A few weeks ago, my friends at Demandbase asked me to comment on a new piece they were doing on how B2B organizations should optimize their go-to-market strategies.
It is a fascinating piece done in the context of a creative comic book. My contribution to it, specifically, was on the importance on making the buying process easier for your audience. That’s nice, and they were kind enough to give me a Dr. Strange looking character (let’s be clear I’m no Cumberbatch!). I commented that a key piece of a new go-to-market strategy was making it easier for your audience to purchase, rather than trying to make it easier to assemble information and data on why to purchase. Like Dr. Strange – that answer might seem a bit, well, odd.
And I think it’s an increasingly important distinction, so I thought I’d expand on it a bit here.
The Myth of the Empowered Business Buyer
You see, today, many B2B businesses have come to believe that there is this asymmetric relationship between the company and its buyers. The perception is that buyers are “in control” and armed with more and higher-quality information than ever before. Businesses see the prevalent research that says:
- 71% of commercial buyers begin their research with generic Google searches
- 68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online
- 90% of buyers won’t take a cold call
Then, they take this research and conclude that the modern “empowered buyer” and their preference for self-service knowledge should be the center of the marketing and sales conversation. Marketing creates the content to ensure that every individual customer experience caters to every question or objection that could exist. Sales is there to provide the differentiating product features and ensure that the company is positioned as the “best supplier.” The company pours thought leadership, and product and service information, out via web pages, PDF files, and infographics to their website and resource centers. They vow to become “customer-centric” and “buyer’s-journey-focused.” They basically attempt to dump a mountain of information on anyone who comes asking, and become the first available answer to any relevant Google search.
There’s only one problem: many of today’s B2B buyers are not feeling terribly empowered. What’s more, they have little interest in being so. Research from CEB/Gartner illustrated that buyers are “deeply uncertain and stressed.” Yes, we can see that B2B buyers search online, and don’t want to talk to sales people, and are self-directed. But why are they self-directed? That’s the question.
Well, increasingly, it’s because their organization assumes all the information they need is readily available, and so practitioners are under increasing pressure to self-educate and become subject matter experts in whatever thing they are buying. Thus buying “teams” are formed in order to develop institutional expertise prior to making a decision. As Brent Adamson from Gartner put it so wonderfully
“it’s not customer’s confidence in suppliers, but customers’ confidence in themselves and their ability to make good buying decisions that is in critically short supply.”Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Research, Gartner
In fact, in the Demandbase Comic, MarketingProfs’ Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley follows my panel with her suggestion to – “answer the Whos and Whys to guide your GTM Strategy”. She says “what if a better GTM strategy is not about “convincing” but instead starts with something more fundamental: Who will use it? Who will buy it?…”
I really like that. What if we didn’t focus ONLY on adding more research to convince buyers to change – but rather actually helped them to change?
Then, maybe just as important, what if we didn’t rely solely on more PDFs and Text to help them to change – but gave them more modern experiences in which to be enabled to do it.
That’s where rich media experiences like video can come in.
The Video Experience Challenge
Video is becoming an increasingly critical piece of B2B marketing experiences. And with it comes the challenge of delivering it in a targeted, personalized fashion.
For most organizations, the video content approach is to publish it in a “resource center” type of application, by playlist (in a YouTube Channel), or as embedded into a blog post on a publication. Ultimately this becomes an “inside looking out” strategy as the marketing teams are deciding how and where optimize the display of this video.
We’ve begun to see this challenge in our Content Marketing research.
We have seen the popularity of B2B video grow steadily over the last couple of years. In 2019, our research showed that Audio/Visual content (videos, livestreaming, webinars etc..) had the highest pace of growth among B2B Marketers. 64% of marketers responded that their use of video had increased from the previous year.
In the 2022 edition of our research, we find that video is now the second most popular content asset type used by B2B Marketers – falling only behind short article posts in terms of usage, with 66% of B2B Marketers saying that they are using the format.
However, marketers seem to be having difficulty in getting comparable results from video. In our 2022 research, only 38% of the marketers said that video produced the best results for them in the last 12 months.
When we dive a bit deeper into that number we see that the videos that produced the best results in the last 12 months were in very specific categories. Webinars, Webcasts and Web Series (51%) provided the best results, followed by Interviews with Industry experts (36%) and how-to videos (33%).
These data suggest that it is video focused on very specific topics (Webinars/Web Series), specific thought leadership (Interviews) and/or detailed usage (How-to) that are producing the best types of results.
Here Come Account Based Video Experiences
Both the evolution of buying teams, account-based experiences, and the rise of video as one of the most popular B2B content marketing types, lead to a need for optimizing our video related go to market strategies.
In the coming year, I would look to transformations away from simple web pages that are just a wall of icons of archived webinars, and how-to videos. Instead, marketers should start thinking like the streaming services. Instead of pouring our mountain of webinars, interviews, how-to videos, and promotional videos onto a buying team, marketers have should ask how they might present just the right video that should be watched in just the right context – “Netflix style”.
Even more to the point, B2B marketers should start to explore how to deliver different video experiences to specific members within a buying team with an awareness of where they are in the Account’s Journey.
There is certainly a business case to be made that we have to cover off the basics: the “information” and “thought leadership” that a team needs in order to come to a sound decision. However, there is also a great and differentiated value of knowing when a buying team is beyond the information gathering point, and is just looking for a trusted resource that make a particular vendor the easiest one to buy from.
What videos will we offer to the customer then?
In modern B2B Marketing, we would do much better to understand what audiences are actually asking for, rather than the questions the brand wants to answer. As I said in the Go-to-market comic, “we find that today’s successful marketers are focusing on providing less information to make the research process fuller, and more content designed to make the buying process easier. But to do that, you must first understand what your audience’s real needs are.”
With video that challenge just got even more interesting.