Larry is a Luddite – someone who resists technological and other forms of change. His official title is director of marketing for Acme Manufacturing. He steadfastly refuses to take content marketing seriously.
Does this sound like someone you know?
Larry recently read an article that says companies today must adopt a “content-focused approach to meet the needs of their customers.” This new approach looks interesting but he doesn’t see any immediate value in it.
Content marketing looks like just another fad to him, one of many he’s seen in his long career in marketing communications. He’s decided he’ll just wait it out, much like he’s done with dozens of other business and marketing practices over the years. “This, too, shall pass,” he whispers under his breath, shaking his head dismissively. Besides, it looks like there’s a lot to learn. Who has time for that?
Larry takes pride in running a well-oiled marketing machine. He and his team produce a steady supply of product sheets, ads, brochures and other collateral. Whatever the Acme sales team asks for, they produce. He also manages vendors who help him with trade shows, search engine optimization and keep the Acme website up-to-date. He writes and publishes one product-focused blog post per month, like clockwork.
Larry keeps his head down and gets things done. That’s how he has survived two new CEOs in the last three years. Life is good.
Acme is still selling plenty of widgets. A little more slowly than before, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s probably just due to the economy – and those salespeople, who are always full of excuses. If only they would spend more time selling, and less time complaining, that’d be great.
Larry keeps telling himself that “business will come back. It always does.”
Larry doesn’t believe customers have fundamentally changed. He thinks that’s a load of crap, and says Acme’s existing customers are like him – traditional buyers who have always done things the same way. They take comfort keeping things uniform and efficient.
About a year ago, one of Acme’s salespeople tried to make the point that a new approach is needed. “Customers have fundamentally changed,” he insisted. “They want to do their own research. What they need now is education, not to be sold.” Nobody listened, especially not Larry. But that problem solved itself. That forward-thinking salesperson left in frustration to take a job with one of Acme’s competitors.
But what if Larry is wrong?
Larry represents the business owners and marketing managers who are convinced that business as usual continues to be effective. But what if they’re wrong? A growing body of research suggests that they are.
- According to Marketo, 96% of the visitors to your website are not ready to buy (yet).
- The average purchase decision is 57% complete, and more than 10 information sources have been consulted by the time customers engage with suppliers, according to research conducted by CEB Marketing. In addition, the higher the purchase complexity, the later customers engage suppliers.
- Almost 70% of buyers have increased the amount of content used to research and evaluate their purchases, according to Demandbase. Its research also showed that 75% of B2B buyers say the quality of the winning vendor’s content was an important factor in their purchase decisions.
- 48% of businesses say most of their leads require “long cycle” nurturing with many influencers, according to a report from Ascend2.
Customers have changed the way they buy. But it’s happened so gradually that is has escaped the notice of head-down, get-r-done marketers like Larry. He’s like the frog in a pot of water where the temperature is being slowly turned up – it’s being boiled and doesn’t even realize it. It’s comfortable and happy.
Until it’s too late.
How effective content marketing sidesteps Larry the Luddite
Content marketing seeks to inform and educate prospects, rather than interrupting them with endless ads and offers. The most successful content marketers conduct research to deeply understand the needs and motivations of their prospective customers, develop content that addresses those needs, and consistently publish it.
Over time, your target audience gets to know, like and trust your company, which can lead to increased sales and other desirable outcomes.
Savvy companies are now enabling prospects by assembling collections of content and resources that are based on the needs of their ideal buyers. In a sense, the content becomes a surrogate salesperson, answering their questions and anticipating their objections – helping to move them through the buying process to the point of sale.
Nurturing is becoming an important skill set for modern marketing strategists. They understand that buying a product is a process, not a discrete event. After a visitor to your website downloads your latest eGuide, what’s next? Yes, they’ve raised their hand, so to speak, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy. Marketers must have communication streams set up that are tailored to move them gradually down the funnel to the point of a sale.
In addition, savvy marketers are starting to realize that they must target content and nurturing to multiple people and roles in the B2B buying process. It’s not a one-size-fits-all exercise. A purchasing decision-maker needs bottom-line data to understand the potential ROI of your product. A line manager wants to understand how purchasing your product will impact his operations. And an influencer needs yet another set of content, targeted to her unique needs and questions.
Don’t be like Larry the Luddite. He’s a dinosaur, a relic of the past who isn’t likely to lead your company in the direction it needs to go.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to create a marketing strategy that takes today’s new buyer into account. If you do so, you will have a unique opportunity to shape a larger, more strategic role for marketing. Good luck to you and your team!