Business-to-business (B2B) content marketing crushes cold calling when it’s done well. I emphasize that point because crappy content marketing won’t get you anywhere. True cold calling probably won’t either, because it’s not based on problem-solving. It’s a fishing expedition to sell products and services.
When I started working in corporate marketing, B2B businesses relied heavily on cold calls. It was a numbers game. The more calls, the better the (slim) odds of finding someone who wouldn’t hang up lickety-split. Now, no one answers their phones. Caller ID and robocalls drove the nails in the coffin.
A better approach
The truth is that B2B buyers didn’t want to hear sales pitches then – and still don’t. Instead, they want you to do five things:
- Understand their industries, companies and problems
- Be as passionate about their businesses as they are
- Build collaborative, authentic relationships with them
- Educate, inform and inspire them
- Provide solutions for their challenges
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But B2B sales is a long game. Therefore, shortcuts like cold calling usually fail. You need a powerful tool to reach and connect with B2B buyers over the long haul. Above all, you need to show you’re delivering on these five action items. How can you do that? The solution is content marketing.
Next, I’ll explain how content marketing crushes cold calling for each action item. Then, I’ll share tips on how you can use content marketing to succeed with B2B buyers.
1. Understand their industries, companies and problems
The purpose for cold calls is to qualify prospective customers by getting information from them. For example, sales reps might ask:
- “How big is your company?”
- “Who’s the ultimate decision-maker?”
- “What are your key challenges?”
- “Who are your competitors?”
Therein lies the problem. B2B buyers don’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) educate you. They want you to do your own homework. No one has the time or patience to hold your hand. By the time they talk with your team, they expect you to know their pain points. And you should be able to explain how your solution solves their problems.
If you’re uncertain about where to find intel on your prospects, you’ve got many options, including:
- The companies’ websites
- Their social media channels
- Former employees (find them on LinkedIn)
- Former customers (find them through your networks)
- Industry associations
- Local chambers of commerce
- Industry subject experts
- Databases, such as Reference Solutions, Dun & Bradstreet Business Directory and EDGAR (public companies)
- Business journals, magazines and newspapers
How to use content marketing to show you’re in the know
Once you’ve researched your B2B prospects and their industries, you’ll have the information you need to lean into content marketing. Let’s say you’ve identified your prospects’ top three business challenges. Your company’s products will help them solve those pain points. Therefore, you’re going to create content that reveals exactly how your products do that.
The key here is to show – not tell. Consequently, you’ve got many options for your content marketing. Here are some examples of the content you could create:
- Case studies that show how your products solved your customers’ challenges
- Webinars that highlight prospects’ pain points and how your solutions address them
- Blog posts where you feature customers and explain how your solutions helped them
- How-to videos in which your team shows how to use your products to solve the key pain points you identified
- Customer testimonials that address how your products solved their challenges
- Articles based on interviews with subject experts in which they discuss industry challenges. Then, you explain how your products address those challenges.
- Podcasts in which your internal subject experts interview industry thought leaders about wide-ranging topics
After publishing the content, you’ll need to promote it. LinkedIn is the ideal place, as that’s where most B2B marketers hang out. Be sure to write posts for your company’s page and your customers’ pages if they’re on board. You can also ask your employees to reshare the posts on their social media channels to help amplify the content. As a result, you’ll get more mileage for your content marketing. In addition, you can create an email blast that teases and links to the content.
Most importantly, these examples show you’ve put the time and effort into learning what your prospects need. That’s why content marketing crushes cold calling.
2. Be as passionate about their businesses as they are
It’s pretty hard to be passionate when you’re cold calling. Sales reps often must meet quotas and stick to scripts. During the 2008-2009 recession, I made cold calls for one month. It was a soul-crushing experience. People hung up on me, cursed me and asked bizarre questions. One even put me on permanent hold. There’s little passion involved in dialing all day long. The truth is that cold calling is transactional. It’s checking a box. No B2B buyer would ever have his or her mind blown from a sales rep’s emotion during a cold call.
How to use content marketing to show you’re passionate about B2B buyers’ businesses
If you focus on your prospects’ businesses in your content marketing, your passion will come through organically. The “trick” is to shine the spotlight outward. Too often, B2B companies are self-promotional. Their content fails because it doesn’t speak to prospects’ wants, needs and interests.
Let’s say you’re looking for widgets that will help your B2B company’s industrial equipment run efficiently. You find two companies that look promising. The first company’s website promotes how great the business is, how many customers it has and how many widgets it sells. In contrast, the second company’s website has customer testimonials and case studies that highlight business results from the widgets.
Moreover, the second company provides resources that help customers get the most from their widgets. For example, the business posts technical articles, how-to videos and in-depth guides.
