Understanding and Aligning with B2B Buyer Preferences: New Forrester Research
March 7, 2019
Over the past few years, B2B marketers and sales reps have witnessed a dramatic shift in buying power. Social media, marketing automation, and other digital advances have changed the way B2B buyers make business decisions.
New research from Forrester found that 68% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct online research on their own, and 63% of them do so using a mobile device. Furthermore, 63% say they are perfectly happy and “totally capable” of developing an RFP based on content they find themselves.
Today’s buyer is less loyal, more anonymous, and far more emotional than buyers of the past. The modern customer needs marketers and sales reps to start a new relationship with them, and that relationship relies on the B2B marketing content you create and disperse among your audience.
B2B Content Marketing Strategies to Improve Buyer Relationships
In a recent Forrester webinar, April Henderson and Laura Ramos discussed the many ways in which the modern B2B buyer-seller relationship is evolving, as well as the types of content marketers can create to engage buyers throughout every stage of the life cycle.
Here’s what we learned:
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve been pitched on the merits of quality over quantity. Although many marketers believe that more content leads to more engagement, Forrester found that 66% of B2B buyers say vendors provide too much material, 57% say much of the material is useless, and 58% say the material is focused more on style than substance.
As marketers, we can incorporate this feedback to ensure we’re providing customers (and sales reps who engage them) with content people actually value.
Create Empathetic, Accessible, and Interactive Content
“Content marketers have a mandate to lead the way toward improved conversion, engagement, and customer experience,” says Henderson. “But we’re only going to get there if we can see past lead generation and start creating game-changing, relationship-building content.”
So, what does that game-changing, relationship-building content look like? To engage B2B buyers, Forrester says content should be empathetic, easy to consume, and interactive.
Empathetic content isn’t about you, your product, or your company — it’s about your customers. You want to spark sustainable business conversations, focus on what helps your customers, and speak with a human voice — that is, empathetic content proves you’re interested in engaging the in a dialogue, rather than just pushing content out on a one-way street.
The relationship you establish with prospective B2B buyers is reliant on the marketing content you create, and the more empathetic your content, the more likely it’ll connect.
Creating easily accessible content is a must for marketers across industries and regions. According to Forrester, 79% of buyers say they value content that’s tailored to their industry, role, or department. And when it comes to consuming this content online, B2B buyers prefer the following formats:
- Product brochures, brief reports, case studies, and guides (about 4-6 pages long)
- Short articles and blog posts (less than 2 pages long)
- Webinars (less than 30 minutes long)
- Short videos (less than 90 seconds long)
Interactive content is the new frontier in B2B content marketing. Fading are the days of long-form blog posts, ebooks, and PDFs. Forrester found that today’s buyers want customized, interactive content. Sixty-one percent of buyers surveyed want to be able to input information and generate a customized output. Assessments, quizzes, and polls are a few types of content that satisfy this preference.
Eighty-one percent of B2B buyers say it’s important that content be backed by data, so in order to initiate (or advance) a conversation with your buyer, make sure the content you create is not only empathetic, accessible, and interactive, but also data-driven and relevant to your audience. In Henderson’s words, “Give away the appetizer to make your consumer want to come to dinner.”
Align Sales and Marketing to Increase Buyer Engagement
Engagement is not linear. In our digitally driven world, buyers alternate between engaging with B2B marketing content and talking to sales reps. Despite the back and forth, these buyers expect a single, continuous buying journey. Seventy-two percent say that sales reps need to continue the conversation started with messaging and content — which means sales and marketing teams need to be aligned.
“The holy grail is when content can be designed, planned, and executed with sales as a partner, riding shotgun, understanding how that communication is happening and that relationship is forming,” says Henderson. “That’s when your customer really starts to win. And, by virtue, you start to win, as well.”
One Step Closer to Developing Lasting Customer Relationships
The time is now for sales reps and marketing teams everywhere to come together to elevate their approach to B2B content marketing. With sales and marketing alignment, your partners in sales can continue the conversations started through empathetic, accessible, and interactive marketing content, leading you one step closer to developing customer relationships that stand the test of time.
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