B2B marketers know there are a number of people involved in a complex buying decision. What often goes overlooked is understanding not only who the marketing programs can reach and engage but how content gets shared among the group. It's common sense that the more people within an organization your content gains exposure with, the more opportunity your ideas and expertise has to gain sway.
But, it's not as simple as we could hope for. The CMO Council report, The Content Connection to Vendor Selection, finds that there are three nearly equally weighted scenarios for content sharing among B2B buyers:
- 35% from the middle out
- 30% from the bottom up
- 29% from the top down
While the study arrived at definitions for 6 "personas" - two for each type of researcher, influencer and decision maker - for how people source content and what types they favor, the problem I have with establishing "grazers" or "authority leaders" is that they're nearly impossible to identify through online behavior in a way that's meaningful.
Rather than aiming for one type of content sharing, B2B marketers need to take into account all three, as well as all the different types of content people choose to source. From the projects I've helped my clients develop and run, there are a few things I've found to be helpful for getting content into more hands of the folks in the buying group:
Present ideas that are relevant to one buyer persona along with why another persona in the group would find the idea valuable. Prompts can be subtle influencers that become conversation starters and promote content sharing. Make sure to do this without breaking the context of your content.
Statements along the lines of: "While [persona 1 - your target audience] will find value in this capability, [persona 2] will appreciate this outcome as it helps them to achieve objective X."
Content Asset Balance:
Hat tip to Shelly Lucas (@pisarose) for this term.
While marketers tend to focus on pre-sales content that builds awareness and informs short-list selection, they need to focus on an asset balance that addresses all stages of the continuum buying experience. People on the buying committee will come in and out of the process depending on how the decision will impact them, their role and their workflows.
Different levels of depth and formats of content are more valuable at different times. By relegating marketing content to the pre-sales or even to the very earliest stages of the buying process, we're leaving a lot of opportunity to impact the decision up for grabs with our competitors. Map the entire process for each persona, as well as the overlays that may drive further interaction.
For example, in the case above, if Persona 2 becomes interested and comes looking for more about how your solution can help her gain the outcome mentioned in the content that was shared with her, will you have it? Will your salesperson know where to find it if she asks the question?
Assess Access First
During the development of buyer personas is when you find out how easily you'll be able to reach a specific persona. In every project I work on, one or more of the people marketing needs to engage and influence for sales conversations isn't an easy target. By figuring out who invites the most open access, you can then tailor your strategy for how to ensure your content is spreadable once access has been granted. Think of it as a Trojan Horse approach.
The whole point is to get your company's ideas and expertise used to set the agenda for how to best solve the problem. And it is doable. It just takes a little finesse.
Shameless plug: One of the main concepts of my new book, Digital Relevance is The Continuum Experience. If you'd really like to understand its value, the book will help. It comes out on January 6th.