January 5, 2017
by Carla Johnson
People aren’t good with change.
We like to think that we are. We say we’ll do it. But even when we’re pounded by evidence of what’s not working we keep trudging on with habitual tactics.
Many leading analyst firms claim that buyers are 57 percent of the way through the buying cycle before they engage a salesperson. Marketers love this stat – proof that they influence more of the customer conversation than sales. But is that changing marketing’s behavior?
That’s what Corporate Visions set out to investigate in their recently released report: The B2B Content Disconnect: What Companies Believe vs. How They Behave. This State of the Conversation Report looks at the challenges that companies face at the intersection of content strategy, sales enablement and lead conversion. It explores how companies can do better across all of these vital areas of business.
Truth be told
The study first looks at the lay of the land. Do marketers believe that the 57 percent stat is true? Yes, 78 percent do. But that hasn’t changed their behavior. Only 24 percent of respondents who agree with the stat have made major strategic shifts in their demand generation and sales enablement content strategies. That means more than three-quarters of respondents have made small or no changes to these content strategies.
But the number isn’t as cut and dried as it seems in the B2B world.
“Even if you assume that one of those decision makers is 57 percent or more of the way through the buying cycle when a rep enters the picture, where does that leave the other five-plus?” said Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy & Research Officer for Corporate Visions. “If they’re brought into the buying process and are individually starting at zero percent, that means the salesperson has a lot of selling to do.”
Doing the math, that means that a group of B2B buyers, on average, are less than 10 percent of the way through the process when a salesperson walks through the door. That still leaves a significant amount of heavy lifting for the salesperson to do to move the committee to a resounding “yes.”
Houston, we have a problem
The problem is bigger than just a number. Marketers aren’t even aware of the span of influence for which they need to take responsibility, much less understand and accept it. Corporate Visions identified four types of content that companies are creating:
- Company-centric content designed to promote the company vision and brand promise.
- Product-centric content emphasizing competitive differentiation and features and benefits.
- Problem-centric content addressing needs identified in voice of the customer research.
- Insights-centric content introducing unconsidered needs and a disruptive perspective
Companies focus most on product-centric and problem-centric messaging in both their demand generation and sales enablement content – tried and true comfort zones for marketers. However, insights-centric content finished last, behind even company-centric content.
Why is this?
Because marketers have their tried-and-true comfort zones, and digging into what really matters to customers – rather than talking about what they sell – isn’t one of them. Insights-centered content that taps into customers’ unconsidered needs comes in three forms:
- Undervalued Needs – Rapidly approaching trends or problems whose impact has been underestimated by your prospect.
- Unmet Needs – Needs your prospect or customer doesn’t realize they have because they’ve used stopgap measures or other workarounds to try and conceal the pain.
- Unknown Needs – Often longer-range issues that come to light when a vendor has a fix for a problem the prospect didn’t know they had.
Crossing the chasm
The challenge, then, is not just alignment between marketing and sales, but the ability to create and sustain a conversation that bridges both groups. This is what Corporate Visions calls “conversion gap content” – content that’s geared for the first and second sales calls after the lead is handed off. Their four-stage framework plays up the risks and threats of a prospect’s current situation and shows how these changes can be resolved. It tells the story of why a prospect should change and why they should chose you as their partner.
We spend a great deal of time working on sales messaging. But why aren’t we as vigilant with marketing messaging in the sales arena? As marketers, one of our greatest opportunities is to create value for customers. That’s where insights come in. Insights that help prospects and customers understand their true situation, what risks they face and what happens if they put their head in the sand.
Dig deeper into what insights matter to customers, what messaging framework to use and three fixes to improve the performance of your content program by downloading Corporate Visions’ latest research: The B2B Content Disconnect: What Companies Believe vs. How They Behave.
Photo credit: Julia Taylor Flickr user
About Carla Johnson
Consistently recognized as one of the top influencers in content marketing,as well as one of the top 25 in B2B marketing and one of the Top 50 Women in Marketing, Carla’s latest book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves on the Executive Board and as the Vice Chair for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA) and is an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute and the Digital Analytics Association. Carla also contributes to industry wide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of marketing, leading through innovation, and the power of storytelling.