In “normal” times, I often get asked what one piece of content is creating the most “leads” for our company. When you’re focused on Marketing and Sales, it’s understandable why we’d want to understand what the one silver bullet is when it comes to getting someone to buy from us. Think about how easy that would make our jobs as Marketers. Instead of the stable of content we create that helps someone along their journey, we’d only need to create one magnificent piece of content–if we were only smart enough to know what that one piece of content is. I’d venture to say our desire to understand this has bloomed into a billion dollar market—from multi-touch attribution models, to AI-powered engines, to entire Marketing stacks designed to get buyers to look at and tell us what that silver bullet or magic formula is. But here’s the thing, there is no such thing as the silver bullet when it comes to content because in a recent study in which we asked over 240 BtoB buyers, they told us they are reading at least 13 pieces of content before making a buying decision.
Thirteen pieces of content wouldn’t be so overwhelming from a Marketing standpoint, if the buyer’s journey was linear and everyone behaved in exactly the same way. But we know that’s not true. Although BtoB Marketers are technically selling to businesses, we are still selling to people and people all behave differently. Some prefer quick reads of infographics, others dive into a nice long whitepaper, while others will watch mostly videos. And, that can vary by buying stage. That requires marketers to offer a variety of content in various formats to appeal to all buyers. Our study shows us that when starting their research, BtoB buyers prefer vendor videos and peer reviews; and when they are shortlisting vendors they consume 3rd party articles, more videos, analyst reports; and continue to read analyst reports and peer reviews through their final decision. One thing remains consistent, however, the main source for this content is vendors’ websites. Responses from study participants said, “Vendors’ websites were very effective, [and] the information helped us for short listing pretty quickly and effectively; When investigating the suppliers, the website of each researched provider was very useful since they contained complete information on what each one offers.”
The complexity of the buying process, human behavior and what it takes to get the attention of your potential buyers, not only makes it challenging to create the right strategy and content to acquire and engage your buying audience, it has also made it harder for BtoB Marketers to communicate with the rest of the organization. In my job as a CMO, I spend a lot of time educating my peers, the sales team and even my board about why content and engagement matters. To be perfectly honest, I’ve found transforming Marketing to fit this new buyer paradigm—with a whole new strategy, a content engine, building a marketing stack to support acquisition and engagement and incorporating new data to refine messaging and targeting—easier than effectively communicating to internal stakeholders how and why Marketing has changed and why they should care. Even with stats like: close rates for acquired and engaged accounts are 14% higher than those that are not engaged; the ASP of an engaged account is 20% higher than a non-engaged account; and, how a buyer feels is 1.5x more influential over their buying decision than any other factor.
While, as a Marketer, all of these stats are extremely significant, that last one really impacts how my team plans our content strategy. I’ve been very transparent about what I’ve learned since starting at FocusVision about the importance of research to really understand what our customers think and feel in order to create content and experiences that help them. I truly believe this. Let’s face it, making a buying decision with your company’s money is scary. No one wants to purchase technology or services that have no impact on your company or worse, hurts rather than helps, especially now when budgets are tightened and scrutinized. There’s an old saying, “No one ever got fired for buying from IBM” but that’s from the days when there were little choices. Today’s BtoB buyer is faced with digital transformation, business disruption, an overwhelming amount of data and access to more information than ever before, not to mention a multitude of vendors for every problem you’re trying to solve. Content is an opportunity to help the buyer feel more comfortable and confident by making them more knowledgeable and more empowered to make the right decision. And, the only way to do that is to understand what they care about and what would make them successful. That’s where the right research comes in.
There’s a reason a BtoB buyer reads 13 pieces of content instead of one magical piece—they want to feel they are making the right choice. To create the right content strategy, we have to start with the right insights into our buyer to ensure our content makes them feel empowered and informed and I believe if we focus on that, rather than selling, we become the company our buyers want to work with. Also, bear in mind, these are not normal times and buying decisions are being delayed and even re-thought. This makes your content more important than ever to keep your customers and prospects engaged so when they do get back to buying, you continue to be part of their consideration. Again, research can tell us what our customers and prospects care about now to help inform planning and creating new or updated content to meet changing needs and current considerations.