Knowledge has always been power (anyone read Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose?), and fortunately, we live in the Information Age. We can just ‘Google it.’
Today we seek information to inform almost every aspect of our lives, from health and wellness to entertainment to finance. In the past weeks, it is something we see first hand, as everyone is clamoring for information directly about COVID-19 as well as all the domino effects on the economy, industry, and daily lives. When it comes to purchase decisions, the desire for information is heightened even in normal times. As belts tighten, we’ll also very likely see this need for information further amplified in the coming months.
Seeking information to inform purchase decisions is equally true in our professional lives. Here, however, the stakes are higher. It isn’t your money on the line; it is your company’s, and nobody wants to make a poor decision that could have career implications. On top of this, there are more stakeholders to get onboard and decision-makers to convince. Information, then, is vital.
This thirst for education to support buying decisions is coinciding with a rapid rise in content marketing. Some would argue that we are now in a time where content is marketing, particularly in B2B environments. Yet, there’s relatively little effort spent on understanding the role of content within the B2B buyer’s journey.
We recently conducted a survey to explore the role of content, speaking to over 240 marketers who purchased a marketing technology solution within the past year. A few of the findings stood out for me.
- Firstly, even with relatively short buying cycles (the average ranged between two to six weeks), buyers were consuming around 13 pieces of content. Notably, eight out of those 13 pieces were direct from the vendor.
- Secondly, multiple content formats come into play. These range from white papers and videos to infographics and blogs, not to mention information directly within the vendor website (think text and illustrations on the product pages).
- Thirdly, different types of content resonate at different parts of the buyer’s journey. At the outset, high-level thought-leadership and 3rd party analysis are essential, while detailed product specifications and comparisons are critical at the later stages.
Putting these three findings together: different types and different formats of content are going to resonate with different people at different stages in the buyer’s journey.
Put simply; one size doesn’t fit all.
- People’s learning styles differ: some are visual learners and would rather watch a two-minute video to obtain information versus others who want to be able to scan written pieces quickly. Some may want to read around the topic diving into blogs and infographics, while others may wish to obtain the essential information as succinctly as possible.
- Convincing the stakeholders and decision-makers: companies and departments have various requirements for making the purchase discussion, which can also change from situation to situation and stakeholder to stakeholder. Therefore, the amount and type of content required to support the purchase recommendation are also going to vary. For some, a short video or feature comparison sheet may suffice while others rely on detailed whitepapers and specification sheets.
So how do we know if we are building the right content to inform and support these journeys?
Rather than just creating a slew of content and hoping for the best, take a brief time-out to ask customers and prospective customers about their needs. This isn’t just for specific content topics but also tapping into their emotional needs. What does success look and feel like to them? What are their concerns? Their fears? Then use that information to build a well-rounded set of content that will address the needs of different groups at each stage.
As I opened, knowledge is power. The better we know our customers, the more quickly, efficiently, and successfully we can help them through their journey. And in this changed world, it is going to make all the difference.
For more, read the white paper: Content Really is King: Content Consumption in the B2B Buyer’s Journey. Or if you’d prefer, see the Infographic – Reigns Supreme: Content in the B2B Buyer’s Journey.