Memo to CMOs: less snake oil, more content!

SUMMARY:

Quality content marketing can influence B2B buying decisions, but what potential customers are getting today is just sales pitch snake oil. CMOs need to up their game according to a new study.

zz43a99a2fMore statements of the bleedin’ obvious! It turns out that that content influences B2B buyers!

That’s the ‘startling’ conclusion of a recent study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council which comes up with the stat that 87 percent of B2B buyers reckon that online content – and its quality – has either a major or moderate impact on vendor preference and selection.

So far, so simple, yes? And quite encouraging if you’ve been splashing your CMO dollars, pounds or euros around on content marketing.

But the problem is that today, while vendors reckon they’re producing good content marketing, too many buyers reckon that they’re being sold vendor snake oil in the form of overt sales pitches that are more driven by the seller’s need to promote itself than its understanding of what they buyer wants – and needs – to hear.

The study, Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field, was based on an online survey of more than 400 B2B buyers in April.

According to the study, the most valuable sources of online content cited by b2b buyers when researching products and services are:

  • Professional associations and online communities (47%)

  • Industry organizations and groups (46%)

  • Online trade publications (41%)

  • Seminars and workshops (41%)

  • Trade shows (35%).

The types of content b2b buyers value most include:

  • Professional association research reports and white papers (67%)

  • Industry group research reports and white papers (50%)

  • Customer case studies (48%)

  • Analyst reports and white papers (44%)

  • Product reviews (40%).

That’s all fairly predictable – although I’m a tad surprised customer case studies don’t rank higher – but of more interest is what buyers want that content to look and feel like.

What B2B buyers want most from their online content is:

  • Breadth and depth of information (47%)

  • Ease of access, understanding and readability (44%)

  • Originality of thinking and ideas (39%).

Super – I think here at diginomica we’d go along with that as a content holy trinity.

But what do B2B buyers typically get? Well, we can get an idea from their list of qualities they dislike from their online content:

  • Too many requirements for downloading (50%)

  • Blatantly promotional and self-serving (43%)

  • Non-substantive and uninformed content (34%).

Too much sales pitch 

So are we all hearing that out there in B2B land? Too many sales pitches, not enough thought leadership in your content marketing!

The report argues:

B2B buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped and overly technical content. They’re migrating to peer-based communities and new sources of trusted, relevant and credible content and conversation. Meanwhile, B2B vendor web sites are inadequate and hard to navigate. These sites lack the depth, objectivity and strategic context that buyers are seeking to inform and lead them through complex evaluation and purchasing processes.
Too many lead generation campaigns are failing in fundamentals ways. They lack rigorous targeting, filtering, tracking, scoring and utilization of prospect flow. They rely on poorly conceived content that doesn’t connect with customer needs and concerns. Or they fail to provide access across essential channels and touch points, such as mobile devices, that are now being widely embraced by B2B audiences.

Want more bad news? of the 400 purchasing managers surveyed for the CMO Council study, only 9% said they would trust content from vendors.

cmo1But you should know this of course. You’ve been told before. Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, argues that nothing much has moved on since a similar study five years ago, with vendors still adopting a “self-serving, push-oriented approach”.

He adds:

“B2B buyers are looking for content that’s original, consultative and highly pertinent to where they are in their decision-making process. Too many vendors are failing these buyers with overly promotional and overly technical content that doesn’t adequately address market challenges and customer needs.”

Get it right of course and it quality content marketing can be immensely power. Some happier stats to provide some balance:

  • 60% of buyers forward quality content to 25 or more people

  • 28% send on information to 100 or more. 

  • 87% say that online content plays a valuable role in vendor selection.

The CMO Council concludes:

To drive greater content performance, marketing organizations need to do more to ensure they are focused on content creation and delivery that excites and motivates buyers at every phase of the engagement process. Self-serving and promotional content is turning off buyers and short-circuiting the lead generation and nurturing process.

Companies need to fully evaluate and calibrate where customers are going to access valued content, what issues, pain points and needs are driving their decision making, and what information is needed all along the buyer’s journey.

Verdict

Which is pretty much what we’ve been saying at diginomica. The creation and dissemination of good quality content is a challenge for many organisations.

Sometimes this will be because it doesn’t’ exist inside the company but often it’s more a case that it’s trapped inside the organisational processes and struggling to find a route to market.

It’s a challenge though that the CMO and his or her team need to face up to. Yesterday we highlighted the example of Nestle and its “adaptive content’ strategy and the benefits that this is delivering to that organisation.

There are gains to be had, but on the basis of this study there are a lot of cultural mind shifts to be made before many organisations reap them.

That’s definitely not snake oil you’re being sold.

    Comments are closed.

    1. kyield says:

      A couple of thoughts-
      1 – good stuff, more like this needed especially in IT cluster
      2 – when snake oil is your product, as is the case with many, it’s kind of a challenge!
      3 – customers need to stop rewarding the behavior – this is the biggest driver, including product development, pricing, etc.
      4 – in terms of customer  case studies and too much info required to download material — we’ve tested this online since 1996 and verdict isn’t good. CI by incumbents including massive spend in consultants, IP theft, copying, and all sorts of other unethical and sometimes even criminal behavior is actually more common than customers doing legit research– we’ve been very open and frankly had to pull back — we were educating the competition with dominant market share who of course won’t even acknowledge where they sourced it. Unfortunately, many of the customer orgs are of either similar cultures (not all, but too many), some have large internal competitors….. and on and on.
      There is massive subsidies going on by the small and innovative to the big, dominant and often mediocre and has been since the commercialization of the web. Sad, but undeniable.

      1. kyield It’s an interesting dilemma of course. I’ve run into this in other guises where product marketing people have been loathe to publish too much thought leadership collateral for fear of giving away their secrets. Sadly in most cases there were no great secrets to give away! 
        For me the point that needs addressing is how to shift the balance away from ‘what we want to tell you’ to ‘what you want and need to hear’. In an ideal world those would be the same, but at the end of the day we still live in a world where some firms locked down the marketing plans for 2013 back in 2011 and have no plans to adapt them to changing circumstances.

        1. kyield says:

          Diginomica Stuart kyield Well I can share what is working for us- the web is much better used as a tool to deal directly and confidentially with highly targeted customers, not for subsidizing theft and mediocrity.