What’s your 8pm moment?

Finding the sweet spot for B2B content. When do decision-makers actually think about their decisions?

February 6, 2015

When do business decision-makers actually think about their decisions? It’s a crucial question for any B2B marketer; for anyone charged with “keeping a brand front-of-mind” or “nurturing leads until they’re ready to buy.” And it’s worth paying attention to the answer, because it may very well surprise you.

LinkedIn recently worked on a highly successful content-led campaign for a well-known global B2B brand. The campaign was focused on engaging very senior C-suite decision-makers, and it was successful partly because the client was so nimble and adept at reacting to data. One of the most important adjustments involved the best time for deploying the campaign’s Sponsored Updates.

The client’s initial instinct was that the best time to grab the C-suite’s attention and engage them would be at 5pm: when they were clearing their desks and organising their thoughts at the end of the day. They were thinking along the right lines – but they were out by a good three hours.

The vast majority of quality C-suite engagement actually came much later, at 8pm. It turned out that the best time to engage senior business decision-makers was safely outside of business hours.

Why? Because for these senior executives, the work distractions, emails and meeting requests don’t stop coming at 5pm. They keep flowing, from all over the globe and a range of different time zones. In fact, for the C-suite, the best time to engage with content that makes them think is when the work PC has been powered down altogether and they’re using the smartphone, tablet or laptop at home. This is the moment when they settle down with the professional content they really want to spend time with.

Does this amount to targeting stressed people suffering from a terrible work-life balance? That’s not what the engagement numbers suggest. The truth is that for this audience, late-night professional content consumption is rather satisfying. Senior decision-makers tend to be heavily invested in the decisions they make; they are decisions that matter to them and that they are fundamentally interested in, and that kind of material tends to get allotted the premium thinking time in the evenings.

This trend towards consuming professional content (and musing about business decisions) outside of traditional hours is something we see across all levels of seniority. It was a key finding of the Mindset Divide: Spotlight on Content report that we released last year, which showed that professionals spend 60% more time consuming professional content at home than they do at work. Many business decision-makers don’t see making decisions as a 9-to-5 job. It’s not part of their working routine; it’s part of a more holistic routine of being themselves.

Brands can get left behind by this transition, not just by sending content at the wrong time but by sending it through the wrong channels. Relying solely on email sent during working hours can make them part of an inbox-dominated daily grind that is less and less the place where decisions get made. What they need is a holistic approach to B2B marketing that reflects how professionals see their identity, and arrange their time.

Does this mean that every B2B marketer should be targeting the 8pm slot? Of course not. It depends entirely on the category you are marketing and the characteristics of the people you are marketing to. Just as different consumer decisions take place at different times of the day, and in different environments, so too with business decisions. Some are made by more junior committees where much of the discussion happens in the pub after work, and a 5pm update that catches them just before they head out of the office door might be perfect; others are made over more formal working lunches, giving the advantage to content that makes it into a scroll through the LinkedIn feed on a mobile over breakfast. Different job functions come with different working routines and different cultural expectations around how decisions are made. The key to success is to know precisely who your B2B target decision-maker is – and how and when they tend to do their thinking.