Content Marketing Minds: Could Content Marketing Replace the Human Sales Team?

JeanSpencer
Jean Spencer Content Marketing Manager, Kapost

Posted on September 4th 2014

Content Marketing Minds: Could Content Marketing Replace the Human Sales Team?

Last week at the grocery store, I waited in line for an open self-checkout lane. A small basket of items balanced on my forearm while I clutched a box of donuts and my wallet in one hand, and texted on my iPhone with the other. I felt like a cartoon character with a bunch of arms illustrating the challenges of multitasking.

A manager saw my predicament, came up to me with a nice smile, and said, “Miss, we can help you over here,” pointing to an open lane where grocers still scan and bag food items for you.

No thanks,” I said, readjusting my donuts before they slipped. “I’ll just check out here.” I still wanted to do the self-checkout despite my obvious struggle balancing my items and the line in front of me.

grocery-store-checkout.jpgFor some reason, I wanted to do it by myself.

Eventually, a machine opened up. As I stood there manually swiping UPC codes over the scanner, a content marketing thought popped into my head: Right now—in this very moment—I am modeling the modern buyer.

Modern buyers are stubbornly independent, going into the purchasing process armed with the notion that they’ll be the ones to lead the charge.

B2B buyers don’t want your brand’s help making their decisions.

  • 57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before speaking with sales. (source)

  • 67% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally. (source)

  • And, by 2020, analysts predict 85% of the customer experience won’t include human interaction. (source)

B2B buyers want to research a product, come to a conclusion, and throw down money with full anonymity from a sales representative.

There are many reasons this is the case.

1. There’s a stigma surrounding modern salespeople.

There’s no doubt people have learned to hate marketing-like gimmicks that sign individuals up for products or services that they don’t want or need. Putting the purchasing power into their own hands empowers the individual to avoid unsavory sales tactics.

2. The buyer doesn’t want other people to know what they’re shopping for.

I certainly didn’t want to flaunt my box of donuts to the grocery manager. Buying things like sugary snacks is definitely frowned upon where I live in health-capital Boulder, Colorado.

Modern B2B buyers want the same anonymity.

With at least 947 marketing technologies, tools, platforms, and apps in existence, sometimes people don’t want to show which technologies they’re researching to help them do their jobs. It’s kind of like claiming you’re a web developer when really you’re just using WordPress templates without any coding knowledge.

You’re doing your job (but, shhh, with a bit of help from technology) and maybe you want to hide that like a bad habit.

3. Buyers have more confidence in their ability to make decisions, rather than relying on someone else.

navigate-myself.jpg

A well-written whitepaper, case study, or website can accurately convey all the information a buyer might need to make his or her decision. Does it replace a human? Of course not. Neither does the self-checkout lane at the grocery store—that’s why there is still a person helping customers checkout and fielding problems. But it allows those people who want to make the purchase on their own, to do just that.

This is why content continues to be the major force behind all marketing and business efforts. For business transactions to happen, whether on a B2C or B2B level, you have to give the modern buyer the option to make his or her decision independently.

If buyers falter, or there isn’t content that answers their questions, businesses still need to be ready to hand-hold them through the process. That is where a human can step back in (even if it’s digitally) in the form of customer support.

Despite the means, the end result is the same. There is a growing demand from buyers to have the resources to make purchasing decisions on their own. The new, independent buyer is more likely to do business with your company if they can “get to know” your company online and at their leisure before meeting you face to face. Building that foundation of content now means you’ll be ready for those buyers who never want to interact with a salesperson.

The takeaway? Focus on content production.

The creation of well-crafted infographics, whitepapers, and case studies provides your buyer with the resources to engage with your company and answer their questions. Do a brief analysis like the one below.

Pain Point                                               Content Idea

Buyer needs to know the competitors in your industry and how they compare to your solution.

Put together a competitive analysis of competitors, like a checklist.

Buyer wants a simpler solution to X problem.

Write a blog post with how to simplify X problem.

Buyer doesn’t know how cloud-based solutions can help them.

Create an infographic about the various industries moving to the cloud. Add data showing how it’s helping them.

Buyer doesn’t feel qualified to make the purchase decision.

Do market research into the types of people making purchasing decisions. Your results will empower those at the decision-making level to pull the trigger, or help those who aren’t find and pitch the right person to make it happen.

Develop your content marketing strategy around buyer persona pain points, which address intimate concerns your buyers have, to make sure your content will actually help them in their process. Create content that solves those concerns, and nurtures the buyer back to your product or service when it’s the honest and correct answer.

And when you’re done, your buyer can happily arrive, shop, and purchase by themselves.

Just like me and my donuts.

JeanSpencer

Jean Spencer

Content Marketing Manager, Kapost

Jean Spencer is a content marketing manager at Kapost, a former journalist and entrepreneur, and a believer in the oxford comma. She recently joined Social Media Today as a columnist for Content Marketing Minds, after being a content strategist and creator for the past five years.


Chat with her @JeanWrites, or stalk all her content writing on the Kapost blog, The Content Marketeer.

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Comments

fourerr
Posted on September 4th 2014 at 7:27PM

You've got a point, Jean.  Customers are smarter these days and you have to respect that, give them some 'space' to mull things over.  Content can help close in on that trust fator, so long as it has the right context to start with.  I think many are missing the point with their content simply because they are simply blogging for the sake of doing so and their call to actions are all over the place.  Cheers!   -Thomas

feedyourbeast
Posted on September 5th 2014 at 5:41PM

Ouch. In my view you're missing some important points. Yes, B2B buyers will do more of their own research before they want to speak to a rep (because they can), but before handing over $10k or more (not an unusual B2B transaction value), you'd better believe that the vast majority of buyers want to see a rep.

People will buy books and even high-end stereo systems sight unseen, but with complex sales it's rare that you buy a product or service "off the shelf". There's a world of "make it make sense for my business" that requires engaging a real person with deep expertise to help you: 1) complete the business case; 2) help sell it internally; 3) customize and deploy the solution once purchased.

Content is crucial, you're right. If you're the one helping the buyer make a more informed decisions on their buying journey, you stand to benefit (as in, be on the short-list when they do buy). But, when the stakes are high (e.g. high value, mission-critical purchases), people will always want to/need to see the whites of someone's eyes.

JeanSpencer
Posted on September 5th 2014 at 10:27PM

Valid remarks here. And realistically I think that you are right in today's playing field. But it's interesting to think about the possibility of a mobile app being as friendly, responsive and agile that a human sales figure could actually be a content marketing robot.  I don't disagree that for high-value mission-critical purchases that people like a little human interaction — but what's the landscape really going to look like in 5-7-10 years?

Thoughts?

JeanSpencer
Posted on September 5th 2014 at 10:27PM

Valid remarks here. And realistically I think that you are right in today's playing field. But it's interesting to think about the possibility of a mobile app being as friendly, responsive and agile that a human sales figure could actually be a content marketing robot.  I don't disagree that for high-value mission-critical purchases that people like a little human interaction — but what's the landscape really going to look like in 5-7-10 years?

Thoughts?