The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and NetLine Corporation recently put out a report (via MarketingProfs) finding that customer content sharing circles strongly impact pre-sale vendor selection. More and more, "insight-hungry" businesses are relying on trusted third-party information to make their decisions.
It also found that buyers are often clustered in "distinctly different content sharing circles".
The report is based on data from 352 business buyers during January. Participants came from all executive levels across 30 different industries. It identifies three primary types of sharing circles:
- From the middle out (35 percent): Content sourcing and purchase decisions are driven by tactically focused executives, but senior management is informed about how and why key decisions were made.
- From the bottom up (30 percent): Junior or mid-level managers source primary content and share upstream to members of senior management, who then make the final purchase decision.
- From the top down (29 percent): Senior management consumes content, sending information downstream for product identification and final purchase and execution.
These circles are being powered by three segments of content personas, the report suggests:
- Researchers: Primarily seek out the most broad and expansive content and are focused on new industry reports and research to inform them of advancements in solutions, trends impacting the market and opportunities for improvement
- Influencers: Interested in both the broad thought leadership consumed through trusted third-party channels, as well as vendor-branded technology specifications, data sheets and use cases. This group emerges as the segment most interested in summarized content, including infographics, video and blog commentary.
- Decision Makers: Want to stay informed through research reports and analyst commentary but also expect to have access to data in order to speed and enable better decision making in the tail end of the decision funnel
According to the report, the web is the main place business buyers begin their path to purchase with 68% starting at search engines. It also found that while buyers are seeking out input from trusted third-parties, facts and data-driven insights from vendors are the second most valued source of content in purchasing decisions.
“B2B marketers annually invest an estimated $16.6 billion in digital content publishing to acquire business leads, influence customer specification and consideration, as well as educate and engage prospects,” says Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. “Despite spending about 25 percent of their marketing budgets on content creation, most companies lack the necessary strategies, competencies and best practices to effectively engage their markets, and very few have content performance metrics in place to measure effectiveness and calculate ROI.”
As far as the actual reasons buyers are using content, the top five were: identifying best practices/best-of-breed solutions, determining where competitive differentiation can be achieved, clarifying the position of a specific vendor or partner, setting the strategic agenda and assessing areas of need and prioritization, and providing perspective from trusted/neutral sources.
You can find the complete report here.
Image via CMO Council