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Reaching the informed B2B buyer - our new publication explains why marketers are getting it wrong, and what to do about it

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed May 11, 2023
Just how informed is the typical B2B buyer? How is enterprise buying changing - and why is content marketing falling short? Those are a few of the questions that sparked our new d·book on reaching the B2B Informed Buyer. Here's why I wrote it.

Informed buyer d·book front page
(Informed buyer d·book front page )

It's been a long time, but I'm back in London - and there's a big reason. Tomorrow, diginomica will officially celebrate our ten year anniversary.

One hallmark of diginomica's enterprise content? To provoke: we believe it's our collective job to show how overhyped tech - and siloed thinking - falls short. One of my favorite diginomica pastimes? Riling up content marketers. This from 2014:

Most B2B marketers are whiffing on the most important content for the buying process.

But then, as Stuart Lauchlan points out in his ten year reflection:

Okay, but what are you going to do about it?

Knock down stale enterprise concepts? Fine, but we need a new roadmap also. We need new methodologies.

Want to reach the B2B Informed Buyer? Time for a content strategy rethink

And that, fellow reader, is how a chip on my shoulder about the state of content marketing became a d·book, packed with all the fresh ideas I could muster (you can now download the full version, free, via our d·book sign up form: Reaching the B2B Informed Buyer - the case for a different framework).

Ever since diginomica started, I've done my best to rile up marketers with my diatribes on how B2B content is falling short. As I dove into dialogue with smart thinkers/researchers like Gartner's Hank Barnes, I sharpened my own take:

Then, sometime in 2015, Barb Mosher Zinck joined diginomica to bolster our digital marketing coverage. Mosher Zinck became a terrific foil sorts, as well as a collaborator. She brings a depth of practitioner experience, helping marketers understand what works at scale. That's an important gut check.

Suddenly I realized - what if Mosher Zinck could help me organize these blog posts into a viable publication? So she signed on as the d·book editor, and it began - but we soon realized this needed more than a few blog transitions. Time to bear down. And now it's ready. Do you want to move beyond all the blog posts, and download the full enchilada? If so, here's what you're getting into.

This new d·book is not intended to discredit other B2B buying methodologies. I have something different in mind. My goal? Present a provocative alternative - and puncture a few marketing tech hype balloons.

B2B buyer's journeys are missing a big piece - here's why

Virtually all "B2B buyer's journeys" still come down to this:  awareness -> consideration -> decision. That doesn't cut it anymore. Why? Because buyers aren't always buying. We're missing a crucial first step in this so-called journey:

1. Contextual/trusted networks that arm executives with the know-how and peer insights they need]

I have yet to see a buyers' journey model that starts with #1 - but that's where most budget holders are at any given time. According to recent data from LinkedIn Research, only 1 in 5 B2B buyers are in buying mode at any given time.

The good news? You can reach buyers in that first group with content. But there's a monster catch: it's the toughest type of content for companies to produce. Why? Because it's the least brand-centric of any content you will deliver - and it can't be authored by (most) marketers.

Yeah, this is a serious problem - but it's also an chance to rethink.

Buying is increasingly a consensus process. Buyers rely on "trust networks" inside and outside of their company to make buying decisions. It's not just about reaching buyers, it’s about reaching their networks

There is no sales funnel in the classic sense. Buyers defy sales orchestration. That’s why the so-called "buyer's journey" is anything but linear. We need content resources that anticipate buyers’ shifts.

Reaching buyers means reaching them all the time, even when they aren't even buying. Buyer short lists stem from earned trust. Content isn’t just about search and discovery. Exceptional content scales the process of earning trust - beyond what individuals can do 1:1. 

Therefore, you reach buyers by earning your own topic authority - and becoming included and respected in buyer networks. Needless to say, the goal of embedding yourself in enterprise communities - and facilitating open conversations - has big implications for the future of sales and marketing.

It also completely changes how we think about influence. As I write in the d·book:

B2B influencer tactics are stale. Sponsored research rings hollower with every white paper. Instead: earn your own influence. Elevate internal experts. Empower them to create their own content, and forge relationships with those who truly influence enterprise buyers. Top-down targeting? Or bottom-up? For B2B content strategy,we need both.  

But hold up!  Your B2B content isn't just competing with other B2B content. You're competing for attention with... well, everything. But that leads marketing teams down another problematic path: obsessing about entertainment value:

B2B content should compete for attention on relevance, not entertainment.

Sound different enough? By the time you're finished reading, you'll know how this model works, and how to earn attention through content relevance. This doesn't necessarily conflict with investments in "buyers journeys," "persona development," “content experiences,” or even "AI for context." Yes, content priorities might shift, but this approach should work alongside what you’re doing now - as long as you tie your content assets into a coherent narrative.

Buyers and prospects judge you by the “total experience" of dealing with you. Great content falls flat if the experience of dealing with you directly is a drag. (Total experience is the topic of another diginomica d·book, by Derek du Preez). 

AI for context versus opt-in audiences - framing the debate

Reaching buyers with the right content at the right time is the proper goal - but how to do that is the subject of a fierce debate, at least when I’m around. Some vendors pitch the automation of content delivery, along with investment in AI to deliver content in a real-time “context.” The AI-for-context approach has features worth incorporating, but I believe a better model is building opt-in audiences, which evolve into opt-in communities. Buyers no longer just buy software: they buy into communities that inspire long-term confidence. 

I don't solve the potent role of AI in marketing in this d·book, but I do get into where AI can have the most impact - and no, it's not writing substandard/overconfident marketing copy. But I do think AI can play a valuable role in content personalization and distribution. In some cases, already is.

I promised fresh thinking in this d·book. I deconstruct some of the latest content buzzwords, from "content experiences" to "context," and share debates I've had with those who use them.

This d·book would not be complete without winning examples of earning influence with content. So, in chapter five, I share some of the best B2B content strategy examples I've seen. Some are diginomica partners that evolved their content with us, but many are not.

I close the d·book with these two chapters:

  • B2B buyers trust their networks - what about your brand?, and of course:
  • Final words - what (bots) lie ahead?   

The problem of content attribution models is a crucial piece of the puzzle, so you'll get my views on that before I wrap. Whether you read the Informed Buyer d·book or just browse the posts I've linked to above, we'd love to hear from you - and what you're learning as you put these ideas to the test.

And yes, this raises the fundamental question of how events fit into this content and community picture. I've blogged up a storm about that too: Rethink hybrid events - a new method for including your audience, rather than losing them. Perhaps that's my next d·book...

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