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:
The content sharing circles are being powered by three key segments of content personas, each with their own behaviors, needs and expectations:
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:
The top five reasons that business buyers use content are to:
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.