This is turning out to be storytelling month at the Marketing Maven. In a recent article we wrote about treating your prospects like heroes of their own stories in a lead nurturing campaign. Now we’re delving deeper into the script to talk about how you can use specific pieces of content to tell a richer, more compelling story. Like any good story, this one has a twist: it’s not your company’s story you’re telling — it’s your prospect’s story. Here’s why.

Your prospect’s story is their buying cycle. The industrial buying cycle typically involves these stages: needs awareness, followed by research, comparison and consideration, and procurement. During each of these stages, your customer has information needs that must be met for them to move on to the next stage; or in other words, to progress in their story. Your job is to understand your prospect’s needs at each stage and to use marketing content to successfully satisfy them.

The needs awareness stage is when a technical professional identifies their need for a part, component, product or service that will meet a project or design requirement. Think of it as the title and opening credits of their story: “Quest for Product X.” Then they begin their research phase, most likely using online resources, and here’s where the real story begins.

Act 1
The only way you can start telling the story is to be found by your prospect when they begin to search for the products and services that will meet their needs. That means you need a broad and pervasive presence in the online resources industrial professionals use: your company Web site, online directories, banner ads on industrial sites, showing up on general and specific search engines, advertisements in industrial e-newsletters, posts on social media channels, and more. Use these resources to make your company broadly visible in the market and to showcase the breadth and depth of your product and services line.

Act 2
During the second and longest act of the story, the buyer compares different manufacturers and products to determine which ones are a good fit. This is your chance to rise above the competition and demonstrate to buyers that you understand their needs and can meet them.

What type of content will keep your buyer’s story moving forward — and your company near the top of the consideration list? Data sheets, white papers, technical drawings, and searchable online catalogs that have clear, comprehensive specifications all help on the tactical side. Make this content linkable, downloadable, and printable so that your prospect can share your content with other members of the decision-making team.

On a higher and more strategic level, take advantage of Webinars, videos, online events, and analyst reports to help educate buyers on the stability and strength of your company, your approach to solving specific customer challenges, and your standing in a competitive market. Additionally, customer case studies and testimonials are useful for showing buyers how other customers have achieved success using your products and working with your company.

Act 3
The third and climactic act is the prospect’s buying decision. How can you use content to tip the story in your favor? For complex and large capital purchases, offer an interactive ROI calculator that gives your prospect confidence that they will receive value and achieve positive return if they buy from you. Another factor that can help: clear and favorable customer support policies. Also: special offers such as discounts or extended warranties. These so-called extras can make the difference between winning and losing the business when you’re up against competitors.

Put all three acts together and you’ve delivered a significant amount of relevant marketing content at each stage of the buying process. If you’ve told a compelling story, there’s a good chance you’ll have a new customer.

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