IDG On Connecting the Dots Between Content and Sales

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The opening lines, and most of the lines that followed, really grabbed my attention:

“Marketers spent more than $40 billion on custom media in 2011. B2B marketers are allocating one-third of their budgets to content marketing, and more than half plan to increase content marketing spending in 2013. However, as many IT marketers are discovering, content marketing is a complex practice that requires insights not just into what type of content to develop and deliver, but when and how to deliver these assets to ensure maximum engagement.”

 

This IDG Enterprises report is the result of a survey of 1,025 IT decision makers to “to gain a better understanding of the role content consumption plays in the purchase process for major technology products and services.” I believe these insights apply to most content marketers today, and soon to all, even in lagging industries.

My first observation is this is the estimated spend. Most companies have no idea how much they are really spending on content. B2B content creation is buried within many, many, go-to-market tactics such as projects, activities and events, across many marketing, training, sales and even channel groups,  What is your cost of content created by sales and marketing people for example?

 

Report Highlights and Observations

The report is a definite reading recommendation. Here are some highlights:

“The importance of content to IT decisionmakers (ITDMs) cannot be understated. Our survey shows that ITDMs download an average of nine informational assets—including whitepapers, webcasts or case studies—to aid their decisionmaking during the purchase process.

This finding validates how unique ITDMs’ content needs are at each stage of the purchase process. It’s very clear that when it comes to content, one size does not fit all.

ITDMs view, on average, eight pieces of content that are created by, or on behalf of, the vendor they eventually select during this stage.”

Relevance — defined as addressing issue interest, buyer role, buying stage and other factors in content — emerges repeatedly through this report. This has huge implications for the quantity of content and scale of your content challenge. I call this content coverage.

Scale matters and is directly linked to content quality, through the need for relevance and coverage. Listen to Hubspot and others about blogging efficacy. The debate that focuses on quantity vs. quality is fallacious.

A key determinant of quality is relevance. Despite how insightful or creative any content piece is, if it isn’t relevant, quality suffers. You have to provide quality, buyer useful and insightful content that covers your buyer’s primary questions and information requirements, as well as your use case requirements such as relevant, multi-touch lead nurturing tracks. This means you better have a process to create content to scale.

“Overall, educational content, in the form of articles, reviews or case studies, is the most valuable resource.”

The education phase is one of the most important, and often weakest phase for content. There are many issues and buyer questions that must be addressed. This is where an organization can distinguish itself, create real value, and begin to influence buying criteria.

While content pieces don’t have to be lengthy, to explain complex and important issues may require more time. An 8 to 15 minute video or webinar for example would be appropriate at this stage. Don’t prejudge content length. Create the right content, and let that be your guide. Of course brevity is valued. But the consumption mindset in this mid-buying stage is more about learning, and learning for important buying decisions usually takes more than 2 minutes.

“Depending on the stage of the purchase process, between 49% and 80% of ITDMs are likely to watch at least one type of video when formulating purchase plans.”

Note “depending on the stage” and “at least one” type of video. Executives are consuming video content at multiple stages, and perhaps for several topics or reasons. Most important and complex issues and messages should be delivered as video, so develop a process to create situational relevant content at scale.

Whether it’s the primary explanation, an executive summary of a longer white paper or webinar, or a promotional video to get someone to read or attend a longer content piece, video is easy to consume and share. It is an important part of your content mix.

“Just 3% of ITDMs are receptive to being contacted by a salesperson after consuming one piece of content related to a purchase. On average, ITDMs need to consume five pieces of content before they are ready to be contacted by a sales rep.”

This report provides the evidence marketers need to make this point credibly to sales people. And this evidence can be a helpful determinant of a “sales ready lead.” Marketers have to help sales calibrate an appropriate followup. Too many initial sales conversations force buyers to backtrack to the beginning. They know the vendor better than the sales rep knows the buyer. Tracking tools embedded in CRM systems can provide the necessary background on buyer activity to inform an better conversation.

“42% of IT heads find it extremely or very challenging to find trusted information, compared to 35% of non-heads of IT.

ITDMs want— and expect—to consume this information on their own terms, through whichever media works best for them at any particular time. Creating the appropriate mix of quality, quantity, timing, and delivery channels, therefore, is critical to a successful content-marketing initiative.”

Content curation, especially early stage content, is an important and under-used tactic for marketers. In markets with even a minimum maturity level, many vendors may not be able to add much unique value to early stage, “why change” explanations.

This suggests you should focus content investment and efforts on mid stage, education oriented content. Answer key buyer questions and information requirements, and feed the voracious lead nurturing beast. At this stage buyers are often open to learning about new possibilities and options, so vendors can start to influence buying criteria. And this is a game where he who controls the buying criteria, wins.

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