One of the most under-realized areas of understanding in marketing today has to do with the powerful influences of buyer goals and their goal-directed behaviors. This is especially true in B2B marketing. Most notably, in terms of understanding the impact of buyer goals on how buyers conduct informational searches, as well as, gather content and make choices based on the information acquired.
The ongoing concern for many senior marketing executives is the lack of effectiveness in content marketing today. Surveys in the past two to three years indicating marketers are struggling to break through even being thirty to forty percent “somewhat” effective with their content marketing efforts. Making decisions on how much to allocate resources specifically to content marketing quite difficult.
Consumer And B2B Buyers Differ
The fact that buyers, including B2B buyers, will spend time researching online is not debatable. This consumer-first behavior has transferred to business buyer behavior rapidly. Depending on which survey you read, the percentage of business buyers indicating research is their first form of activity hovers between the eighty-five (85%) to ninety-five percent (95%) level. An established fact, which has made not necessarily just content marketing important, but also several other areas of marketing such as branding.
While this research first behavior has become similar for both consumer and B2B, things get quite different when you start looking at the goals of B2B buyers. In the consumer world, goals tend be more concrete in nature.
For example, if you are seeking a new dishwasher for your home, you may begin researching the factual attributes of dishwashers. Such as price range, delicate versus normal settings, stainless steel tub versus plastic, and other types of factual product attributes. Abstract oriented goals still are very powerful in consumer behavior as well. Usually related to affinity and feelings towards brands. In this same example, you may have a strong emotional and affinity attachment to Kitchen Aid due to your experiences with the brand.
B2B buyer behavior differs significantly in this respect. Research and surveys show a majority of business leaders first research ideas and concepts. A recent The Economist Group survey of five hundred (500) global business executives indicated for seventy-five percent (75%) of those surveyed, the primary purpose for seeking business content was to research a business idea.
In my own buyer research efforts, conducting in the vicinity of twenty-five hundred buyer interviews over the past fourteen years, this is a distinct pattern I have seen.
The Connection Between Ideas And Goals
There is a powerful connection between ideas and goals. They share in both being a form of abstract thinking. Meaning they are conceptual in nature, cannot be easily described or articulated, reside below the surface, are not fact-based, and involves mental thinking. Consumer behavior tends to have more concrete thinking as opposed to the high degree of abstract thinking in B2B.
The implication here, especially for B2B marketing, is very significant. When you shine this unique light on the big problem of content marketing ineffectiveness, one aspect becomes clearer. That is, we see content marketing (especially B2B) addressing primarily concrete and factual-based thinking versus ideas and goal-directed thinking, which are more abstract in nature.
How does this look? You see content marketing tied, still, to facts and products. Messaging on concrete elements related to product and outdated buyer profiling due to lack of insights into buyer goals and their connection to ideas. It is no wonder then that more than seventy percent (70%) of the five hundred (500) business executives surveyed by the Economist Group indicated business content lacked substance.
Understanding Buyer Goals Leads To Understanding Content Desired
Increasingly in the B2B marketing world, many organizations are beginning to realize they can no longer use conventional approaches for understanding buyers. Many efforts have gone into doing so, including attempts to develop buyer personas. However, such attempts to develop buyer personas have had a high failure rate. This failure rate is largely due to the same problems plaguing content marketing. It is akin to passing along a viral contagion between content marketing and buyer persona development.
In this case, the contagion is focusing in on the same concrete product, facts, and criteria based profiling of buyers. Profiling buyers on concrete facts related to company initiatives, product criteria, buying criteria, success or risk factors, and etc. A form of profiling, which cannot explain nor ever go deep enough to gain insights into how and why buying decisions are made.
Years of research in the psychology, business, and academic fields have proven that goals and goal-directed behaviors are the largest, as well as, the deepest forms of influence on purchase decisions. Yet they reside in the abstract and takes skilled qualitative research to uncover. Thus, if organizations truly want deeper buyer insights and understanding, they must go beyond concrete based thinking and get to the deepest levels of buyer goals and their goal-directed behaviors.
Influencing Through Content Connected To Ideas And Goals
As of now, we can reasonably estimate that seventy-five percent (75%) of business executives researching business ideas are finding instead, seventy percent (70%) or more of the times, product and criteria-based content. Thus, no help in furthering the important ideas and goals they are thinking about.
The unique shining of light, through buyer goals, on what ails content marketing as well as buyer personas provide a powerful compass to CMOs and their teams then. In order to truly impact buyers with content and information, they must first connect with the deeper understanding of their ideas, goals, and goal-directed activities.
The evidence is clear. If an organization is unable to make this connection and continues to focus on concrete facts and criteria-based content, then whatever content they produce will wind up in the small corner of the window of a buyer’s PC, tablet, or mobile phone device. Dragged into the trash icon located on most devices – along with the other seventy-five percent (75%) or more of content already there.
(What follows is a short video on Where Good Ideas Come From? by Steven Johnson. He covers how good ideas come from connectivity with others. Involving a slow level of abstract thinking. As mentioned above, global business leaders primarily search for content when researching a business idea. Content, then, must be helpful in enabling the pursuit of goals and the gelling of good ideas.)