Whether buying a toothbrush or a life insurance plan, every purchase has an element of risk to it. No one wants to buy the wrong thing, pay more for the exact same product, or purchase something that doesn’t tick all the boxes in his or her personal list of needs. For, as we’ve talked about in previous articles, your customers are in fact building and defining their needs during their period of early and mid-stage research. (If you’ve missed those articles, go here.) Now they are looking to solidify which brand will offer the best product or service to match their needs or challenges. It’s your job at this point to prove beyond a doubt they can have confidence in your brand.
This is the stage your sales team will struggle with the most. Your potential customers are asking critical questions regarding how your brand – and those of your competition – can solve their key issues, but they still might not want to talk with a sales person. Or, they will be conducting this research in conjunction with calling one of your reps. In either case, your potential customers are completely comfortable conducting the majority of their research online and via outside channels, most of which are outside of your control, and evaluating you directly next to the best in your competition. And though you’ve done a great job in the early and mid-stages in providing articles, lists, videos and whitepapers on industry and product research, your potential customer will need something a little deeper to build trust as she moves towards her final decision: proof.
Even when buyers are emotionally and logically convinced of your value, they don’t want to make a mistake. “Proof” documents like case studies and testimonials help buyers trust you and build confidence in your brand during the critical final stage in the buying process. In a sense, you are providing them with a means to trust in their future success based on the reputation you built with another company with a similar issue.
Effective late-stage content mitigates some of the buyer’s perceived risk by speaking to your brand’s commitment to the customer during and after the purchase process, the integrity of your brand, and the value of your products and services. This is the stage where it’s finally prudent to brag about your brand, but only as it relates to how you’ve helped one of your customers meet their needs.
Start by making sure you and your marketing team have a firm grip on your target audience’s chief concerns, putting special emphasis on your buyer personas identified at the beginning of this process. Then, lift up cases in which you were able to address some of these concerns for clients in the past. Make sure to highlight instances in which you not only lived up to your promises, but you were able to bring outstanding value to your client.
Easier said than done? Remember, the key is proving to your potential customer that they’re not getting duped by marketing: you can deliver on your promises. Be strategic in the proof you provide by emphasizing the stories in which your brand offered something your competition cannot. Maybe that’s an intangible thing, such as a reputation for integrity, as demonstrated in outside news coverage or a heartfelt video from a past client. Or, if your product is higher quality, position testimonials and reviews by satisfied customers directly next to the product information on your website.
One of the strongest closing or late stage content pieces is the case study, which tells the story of how your product or service helped a customer overcome an impactful challenge in a valuable way. It allows the prospective buyer to relate to past clients, and helps them draw the conclusion that since you were able to meet that challenge, you could also meet their challenges. With today’s technology, case studies can expand beyond a simple PDF or web page into an interactive publication, a brief webinar segment, a well-constructed video, or even a motion graphic.
Fortunately, getting late stage content into the hands of your potential buyers is much easier if you’ve dedicated time and resources to early and mid-stage content, delivering buyers directly to your site when they’re ready to buy. However, as you can’t always control at what point in their research buyers find you, and how quickly they move down their individual buying cycle, it’s to your advantage to make your late-stage content readily visible and easy to access from multiple points. Position testimonials and reviews directly next to your product offerings. Add an ROI calculator or comparison chart to specific pages promoting your brand’s strongest differentiators. Place a pricing guide behind a benefits checklist so potential buyers are choosing the value they need first, prior to seeing how that value translates into a price. Finally, promote your case studies heavily on your website, social media channels, and with your industry partners. While they’re typically seen as late-stage content, case studies are welcomed in the earlier stages as well.
Late stage content isn’t any more important than the earlier stages, but it does validate all of the marketing that came before. By providing proof of how your brand helped customers succeed in the past, you push buyers past the residual fear left from the days of snake oil salesmen. As a bonus, stories of your success are evergreen, or can be reused in multiple scenarios over the course of several years.
August 6th, 2014 by Joy Beachy