Customer Content Sharing Circles Strongly Impact Pre-Sale Vendor Selection, Reports New Study
CMO Council Finds Business Buying Behavior Shifts Based on Content Sharing Behavior, Selling Cycle Phase, Budget Authority and Role in Decision-Making Process
SAN JOSE, CA (March 26, 2014)
- New content marketing research by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council reveals insight-hungry business buyers are increasingly reliant on trusted third-party information to make more educated decisions. The study also found that buyers tend to be clustered in distinctly different content sharing circles based on how the purchasing process is being driven, as well as their levels of collaboration and decision-making responsibility.
The research, conducted in partnership with NetLine Corporation, surveyed the online content sourcing and sharing behaviors of 352 business buyers worldwide. It found that content downloaded from trusted sources on the Internet was essential to pre-sales discovery, qualification and selection of vendors. It also showed that the sourcing, sharing and consumption of content occurred mostly among three types of informally structured buying groups within enterprise organizations.
These three sharing circles are actually led by organizations where content radiates from the execution or mid-level of the organization outward, informing both senior and junior/functional roles to gain alignment over vendor selection. The three primary content sharing circles include:
- From the middle out (35 percent): Content sourcing and purchase decisions are driven by tactically focused executives, but senior management is informed about how and why key decisions were made.
- From the bottom up (30 percent): Junior or mid-level managers source primary content and share upstream to members of senior management, who then make the final purchase decision.
- From the top down (29 percent): Senior management consumes content, sending information downstream for product identification and final purchase and execution.
These content sharing circles are being powered by three key segments of content personas, each with their own behaviors, needs and expectations.
- Researchers: Primarily seek out the most broad and expansive content and are focused on new industry reports and research to inform them of advancements in solutions, trends impacting the market and opportunities for improvement
- Influencers: Interested in both the broad thought leadership consumed through trusted third-party channels, as well as vendor-branded technology specifications, data sheets and use cases. This group emerges as the segment most interested in summarized content, including infographics, video and blog commentary.
- Decision Makers: Want to stay informed through research reports and analyst commentary but also expect to have access to data in order to speed and enable better decision making in the tail end of the decision funnel
The research—conducted in partnership with NetLine Corporation, a world leader in business content syndication—is just one indication that marketers need to fine-tune their content strategies and capabilities as they seek to effectively engage today's customer audiences.
A new 39-page strategic brief based on this research—entitled "The Content Connection to Vendor Selection"—has been published by the CMO Council and NetLine to provide insights into how different types of marketing content impact critical phases of vendor identification, qualification and consideration, as well as the path to selection and purchase. This can be downloaded here
"B2B marketers annually invest an estimated $16.6 billion* in digital content publishing to acquire business leads, influence customer specification and consideration, as well as educate and engage prospects," notes Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. "Despite spending about 25 percent of their marketing budgets on content creation, most companies lack the necessary strategies, competencies and best practices to effectively engage their markets, and very few have content performance metrics in place to measure effectiveness and calculate ROI."
The study validates earlier CMO Council research that revealed 88 percent of 400 business buyers believe online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection, yet just 9 percent of respondents think of vendors as trusted sources of content. Furthermore, the study shows that the most influential types of content across both the awareness and evaluation phases of the buying journey are third-party validated research reports and studies.
Additional Key Findings From the Research
- The Web Wins...Just Not the Vendor's Web: The Internet is the primary place where business buyers begin the path to purchase. Some 68 percent start their content sourcing at search engines and portals, 40 percent go to vendor websites, and 25 percent are activated by an email from a trusted source or peer.
