B2B decision makers are now willing to invest more time in content.
Recent research on how tech B2B buyers react to content marketing found they’re spending more than 70% of the purchase cycle engaging with content before they reach out to sales representatives.
This unprecedented level of engagement and ‘self-service’ purchase behavior means marketers who deliver the right content to nurture these leads can create a more efficient purchase cycle.
Developments in the B2B purchase cycle
The starting point for any content plan is the B2B purchase cycle — which has changed significantly. Today, B2B purchase decision makers are under more pressure than ever to ensure they choose the right solutions — the ones that deliver the best ROI.
This means they crave more information than ever and are happy to put in the time necessary to get the right answers.
And they’re using content to do this research on their own… 26% will spend “as long as it takes” to research buying decisions if the content is great, and over half (53%) say they will typically look at three to five pieces of content before contacting the supplier.
This is good news for content marketers looking to nurture leads… because while B2B buyers are busy and under greater scrutiny, they are willing to invest the time needed to understand and evaluate decisions.
Marketers can use this open door to secure leads if they take the right approach to content types within the context of a wider coherent content journey.
So, we know decision makers are looking for content that will make their purchase decision easier, quicker, and more informed.
For example, the largest percentage of tech B2B decision makers use content to educate themselves about the options they have in the marketplace prior to speaking with a specific vendor.
To help them, marketers need to offer a mix of content types that provide market insight and data — in-depth and snapshots — for B2B tech prospects.
Here’s how marketers can offer content to meet this lead-nurturing goal.
Core content types for lead nurturing
Content for lead nurturing, especially in a B2B context, must be divided into top of funnel (ToFU), middle of funnel (MoFU), and bottom of funnel (BoFU) to support prospects at every stage of the buying cycle.
ToFU — At this phase, a buyer is trying to identify their challenge or an opportunity they want to pursue, and they are typically information gathering at a high level. Marketers need to remember that the goal at the end of engaging with ToFU content is for the buyer to have identified their challenge or goal and decide to take action on it. Buyers are likely to be turned off by any overly “pushy” content. Think of it like a first date… you don’t ask someone to marry you the first time you go out with them.
Video is the most useful form of content at this stage. While its popularity in B2C is unquestioned, video is becoming more and more important among tech B2B buyers too. Buyers are most likely to share video content above all else. Blogs, social media posts, snapshot infographics, and e-books are also useful for this phase.
MoFU — At this consideration stage, prospects are now interested and more engaged. Content for this phase helps buyers understand how to solve their problem or meet their goal: with information on implementation, guides on how to get started, and what other people’s experiences have been.
At this phase, case studies, use cases, interactive planners, webinars, white papers, and even solution-oriented documents like brochures and one-pagers are appropriate to target these prospects effectively.
Case studies are the most effective content assets in influencing purchase decisions. Case studies are notoriously the hardest piece of content to develop, requiring both internal and external approvals, plus the involvement of multiple teams. However, putting content strategies into place such as adding case study generation into sales contracts can give B2B decision makers what they’re looking for at this stage.
BoFU — This is the ‘decision’ making stage, where prospects are on the edge of making the purchase and content must reflect this. Customers are usually more or less clear on the route to address their pain points but need to determine who can best provide that solution.
ROI calculators, tech or company presentations, data sheets, pricing plans, and case studies (reviews from others) are key content types here. 51% of respondents to the Isoline Tech B2B Buyer Survey said vendors should use more data and research to improve their content and this is crucial at the final purchase phase.
Create a coherent content journey
Generating effective content appropriate for the purchase cycle is crucial now that B2B decision makers are investing time in collecting information and avenues like trade shows are not available. But such content is simply not effective in isolation.
For lead-nurturing campaigns to be effective in securing sales, marketers need to deliver a coherent content journey too. It is paramount that marketers mix up the content — not only in terms of content type, e.g., white papers, case studies, testimonials, video, blog posts, and social media — but also in terms of the message and information conveyed.
A piece of content must match the individual’s place in the buying cycle and needs to build towards a coherent content journey that provides the prospect not only with the insights they need at the right time, but with the consistent messaging and proof points to drive them to final purchase.
This survey was conducted in November 2019 and was completed by 127 B2B marketing professionals who were all involved in a purchase decision within the 2019. This included IT managers, Head of IT, and Company Directors.