After that, wouldn’t you contact the second company? Instead of writing about your B2B business, focus on prospective customer benefits. What new ideas, solutions and value do you offer? Are you genuinely trying to help them or are you shilling? Helpful content marketing crushes cold calling every time.
3. Build collaborative, authentic relationships with B2B buyers
B2B buyers want to know you care about them and their companies. You can’t do that with cold calling. If your main point of contact with prospects is an occasional sales call, they’ll have no reason to talk with you. Certainly, it takes time to form relationships with prospective customers. That’s a key reason for a long B2B sales cycle.
I talked with a friend about this recently. He’d been struggling in sales until he stopped selling. Of course, he still has to make a living and put food on the table. So yes, he’s still selling, but not overtly. Instead, he talks with prospects about everything under the sun. For example, they’ll discuss mutual interests, local history, people they know and hobbies. The conversations are wide-ranging and flow naturally into actual sales. In other words, it’s not an immediate, “Hey, wanna buy my product?” As a result, my friend is doing quite well now.
How content marketing can help you build collaborative, authentic relationships with B2B buyers
Content marketing isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to B2B sales. You still need to talk with prospects on a deeper level than cold calling can achieve. B2B buyers want to know that you’re looking out for them. To that end, content marketing crushes cold calling. It shows that you’re interested in more than money.
For example, let’s say you host a webinar for prospects that focuses on a top industry pain point. The purpose isn’t to sell anything. During the webinar, you provide ample time for prospects to ask questions and share their business challenges. Afterward, you group the questions and challenges into common themes. Then, you create content marketing pieces that cover those points. It shows you’re listening and responding. Prospects see that you’re invested in their success. As a result, you’ll get to know them and their needs. And you’ll be the one they contact when they’re ready for solutions.
4. Educate, inform and inspire B2B buyers
If you can get prospects to answer their phones (good luck), that’s only the first step. Second, you’d have to keep them on long enough to have meaningful conversations. Then, I suppose you could educate them about your business. However, the nature of cold calling doesn’t allow for that.
Call centers measure success by volume. How many calls did you make? How many meetings did you book? It’s all about quantity over quality. Content marketing changes that dynamic. By publishing and sharing quality content, B2B businesses can help put their brands on the map.
How to use content marketing to educate, inform and inspire B2B buyers
By the time they contact you, prospective customers have done significant research. They’ve checked you and your competitors out thoroughly. That includes reviewing all of your content. They’ve probably made a list of their top two to four companies. At this point, they’re close to making their buying decisions. As a result, content marketing crushes cold calling.
Similarly, when shopping for a vacation resort, you read reviews, look at pictures and compare prices. Now, it’s a matter of identifying the ones that include your top amenities and are available on the dates you need. Consequently, it wouldn’t do any good for a resort to cold call you. You’ve done your homework and are ready to book your trip.
Content marketing plays a similar role for B2B buyers as it does for you when you shop for a resort. Prospects are counting on you to deliver content that educates, informs and inspires them. It’s such an important touch point that you can’t afford to ignore it. And it’s an excellent way to stand out from your competitors.
I shared suggested content marketing ideas earlier in this post. Those are great starting points, but you’re not limited to those. Think about creating evergreen content that you can repurpose and reuse across different platforms. That way, you can reach the most prospects in the ways they like to consume content.
5. Provide solutions for B2B buyers’ challenges
In no way does cold calling give prospects solutions. If anything, it gives them headaches. B2B businesses must provide immediate value and make prospects’ lives easier. You’re not adding value when you call 100 prospects and ask how many employees they have. As with the song, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” you must give prospects solutions before asking them to buy.
How to use content marketing to provide solutions for B2B buyers’ challenges
Ask your customer-facing teams what they’re hearing about customer pain points. What are their common problems? Then, develop content that connects the dots between their challenges and your solutions. Above all, make sure the content isn’t self-serving.
Customer case studies are persuasive for many B2B buyers. It helps them envision how your solutions could work for their businesses. They’re especially effective when featured customers are in identical or similar industries. Learn more about how to write case studies. Check out the list above for other content marketing ideas in which you can show how you solve business challenges.
Similarly, you can meet with prospects and find out how you can help them. What solutions are they looking for? If it’s not a good fit, don’t write them off. Ask if they know anyone in their networks who might line up with your business and see if they’ll make introductions for you. You never know where it could lead!
Build the foundation for successful relationships
Content marketing crushes cold calling. And it helps you build the foundation for successful relationships with B2B buyers. As with anything else in life, you’ll get back what you put into it. If you invest the time and resources into doing it well, prospects will call you rather than you calling them.