How to Shift Your B2B Marketing & Sales to a Buyer Enablement Mindset
Q&A with Cassandra Jowett, Senior Director of Marketing, PathFactory
A few weeks ago, I caught up with Cassandra Jowett, Senior Director of Marketing at PathFactory to hear her perspective on one of the big shifts we’ve been observing in B2B SaaS marketing and sales: the movement towards buyer enablement.
In her role, Cassandra markets marketing software to fellow marketers – a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly. She originally joined PathFactory more than four years ago because she believed in what the company was doing and where it was pushing B2B marketing: to a place where content and how audience engage with it is what matters most, not how many email clicks, page views, or form fills a marketer can squeeze out of every channel.
And without further adieu, here’s what we covered in our conversation:
How to shift your content focus when you’re generating enough leads, and closed-won conversions is your new challenge.
How to deal when your CEO wakes up with a fever dream of a content idea.
The role that “emotional content” can play in buyer enablement.
How to enable buyers to find the content they need (outside your Resource Centre).
How we should be measuring the impact of bottom-of-funnel content.
And, the critical role that sales *should be* playing in buyer enablement.
Wait, just a sec...what is buyer enablement? And why is it important?
According to PathFactory, buyer enablement is:
“Collecting the right data about every buyer, then using it to deliver the content most likely to help them buy from you. In essence, it’s all about reducing “buying friction” to accelerate deals.”
And why is buyer enablement content important?
Buyers spend about 17% of their time talking with suppliers (and only a slice of that with you). But buyer enablement content can help influence the rest of their decision-making activities.
You know more about how to build a business case to buy your product than your buyers do. And creating content that walks them through that process can help show that you understand what buyers are going through, and are anticipating their needs.
Buyer enablement content can build a strong sense of brand partnership (and that indispensable currency of trust)as it gives sales opportunities to reach out and with more valuable touchpoints with buyers.
All of the above can accelerate long sales cycles and increase pipeline velocity, which saves sales team manhours=money.
SM: Can you describe the shift you’re seeing from traditional B2B content marketing to a buyer enablement approach?
CJ: Sure, so traditionally, companies have been creating content based on their point of view; content that’s all about them and their story. But they haven't necessarily considered how (or if) this content will help their buyers move through the purchase journey.
We all acknowledge that people are not just going to wake up one day, decide they need your solution and pick up the phone. And we know that content marketing can play a huge role bringing them to the point that they are ready to buy.
But I've been at companies where the goal is just to produce as much content as possible. You know, when the CEO fever dreams a number of content ideas that he/she wants you to execute.
No matter where the content topic ideas are coming from, it’s really important to ask: How does that help our buyers move through the sales process? How does this help educate our prospects?
Everyone has these huge resource centers now, and it can be overwhelming for B2B buyers to sift through all of that content to make sure that they’re finding the information that they need.
This is such a cliché, but focusing on quality over quantity helps marketers (and sales) reduce the “overwhelm factor” for buyers and make sure that the assets you’re creating are on point with buyer needs.
CJ: Also, content marketing is maturing and now we’re asking better questions.
For a long time it was like, why content marketing? Why should we invest so much in this? And now we just have this explosion of content, which is great, but we need to ask:
Are we creating the right content for the right people and the right buyer journey?
How is it performing?
Do we need to produce so much content?
What can we learn from how our audience is engaging with our content that can be applied to our strategy?
There’s a lot on the content distribution or activation side of things that we need to consider as well. You can create all the content that you want, but if it's not getting in front of the right people at the right time, then it's kind of pointless, and it's not going to perform well.
SM: What’s the biggest pipeline challenge you’ve seen buyer enablement content help solve?
CJ: Most marketers who know what they're doing and have a decent budget aren’t having any issues getting top-of-funnel leads. Their real problems are converting them to close-won revenue and helping the sales team.
Some of the most useful content I’ve been involved in producing has been the bottom-of-funnel stuff for people who are at this stage: “Okay, I know I have an issue and I'm starting to evaluate solutions, but I'm not really sure how to navigate this and I have a bunch of questions”.
