I was in St. Louis the other day, talking Youtility at an event put together by my friends at Standing Partnership, a killer reputation management firm. It was on the official book launch day, so that was a milestone to remember.
Also memorable was a great question from the audience.
One of the three ways to create Youtility - marketing so useful, people would pay for it - is to answer every customer question. Your prospective customers have TONS of questions they need to have answered before making a purchase. This is true for all businesses, but perhaps most so for B2B, where the stakes are higher and the consideration cycle is longer. In the book, I have lots of case studies about answering customer questions, highlighted (of course) by Marcus Sheridanfrom River Pools and Spas, who revolutionized his business and the swimming pool industry by focusing on teaching, not selling.
So I was going through this principle, and talking about Marcus and other examples when a gentlemen in the St. Louis audience asked this very good question:
How many questions do I need to answer?
The real answer is that you need to answer every question your customers have about you and your category, and that list will continue to grow over time. But telling someone "infinity" is a pretty unsatisfactory (and scary) response, so here's what I said, and what I think you should do in your business.
The Formula For Content Marketing Success
The very best way to get started with content marketing and Youtility is to build the ultimate FAQ, using customer questions. But which questions, and how many? Use this three-component formula:
1. What are your personas?
How many distinct buyers do you have for your products and services? Remember, to be a persona, they need to be distinctly different from one another, with unique needs and use cases. (for more on persona development, see this good post and ebookfrom Adele Revella, writing on Content Marketing Institute).
For sake of argument, let's assume you have five distinct personas, okay?
2. What are your buying stages?
How many stages of the awareness, consideration, interest, nurturing, sales funnel/buyers' journey do you have in your company? Again, this is often more complex in B2B than in B2C, as demonstrated by my very favorite buyers' journey map, from B2B content marketing agency Babcock & Jenkins, in Portland. Their baseline map contains eight stages, so we'll use that in this exercise. Your results may vary.
3. What questions need to be answered to move to the next stage?
To progress along the buyers' journey, prospective customers must have distinct questions answered, either overtly or tangentially. The number and type of questions that need to be answered will vary at each step of the journey, but as a general rule the questions are much more broad at the beginning, and much more specific near the end, when customers are making sure you are the right choice for their insurance, software, or licorice needs.
Let's say that, on average, customers need three questions answered, per stage.
So How Much Content Do I Need?
Essentially, your initial list of questions can be generated using this formula:
Number of Personas X Number of Buying Stages X Number of Questions in Each Stage = Number of Questions You Need to Answer
In our hypothetical example, we'd need 5 X 8 X 3 = 120 questions answered. Even if you have a FAQ today, I can almost guarantee it covers far less than 120 questions.
Where and how you answer those questions can and should vary. It's not always sufficient just to create a detailed blog and be done with it. I'll talk more about content atomization and distribution in another post. And, if you want to get even more detailed in your approach to answering customer questions, my friends at Babcock & Jenkins have this useful post, complete with Excel excerpt.