The starting point for any effective marketing/content creation strategy in the B2B space is understanding that buying decisions are made by committee after a long process involving many people. It is incredibly rare (in fact it almost never happens) that one individual is responsible for researching, considering and deciding what product or service to purchase on behalf of their company.
With this critical fact front-of-mind, make sure you consider fully the needs of all of the players–their individual roles and responsibilities–involved in the buying journey.
The latest annual CMO survey (www.cmosurvey.org) commissioned by the Chief Marketers Council makes clear that it is just that: a journey. The survey, which polled about 400 marketers, largely VPs or higher, found that the content engagement cycle wends its way to several people, each seeking, sourcing, sharing a broad variety of content.
The research states that the B2B buyers journey typically involves distinct sharing circles that curate and circulate content across decision-making hierarchy. Specifically, it found the decision process typically falls into one of three categories:
- From the Middle out (35% of respondents): Content sourcing and purchase decisions driven by execution level executives but senior management informed about how and why decisions are made.
- From the Bottom up (30%) 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%) Senior management consumes content, sending information downstream for product identification and final purchase and execution….
This shakes up a common held belief: that buying decisions are made from the top. In fact, this only happens in less than one third of cases. The implication of course is that just because the CFO or CEO is the decision maker doesn’t mean that all of your content should be directed to them. They may well be the person that signs the agreement or writes the cheque but they also likely play a much smaller role in the decision process than you might imagine. There isn’t one single sharing circle pattern than dominates.
What does this mean for you? It’s time to rethink your content strategy to ensure it appeals to a range of different level executives. This will impact:
- what you write about
- how you write(style, tone)
- how and where you promote your content (Consider just because your final decision maker is the CEO or CFO, that doesn’t mean you should publish articles in a CFO magazine. It may well be that the decision truly rests with middle managers. Target accordingly.)
This might seem obvious yet I can tell you firsthand, most companies tend to focus their strategy on a single role/executive in an organization usually near the top.
Bottom line: when developing your content strategy, consider all the influencers in the decision making process–not just the ones with the most senior titles.