It’s universally acknowledged that a diversified portfolio will protect you from financial risk. Well, the philosophy of diversification in finance applies to content marketing as well – to build content authority, content marketing strategists need to expand their content across multiple formats and channels, as different B2B content buyers use, share, and rely on a broad range of content formats and sources, The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council suggests in its most recent research.
The report “The Content Connection to Vendor Selection” was conducted by CMO, in collaboration with NetLine, a B2B performance-based integrated marketing company that provides lead generation. The report reveals that while content marketing strategists are looking to develop relevant content by segmenting their audiences, there’s no single sharing circle pattern that dominates the vendor journey.
Among the 352 business content buyers surveyed, 35 percent of them say that content sourcing and purchase decisions are driven by execution-level executives (from the middle out), while 30 percent say that primary content is sourced by junior or mid-level managers first, and then is shared upward to senior management who make the final purchase decision (from the bottom up). By contrast, 29 percent responded that senior management consumes content first, and sends information downstream for product identification and final purchase (from the top down).
“Don’t just assume that thought leadership is only consumed by the CXO you are targeting in your sales approach,” says Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing at The CMO Council. “Position your content as an authority leader, sharing your organization’s knowledge with the industry.”
The report points out that these three circles (from the middle out, from the bottom up, and from the top down) are accompanied by six distinct personas that consume different types of content. Therefore, there isn’t one specific form of content that will lead to a purchase decision. The research divides B2B content consumers into six categories, including:
- Sharers (32 percent): They research, consume, and summarize content. Research reports and studies are the most consumed content types among this group
- Critical Contributors (25 percent): They are primary influencers in the buying process, who research and consume content independently. In order to gather a broad range of information, they prefer summarized content such as blog posts.
- Decision Drivers (23 percent): They are primary decision makers and budget holders. They keep abreast of industry trends and new solutions that could impact the organization. Research reports and studies are most important for this group (77 percent), followed by technical specs and data sheets (61 percent), analyst intelligence and insight (48 percent), white papers (37 percent), as well as editorial reviews and articles (32 percent).
- Gathers (10 percent): They research and identify content, but they rarely consume the collected content. Meanwhile, they are interested in the quantity of content, rather than content sources that specify solutions or product information.
- Authority Leaders (6 percent): They are both primary decision makers and budget holders. Different from decision drivers, they don’t research or source their own content. More than two-thirds of them leverage analyst insights (67 percent), as well as research reports and studies (62 percent) to make decisions. They also often read technical specs (50 percent) and white papers (39 percent).
- Informed Influencer (4 percent): They are key influencers in an organization. However, they neither research nor have budget authority. Two-thirds of them consider analyst intelligence and insights as the most valuable content types. They are also interested in bite-size formats such as infographics and pictograms.
So how to target B2B content buyers and accelerate the content sales process? “What this research shows is that it is not about identifying an executive or segment you want to reach, but developing an authority leadership platform from which your content expands upon across multiple iterations, formats, and delivery channels,” Miller tells ClickZ.
Meanwhile, she provides some suggestions based on the findings in this research, including:
- Identify a platform that is unique to your brand’s expertise
- Develop a point of view and use industry facts and stats, research, and insights to back up your point of view
- Leverage third-party syndicators, including editorial sources and other associations where you can find the audience you want to influence
To complete the research, CMO and Netline surveyed 352 respondents across 30 different industry sectors during January 2014. You can request this report from CMO to see more insights.