Trusted Content Closes Vendor Selection

According to new content marketing research by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, in partnership with NetLine Corporation, insight-hungry business buyers are increasingly reliant on trusted third-party information to make more educated decisions. Content downloaded from trusted sources on the Internet is essential to pre-sales discovery, qualification, and selection of vendors. The study also found that buyers tend to be clustered in distinctly different content sharing circles based on how the purchasing process is being driven, as well as their levels of collaboration and decision-making responsibility.

These three sharing circles are led by organizations where content radiates from the execution or mid-level of the organization outward, informing both senior and junior/functional roles to gain alignment over vendor selection. The three primary content sharing circles include:

  • 35% of content sourcing and purchase decisions are from the middle out by tactically focused executives, but senior management is informed about how and why key decisions were made
  • 30% is driven from the bottom up as junior or mid-level managers source primary content and share upstream to members of senior management, who then make the final purchase decision
  • 29% is driven from the top down, whereby senior management consumes content, sending information downstream for product identification and final purchase and execution

The content sharing circles are being powered by three key segments of content personas, each with their own behaviors, needs and expectations:

  • Researchers primarily seek out the most broad and expansive content and are focused on new industry reports and research to inform them of advancements in solutions and trends impacting the market and opportunities for improvement
  • Influencers are interested in both the broad thought leadership consumed through trusted third-party channels, as well as vendor-branded technology specifications, data sheets and use cases. This group emerges as the segment most interested in summarized content, including infographics, video, and blog commentary
  • Decision Makers want to stay informed through research reports and analyst commentary, but also expect to have access to data in order to speed and enable better decision making in the tail end of the decision funnel

The study validates earlier CMO Council research that revealed 88% of 400 business buyers believe online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection, yet just 9% of respondents think of vendors as trusted sources of content. Furthermore, says the report, the most influential types of content across both the awareness and evaluation phases of the buying journey are third-party validated research reports and studies.

Additional key findings from the research include the following:

The Internet is the primary place where business buyers begin the path to purchase. 68% start their content sourcing at search engines and portals, 40% go to vendor websites, and 25% are activated by an email from a trusted source or peer.

Buyers are seeking thought leadership from third parties but still expect facts and data-driven insights from vendors to help make critical vendor selection decisions. 44% see technical details and specs about products as the second-most valued source of content across their buying journey. The top five most sought-after types of content include:

  • Comprehensive industry/category surveys and studies (52%)
  • Technical details about products and solutions (44%)
  • Analyst reviews or recommendations (43%)
  • Expert-originated content with supporting facts and research (35%)
  • Content published by third-party sources (35%)

The top five reasons that business buyers use content are to:

  • Identify best practices and best-of-breed solutions (51%)
  • Determine where competitive differentiation can be achieved (50%)
  • Clarify the position of a specific vendor or partner (43%)
  • Set the strategic agenda and assess areas of need and prioritization (42%)
  • Provide perspective from a trusted, neutral source (33%)

Content plays a pivotal role in add-on buying decisions or supplemental purchases following the initial contract, says the report. 86% frequently or sometimes use digital content to identify complementary or add-on products, while just 12% rarely undertake further content sourcing. This third-party content is also frequently or sometimes used by 92% of buyers to maintain a vendor relationship or advocate the use of the vendor’s products or services.

Robert Alvin, CEO and Chairman of NetLine Corporation, concludes that “…consumers of content today are smart, educated and weary of all of the noise… the more the content speaks to the target market, the greater the level of response… smart marketers… effectively modify and adapt a single piece of content to target specific segments… company size, verticals, geography, job title…  These (modifications) do far better than those that simply utilize the same content across all channels… “

The research is just one indication that marketers need to fine-tune their content strategies and capabilities as they seek to effectively engage today’s customer audiences, opines the report.

And Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council, adds that “… B2B marketers annually invest an estimated $16.6 billion in digital content publishing to acquire business leads… influence customer specifications… educate and engage prospects… despite spending 25% of their marketing budgets on content creation… most companies lack… strategies, competencies and best practices to effectively engage their markets… few have content performance metrics… to measure effectiveness and calculate ROI…”

A new 39-page strategic brief based on this study can be downloaded from the CMO here. 

Tags: cmo, content, research
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1 comment about "Trusted Content Closes Vendor Selection ".
  1. Rick Noel from eBiz ROI, Inc. , April 9, 2014 at 7:58 a.m.
    "The study validates earlier CMO Council research that revealed 88% of 400 business buyers believe online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection, yet just 9% of respondents think of vendors as trusted sources of content." This finding in particular speaks to why native advertising and even more on point, paid editorial placements are so effective. Paid placements get a bit tricky from a compliance standpoint, but I remembered the aha moment years ago when I discovered such a thing existed.