A recent IDG survey of 600 IT buyers discovered that they're only finding content relevant to their needs and their stage in the buying cycle only 42% of the time.
Let me say it again >> only 42% of the time!
You know what happens when they don't find what they need, right? They leave. They go elsewhere and your company is eliminated from consideration. And, although this survey was conducted with IT buyers, it's my hunch that it pretty much sums up the state of marketing content for the complex sale.
Here are a few reasons why it's important to have a content strategy:
- There are multiple people involved in a complex sale. Each with a different perspective and investment in project outcomes.
- Buyers have different content needs at different times. For example, the research found that buyers in early stages preferred documents like articles and white papers, but wanted webcasts in mid-stages. Demos, documents and tutorials were most valuable at late stages and customer success stories and scenarios were important for a longer stretch of the buying process once the business case had been made.
- People learn in different ways and have preferences about how they consume their information. This is why podcasts, video and written content options can be a boon to increasing a buyer's perception of relevance.
- Peer reviews, recommendations and referrals carry weight. It's a trust and believability thing. Begin with customer stories and testimonials by people and companies like them/theirs.
Here's something I found quite generous. IDG also learned in this research that buyers were willing to be incredibly nice about the content issue. All they wanted was to find that the majority (56%) of the content was relevant to them and they'd be satisfied.
But, still they're being left disappointed.
I wouldn't be that generous, so that's a gift. But, I'd also recommend you thank them kindly and aim higher. You know, like to 99.99% relevance.
IDG found that this lack of relevancy perceived by buyers is responsible for reducing the vendor's chance of closing the sale by 45%. So, in case you thought buyers just wouldn't notice if your content was garbage, now would be the time to reconsider that stance.
If you were waiting for proof that a content strategy is important, here you go. It's past time to go find out how to meet and exceed the content expectations of your buyers, influencers, recommenders and champions and devise a plan for delivering content that suits the needs for each of them.
Not just one round of content development, either. Business environments change, priorities get shuffled and innovation clips right along affecting how your solutions will deliver perceived business value to your customers. Be consistent about content delivery and keep it focused on the specific audience it's designed for.
The days of one-size-fits-all content are over.
Complex sales require multiple touch points. You need content for each one of them.
Marketers who can serve up relevant, high-value content to the right audience in the right format at the right time have the opportunity to deliver more sales-ready opportunities to their sales teams.
That sounds like a good way to start 2009 to me. What's your content relevance plan for next year?