When I was at Influitive, we produced a series of short guides, each one addressing a very common prospect objection. Those assets didn’t generate thousands of leads, but they were shared with buyers when they were feeling doubt and effectively helped convert them into customers.
More recently at PathFactory, we created a short, interactive content asset to explain in very simple terms the challenges with B2B marketing today so that prospects join their first sales meeting with us seeing the world from a common perspective. It’s reduced the number of no-shows, improved conversion rates from meeting to opportunity, and increased deal velocity because it gives everyone on the buying committee foundational context that helps them make the most of their time with our sales rep.
SM: What types of buyer enablement content are sometimes overlooked or undervalued, but hugely beneficial?
CJ: We shouldn’t underestimate the power of social proof and customer stories, even just short videos.
We have a video featuring one of our clients who says that he wakes up in the morning, and looks at his PathFactory dashboards, and that’s his happy moment of the day. He’s not saying “Oh, we generated millions of dollars in revenue” but he's saying that PathFactory actually makes him feel happy to do his job. To me, that's really powerful.
Sometimes it's not all about the facts and figures and the hard proof; often the emotional content can be really powerful in winning people over. We’re dealing with human beings who have perceptions, rightly or wrongly, about your brand, and it can come down to ‘Do they like us? Do they trust us? Do they think we know what we’re talking about?’. Content can help serve all of those different purposes, which are just as important as getting them to prove the business case.
Especially for long sales cycles, I think that the influence of emotional content can be just as important because that's how you bring buyers along and keep the relationship warm for months and sometimes years at a time.
CJ: ‘How does this product work?’ content can be really powerful
A lot of SaaS vendors want to keep things close to their chest and only reveal product details on demos. But then, whoever is on that demo has to go to the rest of their organization and start to help them understand how this is going to work, and that can be challenging.
The more resources you can create to help them disseminate that message, the better. And sometimes that is something as boring as a product brochure. I think that creating that typical product marketing content is something that a lot of marketers struggle with, because we all want to have this sexy brand, we all want to do the really fun top-of-funnel thought leadership stuff, and of course, we should do that.
But we also have to create these other resources that actually enable our buyers to understand what we do and how we can help.
CJ: And any content that can help a buyer mobilize his team around the purchase is a must-have with large buying groups...
Buying committees can be so large now that even if you produce good content and one person in that buying committee engages with it, that’s great but you’re not necessarily enabling them to get everyone on their team on the same page. There is specific content you can create to make those decisions and to rally their whole organization, like presentation templates they can customize for their organization, worksheets they can complete with their colleagues or even assessments and calculators that can give them a taste of the value they’d get if they work with you.
All these types of content can help with buyer enablement, it just depends on the buyer's needs and where they are in their journey.
SM: How should organizations be measuring the impact of buyer enablement content, when the objective is not necessarily lead generation?
CJ: Not everything can be quantified and attributed down to the penny. There are some things that are worth investing in and focusing on that are just more squishy, that you're never going to get perfect attribution for.
If you're using a first-touch attribution model, then you're not going to be able to measure the impact of that content further on in the sales cycle. And maybe that's fine. Maybe your sales cycles are really short, or maybe your buyers just convert into customers right on your website.
With an enterprise SaaS purchase though--that might take anywhere between 3-18 months to close--it’s really important to know what's helping along the way. And so more of a multi-touch attribution model is more appropriate, but it can be difficult to do that manually.
I know some smaller companies who asked sales reps to manually track every single piece of content that they sent to the client in a spreadsheet until they could adopt the right technology.
Alternatively, marketers could attach specific UTM parameters that point to a digital asset, instead of just attaching a PDF to an email. But best-case scenario, you’ll have a tool that allows you to track people engaging with content when you send it to them over email.
Ideally, you’re keeping a close look at performance data to understand if buyers are spending enough time with different assets and if not, how to adjust your strategy. For example, if you're creating super long assets, and they're not spending a lot of time with them, maybe stop doing that or break up the content.
