How B2B Marketers Can Engage Software Buyers with the Trinity of Content

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We know that B2B traditionally follows B2C selling trends – from making purchases with a credit card, to influencer marketing, to self-service, and more. In addition to stemming from the B2C world, all of these trends have another thing in common: they are increasing the speed at which one can buy. For example, 53% of business software buyers said they most often make purchases on a credit card. Additionally, over half (55%) have said they need less than three months to make a decision of over $20,000 – with all purchasing decisions made in less than six months for most (85%).

So, what does this mean for B2B marketers? Ultimately, it means that content is even more important than it already was. It can help overcome the top obstacles to making good software purchasing decisions, which include: inability to get credible content, lack of knowledge of vendor offerings, customer references being difficult to find, and not enough (or no) reviews on review websites.

Introducing the Trinity of Content

This is where the trinity of content comes in, the idea that buyers see content as one entity, but it emanates from three key sources:

  • Vendor content: Focuses on the product such as the website, marketing collateral, trials, demos
  • Expert content: Sourced from analyst firms, consultants, market experts, and influencers
  • Customer content: Anywhere real customers are voicing their opinions about the software, like review sites and social media platforms

If we continue with the B2C versus B2B comparison, let’s look at a consumer example that brings this concept to life and something many of us have experience with – myself included…buying a car. When it came to the research phase of this journey, I engaged with vendor content like commercials, sponsorships, video content, dealer experience, a test drive, and an interactive website. For the expert content, that brought me to sources like Consumer Reports, industry awards, JD Power, and recognized car experts. And, lastly, for customer content, I sourced consumer review sites like CarGurus and CarWise, I scrolled through social media feedback from customers, talked to friends about their experiences, and of course went to Reddit.

This was a lot of content, so it required significant time reading and culling through all of these sources. I needed to meet my family’s budget and justify that I had solid options to present. To narrow down my options and ultimately land at a decision, my journey was not linear. I navigated back and forth through those three different content types along the trinity we talked about.

Buying Software isn’t so Different from Buying a Car

We see this exact scenario playing out in B2B software today too. And, just as we saw in the car buying experience, these B2B purchasing journeys are also non-linear. However, we know that buying software is getting harder. The market is crowded as new vendors, tools, and categories constantly emerge. Take for example the martech landscape alone, which saw 9,932 different solutions in 2022 – an increase of 24% from just two years prior!

So, as a B2B brand, how can you use content to your advantage to stand out and reach prospective customers?

  1. Don’t limit yourself with just one content type. The trinity is key here, as each type of content serves a different purpose, and buyers use all three during their research. If you were to only lean into vendor content, you’d be missing out, as buyers will naturally look at other sources. Be sure to leverage expert and customer content in your marketing too.
  2. Understand how different content will influence buyers. Consumption of content isn’t linear so it’s important to know your buyer needs and then cater content accordingly as they move along their purchasing journey.
  3. Build trust. While software companies’ websites are the most often consulted source of information, only 38% of software buyers consider them the most trustworthy resource or rely on them the most when making major purchasing decisions for their company. However, 86% use peer review sites when buying software. And even more, 60% of those said they were more confident in buying decisions as a result of using online review sites. Remember, customer content may be just one piece of the trinity, but it’s a critical element for building trust with your buyers.

At the end of the day, whether I’m purchasing a pair of shoes, a hotel room, or a car in my personal life – or an expensive piece of software in my professional life – content is pivotal to how I reach my decision. As B2B marketers, we have an opportunity to optimize our content strategy to help buyers along their journey as they increasingly mirror their consumer shopping habits, including engaging in self-serve research.

Trust is at the heart of any good content strategy, so learn how to embrace the trinity of content for an optimal mix that best tells your story while building trust.

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