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The Buyer’s Journey and Why Content Marketing is a Thing

In January 2013, I was licensed to skydive.  For a variety of very good reasons, it had taken me roughly 10 months to complete the accelerated freefall (AFF) course at Skydive Orange.

As a newly licensed skydiver, I needed to think about buying my own gear.  While rental equipment is available, every jump will cost roughly double, there’s always a chance the dropzone (DZ) will need that gear for other AFF students and by design, it’s intended to meet a variety of sizes; it’s not fitted well.

I wasn’t about to rush into buying gear either. It’s expensive and if a skydiver makes a mistake ordering gear, the chances are good it’s going to be an expensive mistake.

“Today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor.”

The New Buyer Journey

For 18 months, I studied up by talking to instructors, other seasoned skydivers, read countless articles and blog posts and perused the advertisements in the Parachutist magazine, the last of two publications I still like to peruse in print.

What’s missing from my buyer’s journey?  A conversation with sales.  The very last person I wanted to talk to was a salesperson.

It’s a trend that is increasingly pervasive across sales in a range of industries. Data from Forrester Research about B2B buyers that makes this point clear:

  • Buyers have nearly made a decision by the time they talk to sales. “Today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor.”
  • For every 4 pieces of content, buyers find about a vendor, just one was published by a vendor. “Forrester research shows that today’s B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver.”
  • Buyers are turning to more channels for that content. “Without debate, the business from the business buyer is already much more multichannel than the business-to-business sellers are. Buyers of business products and services are online, in social channels, on YouTube, going to events, and evaluating options on their iPads and smartphones.”

Couple these statistics with studies that suggest customers engage somewhere between 10 and 12 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, and we can begin to see just how important content marketing has become.  Moreover the data from Forrester a couple years old now, and it’s likely the minimum requirements, in cluttered content world, have grown.

The Buyers Journey and Why Content Marketing is a Thing

3 Content Marketing Mandates

These facts are changing the marketing environment.  Marketing has more responsibility for revenue than ever, all while customers and prospects are more skeptical than ever. I believe its making three basic tenants non-negotiable:

1.  Beyond useful.  Yes, content should have genuine utility.  That’s a good foundation, but content marketing has to be planned to match both the buyer persona and reflect that persona’s maturity in the buying cycle.  This means more math and less art.

2.  Frictionless.  Marketing needs its content to spread as far, wide and deep as humanly possible. Not just findability, but frictionless. Anything that stops or spooks a viewer – registration pages, disruptive popup ads, and hard sells – is a point of friction that that will prevent this from happening. With marketing automation tools, which was the point of post Forrester wrote along with those data points, data collection is inherent without registration.

3. Consistent.  Consistency is the most valuable attribute of content marketing because marketing has a fear of commitment. It’s afraid to commit to a process and ideology of marketing that requires long-term development.  Marketing is in an endless and fruitless search for that one weird trick that doesn’t exist.  Those businesses that stick with it, iterate, improve, will be several months, and perhaps even years, ahead of the competition.

* * *

When I had finally decided on the skydiving rig I wanted, I contacted two vendors. One emailed me a complicated purchase form, which I later learned was an industry standard. No context or help was offered, the company just sent the form as a PDF attachment and said “fill it out.”

The other vendor put me on the phone with a salesperson that was also a veteran skydiver who offered to fill the form out with me over the phone to answer any questions.  Guess who I made the purchase from?

Note:  The bold text in the second bullet in this post was updated on 7/8/14 to clarify the intended meaning. 

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