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Study: Audience-Centric Marketing Most Impactful For Each Buying Scenario

New research from SiriusDecisions — based on B2B buyer behavior over the past year — has revealed that taking an audience-centric approach to marketing throughout each stage of the buying decision has a positive impact no matter the buying scenario — an individual, a consensus or a buying committee. Other than previous experience with the vendor, the top-two decision drivers were the influence of customer references or testimonials and the abilities for vendors to meet the specific buyer’s needs.

Longer Buying Cycles, Shifting Expectations Cause B2B Marketers To Rethink Strategies

The B2B buyer’s journey continues to grow longer and more complex: Almost half of the B2B buyers surveyed for Demand Gen Report’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey said their purchasing cycles have increased somewhat since last year. That’s because there are more people getting involved in the buying process, they’re taking more time to evaluate products and they’re demanding more proof of ROI upfront, according to the survey.

Content Inventories And Audits: Two Components Of Successful Gap Analysis

As B2B companies continue to invest more and more resources, time and energy into content, many are starting to realize that they’ve got to understand their own content first, including how it is working for them. B2B companies such as New Pig are finding value in analyzing their content offerings — and filling gaps in their content inventory.

Industry experts within the B2B marketplace note that gaining a firm grasp of content inventory is a crucial component of content gap analysis.

“One of the biggest trends is that companies are taking initiative to understand their content and how their content is working for them,” said Jeff Freund, CEO and Founder of Akoonu, an account-based marketing and selling platform. “Companies have realized that they have a ton of content out there and don’t necessarily understand what it all is, or how its being used. And that’s something that’s critical for content marketing teams.” 

New Pig Gains Deeper Understanding Of Buyer Needs

New Pig, a manufacturer of industrial spill cleanup materials, realized their “big pile of legacy content” was not driving the thought leadership and demand generation it wanted. The company teamed up with Akoonu to help them understand their audience, look at their content process and align it with the buyer’s journey.

“By understanding their personas better, [New Pig] realized [they had] a huge gap in their content,” said Jeff Freund, CEO and Founder of Akoonu. “They had a [specific] buyer that, as a marketing team, they never focused on and weren’t aware of their influence and needs in terms of content. So when they were able to distinguish that this persona had high relevance to the buying journey, they were able to really understand that persona, understand the role in the buyer’s journey and craft content to deliver in that gap that they didn’t identify going in.”

After conducting a gap analysis, New Pig gained a deeper understanding of what their customers wanted. For example, they realized their customers didn’t want to read their blog, but preferred a learning center. Now, “much of the content is the same but it’s re-crafted to a presentation that is more aligned with the buyer,” said Freund. 

The mentality of “the more content, the better” no longer resonates in the industry. Research from Demand Gen Report’s 2016 Content Preferences Survey Report shows that 83% of buyers remain overwhelmed by the amount of content available. This highlights the importance of focusing on quality over quantity, which is why conducting a content inventory and audit is crucial to a successful content gap analysis.  

Content strategy agencies such as Content4Demand and Content Strategy Inc. both emphasize the importance of conducting content inventories and audits to get a clear picture of where the gaps in content lie.

“Gap analysis is part of a process,” said Dana Harder, VP of Client Strategy at Content4Demand. “Very seldom do we have someone come in asking for a gap analysis. Our clients know they have existing content, but don’t know what that is or how to break it up. A lot of times the gap analysis discussion happens when we’re talking about repurposing content or auditing content. Once you audit the content, then we can determine your gap.”

First, Define The Buyer’s Journey And Conduct Inventory

Before marketers can identify gaps in their content, first they must understand the buyer’s journey. It’s imperative to identify how the buyer consumes information and content, said Kathy Wagner, Co-Founder of Content Strategy Inc.

“Typically, we start by defining the customer journey and mapping the content to each particular journey in a particular audience segment that we’re focusing on,” she said. “We’ll look at things like what topics are important, what formats people want to see, what messaging resonates with them and what content types are important at that stage.”

The inventory begins once there is a complete understanding of the journey. Conducting inventory — which essentially means pulling together a list of the content assets — will provide insight into how much and what kind of content a company has on hand.

“It needs to be done, because, for example, if you’re going to have somebody else audit your content, you have to provide them with an inventory list at some point, otherwise they can’t get to the content,” said Content4Demand’s Harder. “Getting that content in a central place is going to be necessary in order to do the audit in any sort of efficient manner.”

Next, Content Audit 101

Before conducting an audit, marketers must identify clear buyer personas and correlating messages for their content, Harder added.

Once there is a clear picture of the persona and messaging, the audit — or analysis — of the content inventory can begin. This is where marketers must answer questions regarding their content, including:

  • Is this content current?
  • Is it on brand?
  • Is it relevant to the buyer?
  • Are there statistics in this content that can become outdated?
  • What is the repurposing potential?

After conducting the audit, many marketers realize they didn’t have as much relevant content as they thought they did.

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“What we often see is marketing groups that want to shift to buyer-focused marketing, said Matt McKenzie, Chief Content Officer at Content4Demand. “They want to begin using content to engage in conversation with their buyers, and to generate content for better engagement and better results. What they find is they have this body of existing content, some of which is suitable for this purpose and some that isn’t.”

“[Many marketers] think they have a lot of content but they don’t,” said Harder. That’s because  “they don’t have a lot of the right content, which is always the hard part to tell them. The foundational strategy of a content marketing program is that it needs to be buyer-focused, and often their content is not buyer-focused. It’s very product-heavy. Nine out of 10 times that’s what we’ll find.”

Another common challenge for marketers is not having enough content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. In many occasions, companies tend to have a plethora of top-of-funnel content, but not as much middle- and late-stage content, Harder said. This is where gaps become more prominent.

“When we get to the gap analysis we say, ‘Here’s the messaging we need to reach, now which content assets of the audit do you have that are existing?’ We’ll pull those assets and plug it into the six-stage buyers journey and customize it if a client has a different need. Then we will go through the gap [analysis] and see, ‘You have a lot of content at stage one, two and three, but you have nothing at four and five.’ And then, ‘You have something at stage six, but it has to be repurposed.’”

However, a content gap analysis doesn’t have to be a “big, nasty, complex project,” said Content4Demand’s McKenzie.

“If you’re just accomplishing two things — [identifying the] buying stage and target persona — you’ve done a lot of the work you need to do for a gap analysis. If you’re pressed for time and resources, you can stop right there and do a pretty good job of knowing what you’ve got in your content library for a campaign and where your gaps are.”

From Content To Customer: 6 Tools for Turning Content Consumers into Customers


By Jesse Noyes, Corporate Reporter, Eloqua

Maybe no one needs to sell you on content marketing.Jesse_Noyes

You’ve got some guidance on how to map content to the buyer’s journey. But perhaps you’re still wondering what tools can help make the path smoother.

From blogging to email, there are so many touches in the journey from someone first finding your content to becoming a customer that it can feel overwhelming. These 6 technologies can make delivering, optimizing and measuring your content easier.

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