Be Present, but Be Patient: The Role of Content in the B2B Buying Journey

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B2B sales have always been challenging as corporate red tape can deter buying influencers from seeking or suggesting new vendors for products and services—even at a lower price or better quality. Buyers also dread the runaround of scheduling calls, demos, researching and so on, just to be told “no” in the end. So of course the Internet is becoming the go-to place for researching new options and solutions as decision-makers seek all of the answers they can get while avoiding the sales hoopla. Or at least they think they’re avoiding it.

B2B Buyers’ Behavior (and more words that start with B)

Content consumption for B2B consumers is on the rise. Marketing Land called out that on average, B2B buyers are consuming 13 pieces of content before choosing a vendor. THIRTEEN PIECES. It sounds shockingly high in a time where we assume people are reading less and less. (We’ll get to that.)

In a 2020 roundup of stats from industry experts, The Marketing Blender shared key insights that will help us all understand what’s happening in B2B buying.

  • An estimated 73% of millennials in the workforce are involved in the purchasing process when it comes to products or services at their companies.
  • In businesses from 100-500 employees, there are seven people involved in the buying decision on average.
  • Most buyers (70%) are defining their own needs before reaching out to a salesperson, while 44% are already identifying their preferred solution before reaching out.
  • For 63% of consumers, It takes 3-5 times of hearing what a company claims before believing it.
  • 9/10 buyers indicated online content has a moderate to major impact on their purchasing outcomes.
  • 80% of decision-makers value a series of content over ads.
  • Engineers are consuming 24% more content than they were a year ago - and the majority of that content (84%!) is online.

That’s a lot of data that supports the idea that people are thirsty for information, and want to find it on their own. They’re doing their research. They’re seeking solutions to their problems. And they’re not waiting on you to schedule a call to pitch them your widget or genie-in-a-bottle software.

How to Use Content to Pave the Way for Sales

From everything we can see, B2B buyers are craving information. And while they’re avoiding salespeople upfront, there are ways to work around it. When marketing and sales collide, that’s where the magic happens. Here are the things to keep in mind:

1. Content feeds every marketing channel you have AND satiates your buyers need for solutions.

Create content—lots and lots of content. But don’t create content for content-creating sake! Find out what your buyers need, what their pain points are (hint: if your sales team has ever talked to your ideal customer, they’ll have major insight on what these people need!), what their interests are and anything else that will help snag their attention.

2. Consider different types of content throughout the sales funnel.

You might need a fun quiz or poll to start an engagement—something light-hearted that can be interacted with quickly. Say you’re a furniture store, you might create a quick quiz that helps people understand their design style. Or if you’re trying to target IT professionals, you might consider starting with a Superhero Showdown or Game of Thrones vs. The Witcher.

A little deeper in the funnel, you might want to consider something more informative and educational, like a white paper or case study. At that depth, buyers are looking for solutions and you need them to gain confidence in your company through your content. Remember, in a lot of ways, this is replacing a traditional upfront sales relationship.

From emails to blog posts to webinars, social posts, downloadable guides and how-tos,  infographics, videos, ebooks, podcasts, live video, solution briefs, datasheets and the list goes on—seemingly forever! Content expansion is real and driven by demand. Meet the demand.

3. Remember who you’re talking to.

We learned that in businesses from 100-500 employees, usually seven people are involved in the purchasing process. Those seven people hold a range of roles. The end-users are your inside sales people. They need your solution. They’re seeking it. They have to help sell it internally. They might be distracted by shiny widgets and flashy features. But their boss might be solely focused on cost. While the production manager might be more concerned with the length of time it’ll take to adopt the solution into their processes. And the IT team might be concerned with security and integration across various platforms. And the CEO might have insight on business changes that none of these other players even know is coming. And the list goes on—seemingly forever! (Are we seeing a trend?)

Know your target audience. Know how their audience is, too. Your company might not be able to attend the board meeting where your product and service is being pitched. Arm your buyers and their stakeholders well, and meet the varying needs with the right content.

4. Be present, but also be patient.

If it really takes 13 touches on average for a company to choose a vendor, we all better be ready to play the long game. Quick wins aren’t the norm when it comes to B2B sales. You have to strategically be present as your information is being sought, deliver the right asset when they need it most and close-before-the-close with a case study or testimonial that proves you’re the right choice.

We can help you navigate the B2B content journey.

Hi, we’re Sanctuary. We’ll be your guide as you travel down your very own content journey.

Each content journey is unique to your business and your market. From the sea of possible content types to the handful of stakeholders you have to impress to the time and expertise it takes to figure it all out—it can be overwhelming! You don’t have to pave the way alone. Take the first step to creating a journey that closes today.