When I was shopping for a car last year, I did what many others do — I started my search on Google. After browsing several websites, I realized they all had the same problem:
They wouldn’t tell me what was under the hood.
Pre-owned cars may come with slight wear and tear. As you can imagine, I had no desire to trudge from one dealership to another to inspect the options I wanted — that would take up too much time. Like any web user, I expected full information about the product so I could make an informed decision.
But all I got were pretty pictures and a price tag.
In South Africa, we use something called the DEKRA report. This is a detailed report that comes after a thorough car inspection, and it outlines a car’s registration history, service history, and current defects (if any). Only a handful of the dealerships I found offered DEKRA reports for each of their cars. Of that handful, all but one wanted me to hand over my contact details before I could learn about their cars.
What unnecessary friction.
The very last dealership I came across was WeBuyCars.co.za, South Africa’s largest auto dealership. They had a comprehensive website with a find and filter function, and each car had clear photos and pricing.
Best of all, their DEKRA reports were public for all to see.
This was a game-changer for me. I spent weeks browsing cars on their site and poring through DEKRA reports. When I saw one I liked, I’d grab my girlfriend and go to its branch to have a look. Here’s a video:
Improve the customer experience
Their show-room experience was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Rather than a typical dealership experience, each showroom felt like a massive supermarket. We spent hours browsing cars and going for test drives.
Best of all, each car had a unique QR code that took you to that specific car’s page on their website. It was the best thing — I never had to talk to a salesperson unless I needed to. At WeBuyCars, the sales reps don’t bother you until you request help.
I could scan a car’s QR code, skim the DEKRA, and shortlist it or not. Scan, skim, select — ad infinitum.
It was a satisfying experience. I’m the type of customer who wants you to give me all the facts and leave me alone to make my own decision. WeBuyCars nailed that need.
Once I had my shortlist, I looked up reviews on YouTube and car mags from credible influencers. I asked friends about each car’s durability, comfort, and maintenance. I read through website after website to learn more about their engines.
In the end, I scooped up this Audi after a month of browsing and decision-making:
So far, my experience with WeBuyCars had been satisfactory… until after the sale.
Every few weeks, a sales rep would call me asking if I wanted to buy tire insurance or emergency road warranty. I’d decline, only to receive another call a few weeks later from a different rep trying to sell me the same thing.
As you can guess, it soured my buying experience with the company.
6 key content marketing lessons for B2B marketers
In my journey from search to selection to sale, I only had one need: information. Many car dealerships, despite great SEO, lost my business because they failed to give me that.
It didn’t matter whether the cars they had were within my budget, looked great, or had low mileage. Without more information about what was under the hood, I’d be buying blind — and I couldn’t afford that. You only buy a car once every few years — so you have to make it count.
And this is exactly where most B2B companies fail.
There are six lessons we can draw from this story:
- Provide plenty of information about what you sell and the problem you solve. This becomes more important the pricier your product is.
- People buy high-ticket B2B products by committee, not by impulse. Give them content and product comparisons to take to their buying committee.
- Pull customers toward you. Don’t push them into your funnel through aggressive outbound tactics. Pulling is less work for you and provides a better customer experience in the long run.
- Optimize the content consumption process. Make your information and marketing content easy to find, consume, search, and download. If you need to engage with them via email, add an optional form somewhere on the content page. Opt-ins should always be voluntary, not mandatory. Start your business relationships with permission, not pressure.
- When people reach out to you for a demo or inquiry, make that process as enjoyable as consuming your content. Show up, be helpful, and seek the best solution for the customer first before your company. Your empathy and generosity will show.
- Respect the customer’s wish to remain out of your funnel. A turned-off customer won’t spend any money with you — no matter how sweet your deals are. When you violate their request for basic respect, they won’t care about what you want anymore.
Gating content defeats the purpose. Ungate it all now.
The last decade of B2B marketing taught us to gate content for contact details. It worked when prospects needed any available information to make an informed decision.
But we’re now in an age of plentiful information, and many companies haven’t caught up yet. They write long, costly e-books and whitepapers then demand emails in exchange for access.
If you’re selling a $1,000+ ARR product, it’s in your best interest to give me any information I need to buy it faster. Adding friction to the process doesn’t do you any favors. This may sound like common sense, but it’s astounding how many startups still don’t get it.
Information yearns to be free, and B2B buyers are getting savvier. Winning B2B teams recognize that your ultimate goal is to give your content to as many buyers as you can. Gating content defeats that purpose.
Let prospects read and share your content freely with their bosses and colleagues. Demanding email addresses before they’re ready to buy adds unnecessary friction.
It’s all too easy to unsubscribe and block your sales emails. Not only will you lose a potential customer, but you’ll also lose any business they may have referred your way.
Optimize your content for consumption, not collection
Instead of tracking email addresses that may or may not convert, track requests to speak to sales.
Add a simple question in your contact form asking “How did you hear about us?” Track the number of responses that reference your content. Keep creating great content until you see an uptick in form responses like “Your blog” or “Social media.”
As you buy more sophisticated marketing tools, also invest in creating effective content. Hire more writers, get more designers, and get more promotion specialists for distribution.
Good content pays for itself many times over.
This will be an uncomfortable operational and mindset shift. Many B2B marketing leaders came up during an era when collecting the Almighty Lead was the sole goal. Times have changed, and it’s time to change your strategy. Prospects want to make informed decisions without unsolicited sales calls and emails.
Let your content do the heavy lifting so your sales team can close deals more easily.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
Mohammed Shehu, Ph.D. writes on content and marketing for creators and brands. You can find him online @shehuphd everywhere.