When the Dow tumbled in 2008, the largest single-day drop in the history of the Dow occurred on September 29, 2008. The index fell by nearly 778 points or almost 7%. In October of that same year, the Dow tumbled yet another 733 points, or by 8%. It goes to show you that sometimes, numbers being relative, an 8% drop can be significant and historic.
The annual Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing Benchmark Study 2016 is quite startling. Perhaps not as drastic as the Dow falling by 8%, but to see the percentage of marketers who believe their content marketing was effective drop to 30% from 38% in one year is a revelation. Especially, when it has stayed at approximately 38% for several years.
With the amount of hype, “content about” content marketing, growth of content marketing agencies/consultants, and the explosion of content marketing conferences, the instinctive thought process is this percentage should be increasing – not decreasing.
Buyers Are Saying The Same
Recent surveys, from the likes of Forrester and SiriusDecisions, indicate the sentiment is nearly 70% or more of buyers outright reject content. In the Forrester report, specific to Sales Enablement surveying over 300 business and IT decision-makers, it ironically proves to be a telltale state of the union about content marketing. These are not pretty folks:
- Near 65-70% of the respondents indicated, “I usually scan the information and then throw it in the trash”
- As much as 80% say, “Vendors give me too much material to sort through”
- Close to 65-70% of the respondents indicated, “Much of the material is useless”
These mirror my own findings in conducting qualitative buyer persona research interviews directly with buyers the past two years. In one such buyer interview, an executive handed me a folder, rubberbanded. Saying: “here is all the stuff they sent me through email and regular mail. I collected it rather than throw it all out so someone could take it back and let them see what they are doing.” I did take it back and it was an eye opener indeed.
There is a strong correlation between buyers indicating content received is useless and marketers who believe their content marketing is not effective. In yet another ironic unveiling, this may be one area where marketers/sellers are in agreement with buyers. Whereby both are in agreement the majority of content marketing, as it exists today, is not working.
Documented Content Strategy Helps
What the CMI/MarketingProfs Benchmark Study did indicate is that those organizations with a documented content strategy had a better rate of effectiveness. A little more than half (53%) of the most effective content marketers had a documented strategy. While, 47% of the least effective content marketers did not. Thus, you can reach a conclusion that having a content marketing strategy that is documented and discussed is helpful.
On the same token, you can also conclude that approximately half with a documented content marketing strategy still struggle to be effective and to make an impact. What this conclusion points to is that having a documented content strategy may not be the single most determining factor of whether content marketing efforts will be effective and successful.
The Right Buyer Understanding Matters
You can surmise from the above that having a documented content strategy is not enough. As is always the case with strategy, it has to be the right strategy informed by the right information and insights. Being informed with the right information and insights about buyers is proving to be the single most determining factor leading to content marketing effectiveness.
The Forrester report, as well as others, alludes to this problem. I have seen it in my own qualitative buyer research. Which is, marketers and sellers are lacking in the right kind of buyer understanding. These reports indicate that current means of profiling and messaging to buyers are not resonating. In essence, leading to the scan once and trash results.
What is important to point out, as Forrester does, is the usual profiling of buyers involving the gathering of business and sales intelligence is simply not working nor can you build an effective messaging framework from such. Profiling the buyers’ titles, roles, initiatives, product/buying criteria, processes, and other forms of rudimentary product marketing and sales-based profiling is not resulting in effectiveness. As the consistent percentage of 70% of buyers trashing content edifies.
The 70% number appears once again in this story. Forrester and others, when benchmarking sales enablement, have found that sales teams are not using as much as 70% of the content created for sales enablement. And, here once again, we have that unique agreement between sellers and buyers about one thing – content being provided is “useless”.
Empathy: Helping Buyers To Achieve Their Goals
Missing in undocumented and documented content strategies today is the right perspective of having empathy with buyers. Empathy can be such a generalized term. As is the usual case with new emerging business terminology, the term empathy is now often overused. The logical question though is what do we need to have empathy about when it comes to buyers?
As I have written about several times of late, research in the past four decades has shown that the predominant largest factor influencing decisions on the part of buyers are their goals and their associated goal-directed behaviors. It is a simple yet profound premise of helping buyers to achieve their goals leads to effectiveness and results.
Use Buyer Personas To Understand How To Help Buyers Achieve Their Goals
Understanding the goals and goal-directed behaviors of buyers is hard work. It means the use of qualitative buyer research and getting at the deepest level of buyer insights possible. Research has also shown goals are not just sitting there on paper to glean from. They are often unarticulated and reside in the subconscious of buyers. Thus, why goals and goal-directed behaviors are the deepest forms of buyer insights you can attain.
The dividends and rewards, however, are substantial when you can inform both content interactions and sales interactions with insightful means on how these interactions can help buyers to accomplish their goals. Sales, for example, would find more ways to use content designed specifically for later in the buyer’s journey or path to a purchase if it was adept at goals. That is, adept at communicating and reinforcing how the buyer’s goals were going to be achieved. For CMOs and marketers today, adopting a goal-directed marketing framework is one path towards achieving effectiveness in content strategy.
Buyer personas can be helpful in this manner. The one important recognition that needs to take place though is knowledge of whether a buyer persona development effort was based upon goal-directed principles and methodology. At the origins of personas in general and buyer personas are the founding principles of personas are archetypes based on the goals and goal-directed behaviors of users and buyers. If not based on goals and goal-directed behaviors, then they are basically buyer profiles.
As this story has shown, profiling on the factors mentioned and not understanding the goals and motivations of buyers, can lead to a significant drop in content marketing effectiveness. When it comes to content marketing effectiveness, the right buyer understanding matters.
(What follows is a video featuring Dan Pink on motivations. What I like is he communicates the value of social scientist studying how we approach problem-solving and the role of motivation. Including how we may be too left-brain oriented with rules-based approaches. As opposed to the right-brain orientation towards conceptualizing. The profiling of buyers described above is very much a left-brain response to understanding buyers. Versus the motivational right-brain insights and understanding needed.)