Fix the B2B Content Buyer Hate

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by Anna Munhin Feb 1, 2023 News
Fix the B2B Content Buyer Hate

When I ask buyer personas what vendor content they want, it's an interesting reply. A big sigh is followed by an eye roll. It doesn't matter if the industry is banking, manufacturing, higher education or real estate.

It's the same every single time.

There are a lot of complaints we're all familiar with: lack of relevancy, value, originality, consistency and accuracy. Content is perceived as too general and personalization needs to be changed.

Half of vendor content isn't sought, read or valued according to our research. It's a lot of wasted money. 25% of the remaining content doesn't meet expectations for tone, language or detail. Content created by trusted sources is what buyers look for. The trick is to find out what the content is for.

Over the past two years, I've analyzed hundreds of B2B interviews to find the most sought-after content.

In order to set the context for this discussion, I'll use our journey framework, the sellers' compass. The framework defines the stages from the buyer's point of view.

There are five stages in the purchase journey.

The Trigger Event: The Spark Behind Every Purchase Journey

Triggers occur when an organization acknowledges an opportunity or problem. There are usually one to three Triggers, regardless of company size.

There are opportunities to create a competitive advantage, a merger/acquisition, a competitor going out of business or a new market need when there is a proactive triggering. They are different. They occur when there is a crisis and the organization needs to respond.

There is a small role for content in this stage.

The Define Stage Content: Is the Problem or Opportunity a Priority?

The organization decides if the opportunity is significant or painful enough to focus resources on. The organization wants to know if companies like them solved this and why.

Content that is popular at this time is:

  • Articles and blogs on alternative ways to address the situation.
  • Industry-specific articles on alternative approaches and resulting outcomes.
  • Thought leadership articles.

The Search Stage Content: Finding the Right Approach

After addressing the situation, the buyers/team research the various ways to achieve their goal. Which approach is right for our situation is one of the questions organizations are asking.

Buyers invest significant resources to understand vendor solutions and their features, customer base, pricing and reputation, as well as researching time to value, outcomes, and the risks of various approaches.

Content that's popular is:

  • Industry and role-based thought leadership articles and white papers on the solution approach and its merits compared to other approaches, relevance to emerging industry issues, the evaluation process companies followed and best practices.
  • Industry analyst reports on the solution category, vendors and their strengths and weaknesses, and category trends.
  • G2, Capterra, TrustRadius, Gartner Peer Insights and Trustpilot rating sites.
  • Vendor websites with a particular interest in:
    • Use and case studies.
    • 5-, 10- and 15-minute product demos on YouTube.
    • Clearly defined product features with capabilities.
    • Copy that clearly differentiates the vendor compared to competitors.
    • Easy to find and transparent pricing, ranges or models.
    • Sample requirements tools to support requirements definition.

Peers and personal networks have a lot of sway. They are reliable sources for feedback. Buyers don't want to be involved with vendor sales.

Are you suffering from account blindness in b2b marketing?

The Evaluate Stage Content: Buyers Narrow Options

The buyers/teams enter this stage with a preferred vendor in mind. The focus in this stage is to identify the best vendor. "Which vendor offers the best fit to achieve the target outcome?" and "How much do I trust the vendor?" are some of the key questions organizations are asking.

Vendors are typically engaged by buyers in this stage. Buyers expect Sales to know more about the buyer's organization than they do about the vendor.

Content that is popular at this time is:

  • Buyer situation-specific tailored live demos.
  • Technical/architecture white papers, content on how the solution meets specific regulatory compliance, content on process workflow or process innovations, and detailed industry-specific content on how the solution ‘fits’ into organizations from a process, technology, ongoing maintenance and user perspectives.
  • Industry customer lists, references, and quantified case studies.
  • Vendor websites with a particular interest in:
    • Detailed technical and architecture information.
    • Detailed API/integration, security, customizability specifications.
    • Access to user communities, technical documentation, roadmaps.
    • Use case, user/persona, and industry-specific videos on YouTube.
  • PowerPoints, business case templates, and FAQs that help sell the solution internally.
  • Freemium, 1–3-month trials, or sandbox trials.
  • Detailed competitive feature/function and benefits (IT, user, organization, TCO) comparisons (behind firewall).

Peers and industry communities are asked to give feedback on vendors.

There are questions to be asked in B2B marketing.

Validate Stage Content: Assessing Risks and Affordability

Technical due diligence is done in the last stage before purchase. They want to meet the customer support team and get specific on support levels and costs.

Which vendor will deliver the target outcome with the least amount of risk is one of the questions the organization is trying to answer.

Content that's popular is:

  • Customizable or vendor developed presentations to support Internal selling and the business case.
  • Customer references including failed adoptions/implementations.
  • Technical deep dive on privacy, cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, and integration.
  • TCO/ROI tools and overall and industry-specific benchmarks.
  • Customized onboarding and service/support plans.

Vendor support experiences, pricing and post- purchase experience are some of the strongest final selections.

Summary: Search Stage Most Hungry for Content Experiences

The above discussion is summarized in a table. Content that is stage specific is expected by buyers. White papers for the search stage are different from those sought in the evaluation stage. Vendors do themselves an injustice when they adopt a one size fits all approach.

The stage should be defined.

There is a search stage.

The stage should be evaluated.

Validate Stage 

There are articles.

Is that a thing?

There is a blogs.

Is that a thing?

Thought leadership is what it's called.

Is that a thing?

Is that a thing?

There are white papers.

Is that a thing?

X

They are industry analysts.

X

There are rating sites.

X

There are websites for vendor.

X

There are case studies.

Is that a thing?

Is that a thing?

 X

There are demo videos on the internet.

X

There is pricing.

X

There are features of the product.

X

There are customer lists.

X X

The technical is in-depth.

X X

The selling tools are internal.

X X

There are competitive comparisons.

X

There are trials.

X

There are plans for onboarding.

 X

Conclusion: Know Your Buyers With Qualitative Market Research 

What your buyers and customers look for may be different than what the above journey stage content lists are. I advise you to conduct qualitative market research to get a better idea of what your buying team and customers want from you.

Most of the buying team's activity is in the Search stage before they contact vendors. Vendors need to understand what buyers want and value. If you want to increase your win rate, you have to understand what content will appeal to your audience.