As this research article from the CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council in partnership with Google shows, these B2B customers will be doing most of their research on the web (mobile, desktop) before contacting potential vendors. So the information and answers these B2B buyers are looking for should be online.
- “Customer learning is happening all the time, and doesn’t coincide with your campaign calendar.”
- “If the customer is always learning, then Marketing must always be teaching.”
This is where ‘content marketing’ comes in. Content marketing is one of the most important ingredient of successful B2B marketing. But as Corey Mull’s puts it, many organizations fail to do it right and B2B marketing teams often haven’t caught up with this evolution and adjusted their teams accordingly. “Most [of companies’] content is low value” and “not at all useful for customers in the midst of a learning journey.”
B2B’s Digital Evolution
New research from CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council shows that potential business customers are increasingly using digital channels to form opinions about major purchases. Today’s business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete. The challenge for marketers is to be present in these channels at all times with content that educates buyers and helps guide commercial decisions.
Throughout 2011 and 2012, Google worked with CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council to survey 1,500 business leaders who have recently been involved in major purchases for 22 large B2B organizations. The results suggest that a new paradigm in business-to-business marketing has taken hold.
The challenge is digital
It wasn’t always like this. That customers can engage in this self-directed learning is thanks to the internet; that they must learn about products and solutions themselves is a function of increased budget pressure amid a stagnant economy.
So what’s wrong with waiting for customers to come to us? Because by the time they do, they have hardened expectations about what they want out of a supplier – and at that point, your job is to take their order and fill it for the lowest price. They’re learning on their own, and there’s no room to teach them why what they’ve taught themselves is wrong.
It’s Marketing’s job to influence the 57 percent of the sale that occurs mostly on the web, before Sales contact, but three challenges – incomplete digital integration, ineffective content, and a poorly-optimized channel mix – are keeping marketers from growing mindshare and making the most of what they are getting already.
Most marketing leaders still treat digital as an unwanted appendage on the traditional marketing campaign cycle, which goes roughly like this: Create a new product, design a campaign touting its features and benefits, figure out a place to stick digital channels within that campaign architecture, execute, measure, repeat.
Take a look at the story we began with, and it becomes clear why this approach won’t work. Customer learning is happening all the time, and doesn’t coincide with your campaign calendar. Marketing organizations have largely been designed from the ground up to support and optimize campaigns, not maintain the continuous presence that the digital channel requires. Marketing management must adjust; if the customer is always learning, then Marketing must always be teaching.
Persuasive, focused content
It’s not enough to teach; you have to teach well. And the dirty little secret of most content marketing is that it does neither. It’s obvious why: Content creation has been allowed to grow organically, with the inevitable result, our research shows, that it has typically spread across multiple business and product lines and lacks a consistent, cohesive message.
all of that leads us to the biggest problem with current B2B digital approaches: They rely on content that is not at all useful for customers in the midst of a learning journey. Most content is low value; it may be interesting or get a lot of ‘engagement,’ but it doesn’t help buyers make commercial decisions.
This is a structural problem. Marketing’s content creation machine is not designed to create consistent, focused messages.
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