Are You Giving Your B2B Prospects Too Much Information?

Are You Giving Your B2B Prospects Too Much Information?
Michele Linn - Sun Aug 16, 2009 @ 03:23PM
Comments: 13

Stop Look ListenThe other week I was listening to the NPR show, Car Talk, and one of the callers explained that he often stops to ask for directions. The problem is that he'll remember the first turn or two, but everything after that is a blur.

I can relate. When listening to directions, after the first one or two turns, I tune out and simply can't remember what someone tells me; instead, I hear the sound of the infamous adults in the Peanuts cartoons: "Wah wah wah wah . . ."

I'm also that person who hates too much detail with my directions. You know what I mean: the well-meaning person tells you everything that you are going to see along the way so you know you are going the right way. A few key landmarks are fine, but I zone out after much more than that.

What does this have to do with B2B marketing? A lot, actually.

As marketers, it can be tempting to jam every bit of detail into a white paper or a webcast because we want our prospects to know everything we think is important. However, most prospects are like me: they can only absorb so much information, so if you share too many details, they'll tune out.

What to do? Imagine you are lost (that's not difficult for me to imagine . . . I have a lot of "adventures"). How would you like help finding your way? I'd love to get a little bit of information to get me to the next turn (for example, "Turn right at Main Street, which is three miles down the road.") Then, when I get there, I want the next direction clearly stated, until I reach my destination. I'm not opposed to hearing about some particuarily interesting landmarks that I'll pass, but they better be good.

You need to be thinking the same way when developing content. Your prospects want relevant, bite-sized information they can remember and a clearly-defined next step.

So how do you do this? Here's my approach:

Map out the buying cycle for each of your audiences
To help customers navigate the path to purchase, you need to understand what this road looks like. You won't be able to provide directions if you only know the end point (the sale). So, sit down with sales, product management and other key stakeholders and map out a typical buying process -- for each of your audiences.

Determine what information your prospects need at each stage of the buying cycle and develop content accordingly
Think about the questions your prospect has at each stage of the buying process. What questions do they have? What type of information would help move them to the next step? You may have existing content that you can use for this, or you may be able to revamp existing materials to suit your needs.

Don't overwhelm someone with features and functions if they are in the awareness stage; it's simply too much information, and you'll quickly lose the person. On the other hand, if someone if further down the path and you reiterate things they already know, you'll lose them just as quickly.

My feeling is that more touch points are better, even if the content is shorter. This is especially important when you have a long sales cycle. It's absouely fine to have multiple pieces in each stage in the buying cycle, but make them flow logically.

Have a call to action in every piece
Figure out what next step you want your prospect to take at the end of every piece and make it very easy for them to do. It's amazing how many marketing pieces fail to do this.

Consider a nurturing program
If you decide to require registration for your offers, think about having a program that systematically nurtures your leads and guides them along the path to purchase. This is kind of like the GPS of marketing: instead of customers raising their when they want to take the next step, you are guiding them along the path, direction by direction.

Marketo recently published The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing, which I highly recommend for those thinking about starting a nurturing program as well as those who are experienced. (Note: If you want to download the entire guide, it requires registration.)

What types of other things would you suggest marketers do to lead prospects through the buying process? Have you seen any good examples of companies that do this well?

Related posts:

Read more Savvy B2B posts from Michele.

Comments: 13

Comments

1. John Coldwell  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 17, 2009 @ 01:43AM

I like this and I've retweeted it. It certainly made me think. We've got so much stuff we throw at prospects - and we need to be careful.

The other end of the spectrum can also be a pain. I've been in contact with Salesforce.com for three months, ever since I learnt what cloud computing is. We are going to buy some new computers soon. I know that Vista doesn't work well on networks, but the only reason we need a network is for the CRM system (currently Goldmine). When I found out that we could have a web 2.0 CRM system that didn't require a network I was delighted. But I cannot get a costing (or a price) from Salesforce. They've sent me a book on how it works, and offered me a free trial. But I know that it will be much more advanced than our steam-driven Goldmine so that doesn't really matter. I was ready to buy, but now I've heard of a free system. Salesforce have lost the sale because of a lack of information.

2. Thierry Roullier   |   Mon Aug 17, 2009 @ 04:01AM

Michele, This topic is absolutely crucial to marketers. Clarity at each step of the sales cycle is quite important and your recommendations are sound. The additional point I would like to raise is adoption from the sales force. Are they willing to follow you in your initiative of developing material that will let your prospects mature in their decision process or will they continue using the same old material they feel made the successful in the past? My anwer is to pilot your new program of the few influential account managers willing to give it a try, show success and deploy to the rest of the Account Managers.

3. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 17, 2009 @ 05:46AM

Well said! I think this is especially true of website copy. Visitors don't need to know EVERYTHING about your business, products or services -- just enough to stimulate interest or answer the most frequently raised questions of buyers doing research. The goal isn't to lecture -- it's to move people to the next step.

4. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 17, 2009 @ 07:40AM

@John: I posted this last night, and this morning I realized that people like to receive infomation in all sorts of ways. While I like the step-by-step directions, others just want a map so they can see the surrounding area and get to the destination how ever they want. In short, you're right that a company needs to understand--and support--their prospects who move through the buying porcess at their own speed.

@Thierry: Great point about sales. They need to understand and buy into the process of providing information one step at a time. Otherwise, once they get leads, they'll skip right to trying to make the sale instead of trying to move the prospect to the next step (unless, as John indicated, that is what the prospect is ready to do).

@Jonathan: As always, a great addition!

5. John Bottom  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 17, 2009 @ 11:09PM

Michele

A great metaphor, and one that I heartily agree with in terms of providing the right information at the right stage of the sales process. We are undertaking some research in the UK shortly which should help to show the different types of information B2B buyers seek at different stages. I will share!

But to add another angle, I coudn't help thinking that – in the situation of the directions-requester – I personally tend to paint a picture in my mind and thus prefer to get an overview of the whole journey, knowing that I can always stop anywhere along the route for a refresher. But I suppose that just underlines that different people like different types of information.

Good, thought-provoking stuff.

John

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