- Objectivity Trumps Push Messaging Every Time: Buyers are seeking thought leadership from third parties but still expect facts and data-driven insights from vendors to help make critical vendor selection decisions. A noticeable 44 percent see technical details and specs about products as the second-most valued source of content across their buying journey. The top five most sought-after types of content include:
- Comprehensive industry/category surveys and studies (52 percent)
- Technical details about products and solutions (44 percent)
- Analyst reviews or recommendations (43 percent)
- Expert-originated content with supporting facts and research (35 percent)
- Content published by third-party sources (35 percent)
- Buyers Want to Get Smarter, and Not Just Smarter About You: The top five reasons that business buyers use content are to:
- Identify best practices and best-of-breed solutions (51 percent)
- Determine where competitive differentiation can be achieved (50 percent)
- Clarify the position of a specific vendor or partner (43 percent)
- Set the strategic agenda and assess areas of need and prioritization (42 percent)
- Provide perspective from a trusted, neutral source (33 percent)
- Content Impacts a Lifetime...Lifetime Value, That Is: Content plays a pivotal role in add-on buying decisions or supplemental purchases following the initial contract. A majority (86 percent) frequently or sometimes use digital content to identify complementary or add-on products while just 12 percent rarely undertake further content sourcing. This third-party content is also frequently or sometimes used by 92 percent of buyers to maintain a vendor relationship or advocate the use of the vendor's products or services.
"Consumers of content today are smart, educated and weary of all of the noise," notes Robert Alvin, CEO and Chairman of NetLine Corporation—the world leader in business content syndication. "What we see, time and time again, is that there is a fundamental truth about content: The more the content speaks to your target market, the greater the level of response."
"Smart marketers are taking the steps to know and understand their customers, in addition to who is within those customers' content sharing circles," he adds. "This enables them to more effectively modify and adapt a single piece of content to target specific segments (such as company size, verticals, geography, job title, etc.). These are the experiences that do far better than those that simply utilize the same content across all channels, regardless of target. Yes, this requires additional work, but it achieves superior results."
A total of 352 respondents took part in the online survey during January 2014. Participants at all executive levels and areas of responsibility were drawn from nearly 30 different industry sectors. Representation across company size included 23 percent for companies with revenues of more than $1 billion; 10 percent for companies with revenues between $501 million and $1 billion; 32 percent for companies between $50 million and $500 million; and 36 percent for companies with revenues less than $50 million. Download the report here
About the CMO Council
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council is dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a wide range of global industries. The CMO Council's 7,000-plus members control more than $400 billion in aggregated annual marketing expenditures and run complex, distributed marketing and sales operations worldwide. In total, the CMO Council and its strategic interest communities include more than 20,000 global executives in more than 110 countries covering multiple industries, segments and markets. Regional chapters and advisory boards are active in the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, India and Africa. The council's strategic interest groups include the Coalition to Leverage and Optimize Sales Effectiveness (CLOSE), LoyaltyLeaders.org, Marketing Supply Chain Institute, Customer Experience Board, Market Sense-Ability Center, Digital Marketing Performance Institute, GeoBranding Center and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME). More information about the CMO Council is available at www.cmocouncil.org
Content ROI Center
The CMO Council's Content ROI Center is a strategic interest community dedicated to improving the performance of content marketing within marketing organizations. The center is developing thought leadership and driving conversation across its membership on best practices, trends and challenges in content marketing. The center also works selectively with B2B companies that are making significant investments in content marketing to analyze and evaluate current practices and help elevate content ROI. Learn more at www.contentroicenter.com.
About NetLine Corporation:
NetLine Corporation is the number one B2B content syndication lead generation provider aimed at driving buyer engagement, customer lead acquisition and sales pipeline performance. Its AudienceTargeting™ technology and global multi-channel network of more than 15,000 website properties enable B2B marketers to reach a diverse audience of more than 125 million business professionals across 300 industry sectors. NetLine's multi-channel content delivery model allows for brand customization, content adaptation and flexible market access through publisher websites, expert blogs, email, search engines, social media networks, e-newsletters and mobile. Founded in 1994, NetLine is privately held and headquartered in Los Gatos, California, with operations around the globe. For more information, visit www.netline.com
*Source: Custom Content Council