Vendors certainly know the true value of what they are vending, but when they seek to convince business buyers of the value, the buyers become suspicious.
According to "Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field," a new study from the CMO Council and NetLine, business buyers belittle vendors and give much higher marks for content trustworthiness to professional organizations and industry groups, whose information is considered more usable and relevant.
“Buyers are not happy with vendors,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, in an interview with CMO.com. “Their content [tends to be] overtechnical, product-centric, and self-serving”--and buyers sense this. Neale-May said B2B marketers annually invest $16.6 billion in digital content publishing, used primarily to produce leads.
The report surveyed more than 400 business buyers across a wide range of global industries and other disciplines. It found a critical need for marketing organizations to bring more discipline and strategic thinking to content specification, delivery, and analytics.
Underscoring the report is the troubling suggestion that a whopping 25 percent of marketing budgets spent by CMOs is largely squandered because so many companies lack strategies, competencies, and best practices to effectively engage their markets.
“We need content performance measurement,” Neale-May said. “Nobody has actually done a content consumption study. For instance, companies like IBM and SAP publish vast amounts of data. But how much of it is actually used? Clearly, we need more measurement.”
With 86 percent of the survey respondents observing that online content plays a “major to moderate role in vendor selection,” the survey underscores the essential role played by online content in influencing B2B purchasing decisions. The most trusted and valued sources of online content cited by 67 percent of the respondents were research and white papers from professional organizations.
Trailing far behind in the trustworthiness category was the 9 percent who named vendor white papers.
“Too many vendors are failing buyers with overly promotional and overly technical content that doesn’t adequately address market challenges and customer needs,” Neale-May said. “B2B buyers are looking for content that’s original, consultative, and highly pertinent to where they are in their decision-making process.”
While about 47 percent of survey respondents cited professional associations and online communities, as well as industry organizations and groups, as the most valuable in shaping purchase decisions, other valuable sources cited were online trade publications, 41 percent; seminars and workshops, 41 percent; and trade shows, 35 percent.
The top four characteristics valued in B2B content were breadth and depth of information, ease of access and understanding, originality of thinking, and timeliness of content. What do they dislike? Among their peeves: too many requirements for downloading, and content that is blatantly promotional, nonsubstantive or uninformed, overly technical or complex, or poorly written.
Observing that B2B players in the current digital and interactive age tend to eschew print research as they develop content, Neale-May said the big challenge is how to make the content relevant and how to deliver it. “Relevance and trust drive better content performance across the purchase funnel,” Neale-May said. “Peer-powered organizations, including professional communities and industry groups, offer brands the opportunity to access powerful insights into customer audiences, as well as trusted channels for content engagement.”
In developing the snapshot of B2B content sourcing behavior, the survey drew on a sample from NetLine’s global content syndication network of 15,000 publishing sites, blogs, and communities. NetLine’s multichannel content delivery model enables the California company to reach a diverse audience of more than 75 million business professionals. Also involved in developing the survey was the CMO Council’s new Content ROI Center, which is aimed at improving the performance of content marketing in marketing organizations.
Comments about the survey from CMOs indicated that marketers increasingly understand the importance of beefing up their content strategies--even as they admit much of their older approaches are lacking.
“Budgets for content marketing have to grow,” said Laura Breslaw, CMO for global consulting firm Alix Partners. “It’s no longer about putting a brochure or thought leadership piece in the mail and presenting at a conference. You have to address the various audience strategies, particularly around digital, and build those into your go-to-market plan early on.”
Colleen Albiston, CMO for Deloitte in Canada, sees shorter, more accessible formats, such as video and multimedia, as tools for influencing business audiences. She pointed to a recent Deloitte study in which infographics, motion graphics, social media, and other content enabled the company to reach a wider than normal audience of decision makers and key influencers.
Meagan Eisenberg, vice president of demand generation at DocuSign, said the electronic signature company realized a 65 percent reduction in churn after a content nurturing system was introduced; 25 percent of that gain was within the corporate sales group.