Selling complex B2B financial products is hard enough in the best of times. The Covid-19 pandemic has made the usual challenges faced by vendors — getting prospects’ attention, qualifying them, moving them through the sales pipeline, and closing contracts — seem almost insurmountable.
Since the pandemic has come to dominate our lives I’ve seen a surge of interest from vendors of B2B financial products looking for ways to help existing clients and to keep sales prospects alive. Reaching out to both groups with marketing content provides a low cost, effective method to achieve these goals, and in a manner that adds real value to users of a vendor’s products. But as I discuss in the next section, for content to be effective, vendors need to find the formats, subjects, and approaches suited for today’s environment.
Key guidelines for content today: write to the headlines, offer solutions, and keep it short
With the pandemic top of mind for everyone, it’s more important than ever to “write to the headlines” which nowadays means showcasing how products can relieve client pain points arising from the crisis. Focusing on solving client problems (rather than on pushing a product’s features) is a standard marketing best practice in any situation, but with the shutdown creating an existential challenge for many businesses, it’s now more important than ever.
A second principle is to offer value-added solutions for clients (involving the vendor’s products, of course). These are unprecedented times, but this creates unprecedented opportunities to provide insights and answers. The pandemic, terrible as it is, will end at some point. Vendors who are there for their clients and prospects during the tough times will be well positioned to benefit when conditions improve.
The final point is that most professionals today don’t have time to read longer pieces such as white papers or industry overviews. So when it comes to format, blog posts and case studies are the ways to go.
Content in the form of periodic updates
Periodic updates are another type of content that works well in the current environment, provided that a vendor’s product supports it. “Supports” means that the product includes a database of proprietary metrics at the entity or security levels, and that the metrics are updated frequently. If this is the case, then the product will lend itself to reports based on “what our metrics are saying” about risks and opportunities arising from the current crisis. This approach delivers a lot of value to clients, since it provides timely information on challenges facing a vendor’s target market, as identified by the vendor’s product. Such reports typically consist of a list of prominent names as flagged by the metric; a brief commentary; perhaps a drill-down into an especially relevant situation; and a brief description of the product. The reports can also include links to a longer list or searchable database. Since they follow a template and utilize a fixed data extraction routine, they’re typically cheap and quick to produce.
The update frequency depends on the volatility of the metrics. This reflects the need for each report to contain names and situations of interest – and the more volatile the metric, the shorter the time required to generate useful results. Some basic research on historical data will provide the answer. Options include weekly, every two weeks, or monthly.
Helping at different pipeline stages
Normally I would recommend that different types of content to be used in different stages of the sales pipeline, to take account of the varying levels of client/prospect engagement with the vendor’s products and other factors. Moreover, the mix of content would reflect the vendor’s sales priorities – for example, qualifying prospects vs. increasing contract closure or contract renewal rates. However, these are far from normal times. Everyone is very much in “scramble mode”. Impactful content during the age of the pandemic will add value at most stages of a vendor’s pipeline and meet the overarching goals of maintaining a dialog with clients and prospects, closing sales where possible, and keeping the contract renewal rate up.
Practitioners will note that my version of the pipeline has more emphasis on client follow-up steps. This reflects my experience that to be successful, vendors of complex B2B products need to take a high touch approach that keeps prospects engaged by frequent demonstrations of product value. In an upcoming series of posts I will delve into such issues, as well as what sorts of content work best for different pipeline stages, and why.