The Role of Content in the B2B IT Buying Process


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The 2012 Customer Engagement Study, conducted by IDG Enterprise and released at the end of September, focused on learning more about the role content plays in an IT Decision Maker’s buying process.

A validation for the role of content:

Enterprise IT Decision Makers engage with an average of 10 content assets during their buying process.

When I first read this, I nodded my head and thought, yes, this justifies the need for increasing the volume of content, as well as the quality of that content. But then I wondered how many of those assets were sourced from the vendor they decided to buy from? Or, at least referenced the vendor, as would be the case with an analyst report such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Reports or other vendor analysis.

If the average is 10 resources, would you need to have at least 5 of them be from your company to sway the decision in your favor? Eight? Or would 2 or 3 well placed assets be enough to gain your company a spot on their shortlist?

That brings up which stage you need to influence the most. My money is betting on weighting more heavily the content buyers engage with before they fully engage in the buying process. Not at the exclusion of the other stages, but most companies are lacking in content that sets the stage, so to speak.

Here’s why:

  • The company that sets the stage for thinking about the problem and pondering the options for solving it can become the anchor for how their prospects think about doing so.
  • Cementing your company as an option prior to the review of other vendors makes your company the yard stick by which all others are measured.

Don’t just stop at the number 10.

10 content assets is reflective of one buyer. In many of my client projects we’ve identified 3 – 5 different stakeholders (personas) that must be educated and persuaded across the buying process. That’s a total of 30 to 50 pieces of content. It’s also 3 different focused “stories.” So there’s work to be done.

The report also states that:

The average IT Decision Maker needs to consume 5 pieces of content before they are ready to talk to a salesperson.

This is great to know, but if you wait until you see a prospect access 5 pieces of content from your website, have you waited too long? Unless you’re certain that all content on the subject consumes is produced by your company, then this isn’t awfully helpful except to give content increasing credit for influence – which we all know it has, if it’s designed for the buyer in question.

All of this aside, there are three findings from the study that I find immensely useful:

1. Buyers are willing to receive follow-up content related to what they’ve already downloaded. And they want up to two pieces within 4 weeks of the original download.

This indicates that marketers using marketing automation systems that can be set up with triggers to send related content after download will have an advantage. Of course, that also means that they will need to plan their content development to ensure that the follow-on content is purposely an extension of the resource the buyer showed interest in.

Even better: “Only 20% of respondents said that they do not notice when content is delivered relating to search or previous downloads.”

2. IT Decision Makers share information mostly by email (86%), but 73% also use social media to source ideas and information to discuss with peers and colleagues.

  • Twitter is used by 59% primarily to share/Retweet technology articles, news, & info
  • G+ is used by 54% primarily to stay on top of trends in their industry or business
  • Facebook is used by 50% primarily to post comments on tech-related topics
  • YouTube is used by 49% primarily to receive tech advice from others

3. The following chart dispels the idea that specific formats of content are only desirable during one buying stage. This being said, notice the variety that interestes ITDMs.

Note that Case studies can be used beginning, middle, and end and that feature articles and how-to information also play a bigger role. It’s not just heavy-duty content, such as white papers. Overall, a variety of content is needed across the course of buying. It’s the topical progression that must be considered to generate movement and ongoing engagement.


[Click to Enlarge Graphic]

Content is definitely driving a large portion of the IT buying process. Are you serving up what your buyers need to take next steps toward purchase with your company?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


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