The good news: 88 percent of business buyers believe that online content has played a major to moderate role in vendor selection. The bad news: Only 9 percent of buyers trust vendor websites.
This is according to a survey entitled “The Content Connection To Vendor Selection” from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, published in March 2014.
This is not surprising. And why don’t buyers trust vendor websites? Well, there is a general decline in trust of "official" sources. According to Edelman PR when buyers were asked who they trusted, in 2012 only 38 percent said CEOs. In 2011, it was 50 percent. According to Edelman,
'A person like me' is more trusted than doctors, academics and other such experts. In the US, trust in 'a person like me' has shown a dramatic increase from just 20 percent in 2003 to 68 percent today.”
In 2012, 50 percent of people said they would trust a regular employee (up from 34 percent in 2011). Why? Because people believe that they are more likely to get the truth from a regular employee than from a CEO. People are so tired of propaganda, PR hype and marketing BS. And they are getting more tired by the day.
What do Business-to-Business buyers want? According to the CMO survey, they want:
- Comprehensive industry/category surveys and studies (52 percent)
- Technical details about products and solutions (44 percent)
- Analyst reviews or recommendations (43 percent)
- Expert-originated content with supporting facts and research (35 percent)
- Content published by third-party sources (35 percent)
What’s a poor marketer to do? Forget about everything you were taught in marketing school. Instead, marry your basic communication skills with those of the technician. Your potential customers want detail: they want facts, they want the smell of authenticity. Dare it be said: tell the truth. Admit flaws. Tell them about weaknesses in your product because it will make the strengths seem more real. Does that sound like total heresy?
Technology professionals are impatient, skeptical and cynical. They scan high and dig deep — they quickly search or navigate for specific technical details but once they find these details they can spend a long time reading them.
So often, these professionals see "marketing content" get in their way. I would be very rich if I got a dollar for every time an IT professional said something like: “This page is just marketing. There’s nothing useful here.” These professionals almost entirely ignore big, fancy graphics. Smiley faces have the same effect that garlic has for a vampire.
And yet go to the websites of most IT companies and you are flooded with marketing waffle and smiley faces. The people designing and writing for these pages are locked into a highway billboard, brochure-ware marketing mentality that is so 20th century. This sort of stuff is a major reason why only 9 percent of buyers trust IT vendor websites. These websites scream: DON’T TRUST ME!!
Do we have to wait for the older marketing executives to retire? Maybe. Maybe that’s the only way because most younger marketers and communicators do understand the societal shifts, the fundamental changes in buyer and consumer behavior.
On the web, customers want facts and details. If marketing can’t provide them then it should at least get out of the way.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.
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