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B2B marketers, how much do you know your customers?

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4th Aug 2013
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With today’s buyer far more content to do their own research than sift through promotional messages, B2B marketers must more intelligently understand their customer base if they are to provide educational content marketing that impacts the decision journey.

So says Forrester analyst Peter O’Neill, who explains that in today’s ‘need-match-engage’ world, marketers must create content that educates and informs without pushing products too aggressively. 

“The rules of digital engagement dictate that readers are only interested in an answer to their immediate query, which may be purely business-related — i.e., not about a product at all but about how to solve a business issue,” he says.

“So marketers must now invest time and resources to establish how different buyers research their product needs or business issues, which depends on each buyer’s level within a firm and range of responsibilities. Essentially, marketers must discover and document the typical full research and decision journeys of all the specific buyers they aim to reach with their communications.”

As outlined in his recent report, Establish Your Content Marketing Life Cycle, O’Neill provides three things that B2B marketers must consider:

Buyers now include users or consumers: When planning research interviews, marketers frequently ask their sales colleagues for customer contacts and then interview those buyers. But projects are often initiated by business users who have a business issue or need to achieve a certain business outcome. These are the users or consumers of your business product or service, not the people who eventually buy it.  

A buyer research taxonomy is important: Higher-level or executive buyers don't type ‘ERP’ into a search engine during their discovery phase. They look for information that relates to their business issues and outcomes and that is the language they use. As a result, it's critical that B2B marketers recognize that their awareness/discovery content must use the buyer's language.

Buyers have many sources of content —most of which aren't vendor marketing or sales: Marketers must also ask where their buyers look for the content that influences their decision-making. B2B buyers tell Forrester that they find 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision (using search, communities, discussion forums, websites, and blogs), rather than receiving it from marketing or sales.

Marketers are learning to help their buyers access their thought-leadership and educational content by placing it outside their own website and communicating it in a way that's collaborative and useful from the buyer’s perspective.

He concludes: “Content marketing is a business process and B2B marketers should be diligent, systematic, and professional about the marketing content they produce. Consider the full life cycle for each content asset and plan resources around this life cycle. More importantly, measure and report the return on your content assets.”

Fellow Forrester analyst Mark Lindwall recently wrote of the need for salespeople to understand how buyers calculate value in solutions or services.  

“A significant problem for many companies (and their salespeople) is that their product managers, marketers, and sales trainers believe that their products or services have intrinsic value that just needs to be presented to make sales,” he said.

“In reality, buyers are the only real judges of value, and they don’t care about your offering unless it has the specific impact they desire at an acceptable level of risk and investment to gain that impact.”

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