of the scale for the customer and the purchase naturally occurs” (EntreLeadership,  pg. 179).

Danish Middle Ages Road

Danish so-called ‘Middle Age-roads’ are very old, and many of them were used during the Middle Ages. Wikimedia photo.

How can you demonstrate the value of your products and services at every stage of your buyer’s journey?

Start by developing or refining your buyer personas. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of the different categories of people who are interested in your products or services.

Answer questions such as the following as you create your buyer personas:

  • Who are your buyers?
  • What goals do they have?
  • What challenges do they face in reaching those goals?

You will also need to consider:

  • Why are they buying from you?
  • What value do you bring?

Once you’ve created realistic buyer personas, you can begin to anchor your website content strategy in the research process of those buyers. Your content strategy will need to include:

  • Free educational and informational content which attracts likely buyers to your website
  • Valuable content offers such as e-books or whitepapers which buyers can only get in exchange for filling out a form on a landing page
  • Lead nurturing content designed to pull your buyers toward the decision to buy what you’re selling

This is called inbound marketing.  Yes, generating all this content is a lot of work, but it is a methodology which is proven to produce long-term, sustainable business growth.