Most B2B-focused companies have embraced content marketing as a way to guide buyers through their purchasing journey. It’s easy to see why—content marketing generates impressive results. But, when it comes to correctly identifying the audience for content marketing pieces, many marketers make a critical error.
The basic idea behind content marketing is to provide a range of content such as blog posts, articles, webinars and white papers that align with the buying process. Each piece provides the B2B decision maker with the information they need to move forward in the buying process.
To create targeted content, it is therefore necessary to understand the decision maker and their needs. But, despite the effort that companies expend to develop buyer personas, many B2B marketers still miss something critical.
In the B2B buying process, there is no single decision maker.
It’s an oft-touted fact that the B2B buying process is longer, more complex, and involves more money than a B2C buying decision. Many also talk about how many people can be involved in the end-to-end purchasing process. Yet, when it comes to creating marketing content, most B2B marketers focus on one decision maker: the person who signs the cheques.
In most B2B buying processes, instead of a single decision maker there are a series of involved parties with varying levels of responsibility, power and influence. This means that while your marketing can be targeted at the top-level buyer—say, the CFO—you may be sending the wrong messages to the people responsible for the earlier stages of the process. It’s great to appeal to the CFO, but your efforts are doomed to failure if your information never makes it to the CFO’s desk!
Let’s look at an example of a company where the executives want to achieve greater operational visibility. At a high level, some key steps in their buying process might include:
- Identifying potential software types that could help address company needs.
- Determining software functionality requirements.
- Identifying specific software solutions to consider.
- Reviewing each solution’s technical specifications and ability to integrate with existing systems.
- Obtaining a customized proposal for one or more finalist options, including pricing.
- Conducting a detailed proposal review, including follow-up with specific vendors.
- Making a purchasing decision.
Consider all the individuals who may be involved in one or more stages of this process. Early on, the decision maker could be a junior accountant. Later, IT and other technical resources will need to be involved. The final decision maker could be the CFO. Procurement, operations, IT, finance, human resources—in some buying processes, nearly all divisions have some level of impact.
The implication for B2B marketers is significant.
While experts stress the importance of having a buyer persona, B2B marketing is more complex. There is no single buyer persona for a segment—no matter how much we wish it were otherwise!
When you are mapping out your content strategy it is important to keep the different decision makers and influencers in mind. To win the client, you need to align your content to the needs, desires and motivations of the audience that you’re looking to impress at each stage of the buying process, not just the person making the final decision.
While the result is a more complex marketing effort, the results will speak for themselves. Target your content to the right decision makers at each step—and watch your sales soar.