You can also start to learn ‘Okay, at this point in the process, these types of people are looking at this content’, or ‘when people are coming from this channel, they seem to like that content more’. And so you gradually start to understand what content is working, where, and why. And in response to their behavior, you can start optimizing the things that are in your control and bring that back into your production cycle to make sure that you're not wasting your time and energy on stuff that's just not going to work.
SM: As you mentioned, most B2B tech companies have these monstrous, overwhelming Resource Centres. Is that really the best way to serve the buyer during the sales process?
CJ: With the overwhelming amount of content being created, we have to think of our websites a little bit differently than we have and maybe rethink the giant Resource Center dump that most companies do.
We think a little bit more about merchandising content across the website in the same way that an e-commerce brand might, like putting it in front of people when they reach that destination, instead of locking it up in a nurture sequence, or gating it with a landing page. Rather, we should be taking it out of these giant resource centers that can be tough to navigate, and showcase it across your website through personalized recommendations for buyers, based on what they've consumed or looked at recently.
SM: This is what PathFactory does, right?
CJ: Exactly. And it enables marketers to use data and AI to bring people back into content that's most relevant to them.
So again, using the e-commerce analogy, maybe a buyer reads the first few chapters of an ebook and then drops off. PathFactory enables you to send them a re-engagement campaign through your marketing automation platform to bring them back into that content or similar content so that they can continue on their journey. We do this on our team with one of our longest, most important content assets through something we call a “re-engager campaign” and it’s resulted in 183% more engagement.
Those little behavioral nudges make all the difference in nailing the context. It’s like ‘hey, it seemed like you were interested in this kind of content, come back and read more’ versus ‘okay, we're just gonna send you something else random, because it's Tuesday, and we have to send an email’.
Most of the irrelevant emails that we're getting today are the latter, but if more of that stuff was relevant to where we are in our buyer journeys, we might be more inclined to open that email and click the call to action. And email performance might actually increase instead of decrease.
SM: And finally, how do you envision the role of sales in buyer enablement?
CJ: Above all, the sales rep should be a good partner and guide.
I think it's less about selling and more about listening to what the buyer is going through and being a guide in that process; trying to facilitate those steps.
You're trying to pay attention to what the other person needs and respond to that in a meaningful way, so they know that you care about them, and they know ‘We’re in this together’ versus ‘I'm just a salesperson trying to hit my quota and you’re my target buyer’.
You see this a lot in SaaS, where a buyer just joined a new huge company and they've never gone through the procurement process, but the salesperson has sold to similar companies, or even that exact company more than once, and can help them go through the process by anticipating their needs.
Ideally, the sales rep just knows what they need as a next step and can give it to them. When the sales process is so amazing and you've given them so much great content, those are the kind of moments that start to build that relationship and can even turn customers into advocates before they've even used your product. And it really just means a sales rep was paying attention and knew which content to give at the right moments.
CJ: Sales should play up their relationship-building and listening skills.
This is a whole other conversation, but I think that the face of the typical software sales rep is changing and becoming more diverse. More women are getting into the game and being really successful. Traditionally, there’s a very aggressive, masculine sales stereotype. But it’s becoming more about relationship building, reciprocity, and good listening skills, which could be perceived as more feminine.
I have worked with some really successful male reps, of course, but I’m thinking of this one commercial sales rep who started here a few years ago, and she’s landing deal after deal after deal. And it's because she pays attention and is more focused on listening than talking. And when she does talk, it's actually meaningful. That kind of rep can be so much more successful.
CJ: Finally, sales should be a conduit for buyer feedback and insight.
Sales also play a key role in bringing feedback into the organization about what buyers actually need, from an anecdotal perspective and from a content engagement perspective. Marketing data is so important, but those in-the-trenches anecdotes about what helps and what hurts, where there are gaps in the process, that's the stuff that’s really important.
Connect with Cassandra Jowett on LinkedIn.
Learn how PathFactory’s Intelligent Content Platform uses content intelligence and automation to drive revenue for leading enterprise and mid-market B2B companies.
Note from the author: Apologies for the unannounced hiatus on content publishing over the past month!