In working with clients, the area that consistently needs the most work is prospect education. It is not that marketers don't educate their buyers. The problem is that the focus of that education is largely around the product.
Product-centric education is self-serving. "You"-focused product education cannot establish buyer trust. And buyer trust is always an important element in the purchase decision.
So, what is a marketer to do? We've been taught that data sheets, technical white papers, product specs, features and functions should be our primary output.
It's Time to Relearn Our Craft
It is time to change our vocabulary and our content mechanisms. We must re-orient them both towards the buyer.
As we've seen in the awareness of a need and framing a need buying process stages, we should enter the buyer's world by helping them understand their need and its potential solutions. However, just because a buyer has framed their need doesn't mean that they no longer need to learn about their need.
The buyer is always learning about their need. If all you offer is product-oriented literature, the buyer must translate that into need-related concepts. Every aspect of your product content is evaluated based on the buyer's understanding of their need. You talk about features. The buyer tries to translate those features into use cases.
And if the buyer cannot figure out how your product details satisfy his/her need, he/she will exit the buying process. Unfortunately, ineffective translation happens all of the time.
Need Education, Need Satisfaction
The way to help the buyer is to write need-oriented content. Types of need-oriented content include:
- Need characteristics - like a discussion of symptoms
- Remedies - develop the pros and cons of different solutions, not just yours
- Use Cases - illustrate how needs are satisfied with product use
- Case Studies - big picture descriptions address successful approaches and define expected results
You will note that a need-oriented list doesn't include product feature descriptions, data sheets, or technical white papers. Yet some of the information found in those type of documents is represented in need-oriented content. The difference is the contextual entry point to that information -- the buyer perspective not the product perspective.
Answering Buyer Questions without FAQs
Finally, content that answers buyers' questions will always be more engaging. I am not talking about frequently asked questions lists. FAQs are a lazy marketer's tool.
Take the time to understand the buyer's question and its related follow-ons. (How many times does one question lead to another?) Then determine how your content will organize related questions.
The Result - Buyer Engagement
There are four benefits of switching from product-centric content to need-oriented content.
- Improved buyer comprehension - no longer is the buyer trying to correlate your product-oriented messages to their need
- Faster buyer comprehension - by removing the translation step needed for correlation, the buyer quickly reaches a positive conclusion
- More buyer matches - you no longer lose buyers who have not been able to recognize how your product solves their need
- Increased buyer trust - by presenting options for need satisfaction and offering pros and cons for your solution
Take the Plunge
One of the easiest ways to test the value of your content is to source it on your web site. Introduce it. Follow the visitor analytics. Compare it with other content. Play around with navigation devices to the content. Ask your visitors to rate the content.
Never get to enamoured with your content. Learn from your metrics and be ready to dump old content and write fresh content.