Most of the legwork in B2B purchasing decisions is done before any direct contact with suppliers. In the race to influence buyer behaviour, content marketing can get you to the front of the grid.
According to MarketingProfs, up to 70% of the research involved in B2B purchase decisions is carried out before any direct contact with firms’ sales teams. Scoping and planning, identifying a potential need, researching key questions, looking for best practice examples and learning from the experiences of others might all precede an initial approach to a provider, an information request or RFP.
The number of people involved in B2B decision-making is different to B2C purchases. Deciding to hire a firm of consultants, for instance, may turn on the whim of a CEO, but is more likely to involve various board members, finance, IT, HR, procurement, divisional and operations managers, technical teams and so on.
Each member of a B2B chain of command – pension funds seeking long-term investment partners, insurance firms updating risk management software, blue-chips looking for legal advice on a merger – will not only want to have a full grasp of the issues within their own area of expertise but also to understand other perspectives.
So where is this research carried out?
Fuelling the engine
Individuals will have their own trusted sources of information, from professional press serving their markets, tradeshows and events, to personal networks on and offline, colleagues, contacts and advisers.
But for B2B buyers of all shapes and sizes, and for the individuals in the networks that support them, online search and social media are playing an increasingly important role. And with the rapid take-up of tablets and smartphones in the business world, that trend is set to continue.
All of which means a major opportunity for brands wishing to influence their thinking, from established firms wanting to reinforce their status, to challenger brands aiming to capture attention around a particular specialism.
Google’s changing algorithms are giving added value to regular, richer, original, new and varied content delivered in responsive, mobile-friendly formats. It’s no longer enough for B2B firms to add a few white paper PDFs, brochures and case studies on a static website and hope for the best.
Brands that don’t want to be left behind must regularly create and adapt key pieces of content in a rich variety of formats to answer the questions buyers might face at each stage – informative, clear, up to date, and without the hard sell.
Making that content accessible and shareable means it can easily be discussed with others in the buying team and across existing networks, driving awareness and engagement, and increasing the chances of securing the business. In fact analysis by the CMO Council found that some 28% of B2B buyers share content with more than 100 colleagues and 59% forward content to more than 25 people.
Successful content marketing requires time, commitment and the confidence that continued investment in providing quality information in the earlier stages of the buying cycle will pay dividends at the business end of proceedings.
Some B2B firms question the value of content to deliver real business benefits, but in fact it’s a no-brainer. If you’re not in the content marketing race, someone else will take the chequered flag.