Salespeople use many different content formats during a sales engagement to educate and move the buyer forward. These formats can include everything from whitepapers, to ebooks, and more. Think of these formats as vehicles for delivering info at a specific stage of an engagement.
Let's take a look six of these content vehicles, their pros and cons, and when it's best to use them. They may help you begin to align your content with the various stages of the sales cycle.
A whitepaper is typically a two-to-10-page report that provides detailed information on a specific topic.
Pro: It can be a short format and specific to a topic, making it easy for prospects to digest. It's also easy for prospects to socialize internally.
Con: A whitepaper may not be effective enough to compel the lead to move forward.
When to use: At the top of the funnel.
In the business sense, an ebook is a long-format content vehicle used to educate the reader about a thought leadership position.
Pro: Ebooks provide tremendous value to the reader.
Con: Its long format can sometimes be overwhelming to the reader, meaning important points can be missed.
When to use: Before or at the top of the funnel and before the lead has been sales-qualified.
A webinar is a seminar or presentation conducted online. Webinars are typically conducted live and can be recorded for consumption later.
Pro: It's the next best thing to attending a conference and allows for a live Q&A.
Con: People can be engaged during a webinar, but possibly not as engaged as they would be at an in-person event.
When to use: Throughout the sales engagement as the topic related to their sales stage.
4) Blog Post
You're reading one. It's a short entry in a blog for sharing thoughts, generating discussions, or educating the reader on certain topics.
Pro: These posts are easy for readers to digest and engage with. You can include other rich media, such as video and infographics, to further engage the reader.
Con: Blog posts are subject to the technical limitations of the device and browser they are viewed on. Also, what the reader experienced with reading your post is out of your hands.
When to use: Share blog posts following a one-to-one engagement. Think of it as sending a friend a newspaper clipping in the mail.
5) Case Study
Case studies are research papers written to illustrate a how a product helped a customer.
Pro: This can be very useful when your prospect has a similar problem. It's also easy to for the prospect to socialize internally.
Con: If you don't have a case study that matches your prospect's needs, it can be less effective.
When to use: These can be very effective for moving someone into the middle of the funnel.
6) Data Sheet
A data sheet, or a spec sheet, is a document that summarizes the characteristics of a product or service.
Pro: These one-to-two page documents are technical and allow for the reader to become more aware of your product.
Con: Used too early, it can overwhelm the prospect. This is meant for a specific person that may be a stakeholder.
When to use: Middle or bottom of the funnel or after the relationship has been established.
It’s important to understand how and when to use each of these content formats. At a recent conference organized by research firm SiriusDecisions, the company revealed that as much as 70 percent of content created by B2B marketing teams is never utilized by sales.
This number is shocking because buyers that are calling you have probably spent a lot of time educating themselves. Their journey is nearly complete, which is why it’s critically important to understand that journey, align your content to it, and close the deal.
Greg Hyer is Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree, a venture-backed software company that helps sales teams utilize content and track engagement right in Salesforce.com. You can follow him at @GregHyer.
What types of content do you utilize during the sales engagement period? Tell us in the comments!
Originally published Oct 16, 2013 10:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017