Many CMOs today are faced with a dilemma. As digital interactions and media become more intertwined into everyday life, marketers need to respond. Respond with content and media that fits into the new world of digital commerce. Yet, as CMOs invest and allocate more to content and digital media, the returns are not occurring as hoped.
Various studies have shown buyers continue to find as much as 60-to-75% of content to be non-relevant. In one study, SiriusDecisions found 60-to-70% of B2B content produced goes unused. Basically, results like these indicate content and digital media is having a problem with trust.
Understanding The Problem
Plenty has changed in terms of marketing media in the last fifteen years. However, approaches to understanding buyers have only evolved marginally in the same time period. The problem faced by marketers is there continues to be a lack of understanding about why buyers truly make choices and decisions.
Marketing and sales still rely on market segmentation and buyer profiling as it has for the last twenty-five plus years. In B2B commerce, for example, we may have a good idea about segments, roles, key initiatives of organizations, pain points, and criteria related to product specifics as well as purchasing. The kind of intelligence sales has relied upon for the past three decades and is often publicly available. Although it may seem like plenty of intelligence, it is still not moving the needle in the right direction.
While this type of intelligence is helpful, it lacks insights into the goal-directed behavior of buyers and why they make the choices they do. At the core of the problem is the simple fact that marketers are having a hard time getting what makes buyers happy and satisfied.
The consecutive years of high percentages of content going unused by buyers bear this out. Additionally, the effectiveness of B2B content marketing is dropping. The latest B2B Marketing Benchmark Study, jointly produced by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, indicate the percentage of B2B marketers who believe their organizations are effective at content marketing has dropped to 30% from 38%.
Goals Matter To Buyers
It has been predominantly found, through decades of organizational and psychological research, that people make decisions relative to their goals and goal-directed behaviors. In essence, buyer goals matter greatly and failing to connect on buyer goals results in the statistics mentioned above.
What also matters is understanding the right goals. As simple as the word goal is, there is much misunderstanding about goals and goal-directed behaviors. (With regards to buyer personas, I have seen the word goal used more commonly but superficially in nature.)
The first thing marketers will need to recognize is goals are different than what we tend to think in the world of business. Particularly within the context of B2B marketing. Often, we see confusion related to objectives, initiatives, targets, criteria, metrics, and etc. To simplify a bit here, the confusion has plenty to do with confusing pain points, tasks, responsibilities, and activities with that of goals. They are not the same. Goals have much do with personal desired end states and involve a myriad of specific types of goals and sub-goals.
Trying To Connect On An Impersonal “Business-Speak” Level Does Not Work
Where the disconnect occurs is when CMOs and their team focus solely on profile-based information as described above. These attempts are impersonal and fact-based. While understanding profile-based information is important, especially for sales, it amounts to trying to connect with buyers solely based on their job descriptions, responsibilities, and generalized objectives.
Buyers are inundated with an onslaught of impersonal content daily proclaiming how they can do their job tasks, activities, and responsibilities better, as well as, meet objectives through product or service features. Usually, loaded with “business-speak” and acronyms. It is no wonder that more than 70% of content is ignored and goes unused.
(The above are significant reasons why buyer personas can end up being ineffective. Profiles are incorrectly labeled as buyer personas and amount to being job or role oriented profiles filled with “business-speak” language such as initiatives, criteria, KPIs, factors and etc. Marketers can employ a simple litmus test on the authenticity of buyer personas – if they are not based on qualitative research eliciting goals and goal-directed behaviors, as well as, created within a goal-directed framework, then they should be considered buyer profiles, not buyer personas.)
Goal-Directed Marketing™ Connects On A Personal Level
With the degree of ineffectiveness in content and digital media becoming more pronounced, CMOs today are searching for how to reverse the downslide. Recognizing that product marketing and sales-oriented approaches to profiling buyers are at a rapid point of diminishing returns.
One means for CMOs and marketers to reverse course is to develop marketing communications based upon how buyers can achieve their goals, both in a business and personal context. To do so, they will need to perform buyer research on the influence of the underlying goals of buyers and how they manifest themselves into goal-directed behaviors, as well as, buyer decisions.
Unlike profile-based information, which oftentimes is available publicly, goals and goal-directed behaviors reside in the unarticulated and subconscious minds of buyers. Thus, making the need for qualitative buyer research an important element of goal-directed marketing.
Marketing, in the new digital economy, is becoming increasingly about understanding new behaviors and relationships within the context of digital technologies. One constant in this swirling global economy is buyers are largely driven to pursue goals. New digital technologies mean new types of goal-directed behaviors are evolving on the part of buyers. Resulting in new ways buyers make choices and decisions in the pursuit of goals.
This new world of marketing means marketers then can embrace a simple yet profound premise – if we understand the goals of buyers and communicate how we can help buyers to accomplish their goals, we will have buyers who will gladly engage.
(What follows is an interesting dimension of understanding goals. Derek Sivers talks about why you should not announce your goals. Research has found that most people do not and goals often go unarticulated. Thus, making the value of qualitative buyer insights research critical to goal-directed marketing. And, why a focus on goals and goal-directed behaviors is the deepest form of buyer insights that can be achieved.)