Delivering credible, objective, and engaging content is a must for today’s B2B marketer as prospects discover, explore, and buy your solution. But what attributes and sources make content credible and objective to B2B buyers? This is a common question asked of my consulting team, and in the age of the customer — where empowered buyers rely on multiple content sources before talking with a sales team and 50% of buyers say much of the content they receive is useless — the answer is more important than ever.
To get answers to this and other key questions we receive from content marketers, Forrester surveyed over 200 IT and LOB technology buyers and influencers. I address three of the common client questions below:
Question One: What are the top three attributes of credible content from the perspective of a buyer/influencer?
WIM: Marketers should audit their existing content assets against these attributes to ensure their library is stocked with credible content. With nearly two-thirds of respondents indicating that vendors give them too much material to sort through, authorship by a qualified expert/analyst allows content assets to stand out and get noticed. Including data in your assets gives them factual grounding and signifies that the information being shared is not simply opinion or conjecture. In fact, 47% of respondents rated papers (content) backed by data as high value, compared with only 11% who said the same thing of papers not backed by data. Finally, be selective in when and where you include product or brand mentions in your content. Including them in too many of your content assets, especially thought leadership pieces, can undermine the credibility of your content.
Last week at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto, CA, a select group of senior tech marketing and strategy executives from a who’s who list of tech titans joined Forrester analysts Andy Bartels, Chris Mines, Peter Burris, Tim Harmon, Ellen Daley, Manish Bahl and Kim Celestre for our 2012 First Look event to understand the key trends and marketing best practices that they must employ in 2012 and beyond.
While I can’t deliver 4 hours of content in one blog post, I’ll start by outlining my three key takeaways. Curious about other trends or marketing best practices for 2012 not listed below? Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to address them.
Takeaway #1: Emerging markets are still emerging (aka small) compared with the largest IT market – the US.
While there has been a lot of excitement (rightfully so) in fast IT spend growth markets such as China (17% year-over-year growth), India (21% year-over-year growth), and Brazil (28% year-over-year growth), the relative size of these markets are still a small percentage compared with the US. For example, the IT spend in China is only 15% of what it is in the US, while the percentages are even smaller for Brazil at 6% and India at 4% compared with the US.[i]
WIM (what it means): Tech marketers and strategists with a global remit must keep both relative size along with growth in mind as they balance their investment, program activities, and other resources in 2012.
Takeaway #2: IT consumerization means big changes for marketers.
Based on strong interest from my previous blogs on choosing the right marketing vehicles, I figured I'd continue the discussion with another angle that's often vexing for tech marketers - how do marketing vehicles vary by geography?
Cultural preferences factor significantly into how technology decision-makers consume information as they go through the purchase process. In analyzing more than 20,000 interviews across the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, we see that vehicle selection varies by region by up to 40%. For tech marketers, this means that straightforward localization of global programs won’t work. Instead, you must understand how cultural preferences shape vehicle preferences and build programs that map to the specific vehicles appropriate for each market. Let’s look at a detailed example and then some broad guidelines.
We get a lot of questions about vehicle preferences for the C-suite, so I’ll pick CFOs as our example. Across the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, the CFO is a critical player at the beginning and end of the purchase process for investments in collaboration and virtualization technology. When we take a look at vehicle preference for CFOs across these regions, we find that CFOs in the US prefer a balanced mix approach (vendor site, search, in-person sales discussion, and online business print such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal). CFOs in Europe prefer web vehicles (online business print, online tech print, and online tech info sites) and CFOs in Asia Pacific favor events and sales over web vehicles. In all regions, the CFO is involved and tech-savvy. However, a marketer needs a unique regional mix to reach and influence the CFO.
Today’s launch of Forrester Tech Marketing Navigator seemed like a good catalyst to dig a little deeper into my previous blog post about how many marketing vehicles are needed for a B2B tech solution (How Many Marketing Vehicles Do You Need? Guiding Principle Number Two.) If you read that blog, you’ll recall that I identified that on average 7.6 marketing vehicles are used by IT or business professionals during a technology purchasing process (with considerably more than 30 available for marketers to use.) Note that you’ll need to use more than 7.6 marketing vehicles in your overall marketing mix because you’re likely need to influence various stakeholders whose use of marketing vehicles varies. This makes a tech marketer’s job challenging.
Much like in the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” tech marketers must find the right balance between too many and too few messages. Common pitfalls include standardizing on a one-message-fits-all philosophy to having so many messages that sales and marketing are unable to deliver them to the right people, at the right time, and in the right context. That’s where Guiding Principle Number Five fits in.
Guiding Principle Number Five: Messaging 3x2
For almost all technology solutions, it’s necessary to have variances in messaging to reflect the different roles or titles, geographies, size companies, different industries, etc., that tech marketers are targeting. The good news for tech marketers is that Forrester Tech Marketing Navigator data shows that by focusing on the top three shared messages that are relevant across multiple segments and the two messages that are uniquely relevant to a specific segment/target, tech marketers can achieve the Goldilocks’ “just right” quotient for messaging.
