The buying process has made a major shift: B2B technology buyers are spending more time online researching solutions before they contact your sales team. But research shows they rarely find the information they want and need. Product marketers who understand this shift and create high-value, buyer-focused content for their next product launch earn buyers’ trust and differentiate themselves from the competition.
There’s nothing like a product launch to crank a technology company’s content machine into high gear. Product marketers often spend a great deal of their launch efforts creating or updating content like datasheets, PowerPoint presentations, case studies and more. The nagging question, though, is: Do our buyers really consume any of it? Given the time and expense that technology companies put into launching products, content is a critical piece to get right. And if buyers aren’t reading white papers or watching videos about our new release, then what’s the point of all this effort?
After working with quite a few companies on their product launches, my observation is we’re creating content that’s not answering buyers’ questions about our products. Rather, it’s a form of “checklist marketing” where we quickly check off another completed launch deliverable from our very long to-do list. But given the high stakes for product launches, we really should do better. If we’re not creating high-value content that really answers our buyers’ questions through every stage of the sales cycle, we need to consider a different approach.
To understand how buyers navigate the B2B technology purchasing process, let’s take the example of an IT director who works for a mid-size company. He needs a solution to manage employees’ personal devices that require access to the corporate network. He’s found a few vendor recommendations from analyst articles, but now he needs to research solutions, decide which best match his requirements, and make a recommendation to his boss, the CIO. And he needs to do all of this before next year’s budget is set which gives him exactly one week.
IDC found technology buyers spend 18.6% of their time, or the equivalent of almost 1 day per week, on pre-purchase IT product or solution-related activities. ¹ Our IT Director will likely sift through loads of online information – most of which will be irrelevant -- until he finds possible solutions. After hours of research, he may still have questions that can only be answered by calling a vendor’s sales representative (something he was hoping to avoid until later in the sales cycle).
Unfortunately vendors’ websites often aren’t much help in his quest. But if serendipity strikes, and he does find a website with the information he wants, he’ll likely hang out there and read more. He may give his contact information to get a white paper. He may read emails the company sends with helpful information on what to consider when choosing a management solution. He might watch an interview with the company’s founders on why they developed their solution based on issues they saw IT Directors struggling with. If the company offers the information he needs, a level of trust and comfort develops. And our IT Director is far more likely to purchase from them.
As Maureen Kelly, a marketing consultant who has managed multi-million dollar product launches observes, “Content is an important investment: Technology companies need to worry less about producing lots of content and more about making it high value so it truly addresses buyer’s needs.”
Our Buyer’s Challenge: It’s Tough to Find Good Content
It’s a challenge for buyers to find useful, high-value content that truly helps with their buying decision. IDG
Communications says buyers find relevant online content only 42% of the time. ² Most of it is riddled with sales pitches, marketing fluff, and other very unhelpful information when they’re in the midst of justifying a major purchasing decision that could be pivotal to their career.
If you’re the vendor that understands this and gives them the information they need at each sales cycle stage, you’ll be a standout. They’ll consider you a helpful resource, and you’re far more likely to end up on their short list. 95% of B2B buyers chose a solution provider for a recent purchase who provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process. ³
Our buyers’ desire to self-educate and spend a great deal of time researching before they contact us turns the typical B2B technology sales cycle upside down. No longer is the selling process driven by your sales team, but by the buyer. They decide what online content is relevant and helpful, and they choose when to reach out to you for more information.
To have a successful product launch that captures mindshare, generates leads, and results in sales, you need to embrace this change and make content a priority in your launch plan. Not just any content, but buyer-centric content that focuses on educating -- not selling. If you do that successfully, you’ll have a secret weapon that sets you apart from your competitors.
An excellent tool for creating high-value content that satisfies your buyers’ information needs at each sales cycle stage is a Buyer/Content Matrix. The Matrix maps your key buyers’ concerns and questions at each sales cycle stage to content that answers them. It’s a great method for succinctly capturing the key elements your content needs to address.
The Buyer/Content Matrix helps you develop content that resonates with your buyer, because it’s squarely focused on their concerns and issues. Rather than automatically creating a datasheet, PowerPoint presentation, and white paper for your product launch, it forces you to look at your buyers’ concerns and issues and think about what best addresses them. You may still create your standard launch content, but it’s far more likely to be high-value and helpful rather than a feature/benefit dump.
The Matrix is also a good tool for educating other marketing teams, like Marketing Communications, about buyers’ key concerns. It’s helpful in creative brainstorming sessions for generating new content ideas. And it reinforces the need to create educational content – not marketing fluff – because it addresses buyers’ key concerns.
B2B marketers who have a very effective content marketing process are 50% more likely to create content for specific buying cycle stages. Less effective marketers are less likely to tailor content in any manner4. Most technology companies create content for later buying stages like Evaluation and Selection, when buyers are assessing vendors’ solutions and preparing a short list of candidates. However, we also shouldn’t forget earlier stages, like Awareness and Scope, when buyers are starting to explore solutions. If you develop content that truly helps buyers at these early stages, you begin to build a relationship and have a much greater chance of engaging them throughout the sales cycle.
Kim Gusta has a lot of experience taming the cantankerous content beast—first as a corporate high-tech marketer and now as a seasoned copywriter and content expert for technology companies. She specializes in creating powerful content that persuades technology buyers to say yes and take the next step with your company. Her entire career has been in high-tech, including marketing-leadership roles at global companies such as Symantec. She offers free helpful resources for taming your content beast at www.kimgusta.com/tamethebeastpragmatic.