Tech marketers constantly ask my team and me, “How much content is necessary in a content marketing plan? “ It’s a vexing question but one that can be answered with the fourth guiding principle.
Guiding Principle Number Four: Content 3x3
Buyers and influencers of high consideration B2B technology solutions typically use about three distinct content types during the awareness, the consideration, and the purchase phases of the buying process — a total of nine pieces. Before you go out and generate more content or start cutting down what you already have to hit this average, keep in mind two previous guiding principles that affect your content strategy. Guiding Principle Number One stated that you are likely to have a minimum of three to four key influencers for your solution. That means you’ll need to ensure that you’re applying the 3x3 to each buyer and influencer. Don’t panic though, it doesn’t mean you need to go out and create 27 to 36 different content pieces. Guiding Principle Number Three highlighted the 3:1:1 ratio, which means buyers and influencers typically find 70% of the content that they consume on their own. That doesn’t mean you can’t create content for them to find, but it means you don’t have to create all 27 to 36 pieces. Also, look for reuse or shared content between buyers and influencers.
So the next time you are deciding on how much content to create, remember the 3x3 — it will serve you well.
If you’ve been reading this blog for the last two weeks, you know that we’ve covered the first two guiding principles for tech marketers: 1) Targeting and 2) Sources/Vehicles. Clearly, those are critical. Much like you’ve committed 911 to memory for emergencies and 411 to memory for directory assistance, tech marketers should memorize 3:1:1 for guiding their content strategy.
Guiding Principle Number Three: Content 3:1:1
3:1:1 is the simple but powerful ratio that should guide your content strategy. Buyers and influencers of high consideration solutions find 70% of the content they consume on their own during the buying process. 15% of the content that they consume is typically sent to them by marketers and the remaining 15% is delivered to them by sales (or an indirect sales channel).
The 70% of the content that they find on their own can take many forms. They find it via a search query, come across it while reading an online article, seek it out by coming to your website, etc. Because this percent is so great, you can’t possibly control everything they find, but you can still help them find the content. Leave “hooks” to your content in places your buyers and influencers are likely to be. Create “magnets” that draw buyers and influencers to content of your choosing.
Last week I provided the first of five guiding principles for technology marketers, based on over 100,000 tech buyer interviews and countless client interactions. Now it’s time for the second guiding principle.
Guiding Principle Number Two: Marketing Vehicles
Forrester tracks the relative importance of 38 different marketing vehicles across awareness, consideration, and purchase (i.e., email, tradeshows, search, display ads, etc. I’ve included a picture of these 38 vehicles below.) It’s the tech marketer’s job, and a difficult one at that, to decide how many are actually necessary. That’s where the second guiding principle comes in: On average, 7.6 of these 38 marketing vehicles are used by a technology buyer/influencer. For example, an IT manager who is evaluating a new technology purchase will use between seven and eight different sources as he/she becomes aware of the solution, considers the solution, and makes/influences a purchase decision. Similarly, a line-of-business professional involved in the same purchase will also use between seven and eight sources. Since these two individuals are involved in the same purchasing decision, the sophisticated marketer should also look to determine which vehicles (sources) are shared, thus providing an opportunity for reuse and bridging the two influencers together.
One of the reasons I enjoy working at Forrester is the unique opportunity to turn data into actionable insights that tech marketers can use to drive more revenue for their companies by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their marketing.
Based on this data and our work with clients, five simple but powerful guiding principles have emerged around targeting, marketing vehicles, content strategy, and messaging that all tech marketers can apply. Over the next five weeks, I’ll be sharing them with you via this blog, one per week on Tuesday mornings, starting today.
Guiding Principle Number One: Targeting
We all know that high-consideration technology purchases at medium and large enterprises involve multiple stakeholders. However, all too often, marketers and/or sales associate a disproportionate amount of influence to one or two particular influencers; for example, the CIO or line of business (LOB) professional. The reality is that no one influencer has more than 30% of the total power through the purchase process. You must ensure that you are allocating your marketing programs proportionally across all of the appropriate influencers and that you don’t get fixated on simply engaging one or two influencers, thinking that they control all of the necessary power.
So, the next time you are deciding whom to target, remember the 30% rule — it will serve you well.
At Forrester’s recent Marketing Forum in San Francisco, it was my pleasure to introduce Deborah Conrad, Intel VP and CMO, ahead of her keynote. Deborah shared her experiences about transforming the 20-year-old PC-oriented Intel “Inside” brand into the Intel “Every-Ware” brand, which is relevant in a world with a proliferation of devices and consumers of technology.
As I listened to her keynote before joining her back onstage for Q/A, she shared many great examples, stories, and lessons. However, three important insights left a lasting impression in my mind and are relevant for all technology marketers, regardless of company size, technology category, or marketing budget.
1. It’s about the experience. Intel realized that it was no longer about what the chip does but about the experience it creates for the user. This is an important lesson for all technology marketers, who, as a collective industry, have historically marketed technology innovation or the latest and greatest features and functions, not the experience generated by the technology or solution. We can borrow a page from our colleagues in B2C marketing — such as BMW marketing “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and the experience associated with it, not marketing horsepower, torque, and braking distances.