It is now generally understood that by the time a customer meets with a salesperson to make a potential purchase, they are at the end of a long journey with many stops. Marketing content cannot dictate the path of that journey, but can help guide customers in the right direction.

Solving the ‘Buyer’s Dilemma’

In a session at this week’s Gilbane 2012 Conference in Boston titled “Mapping Content and Engagement Strategies to the Buyer’s Journey,” Agile Business Logic Principal Marc Strohlein said buyers actually face a content-related dilemma. “There is too much content but not enough relevant content,” said Strohlein.

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He also quoted IDC statistics on how the buying process has become increasingly complex. In the past three years, the average number of stakeholders in a purchase has grown from four to six and the length of the buying cycle has grown from an average 4.5 months to 5.4 months. And 55% of buyers blame poor marketing and sales efforts for this increased complexity.

In addition, marketers face their own dilemma. IDC data indicates 86% of buyers say relevant content drives buying decisions , but only 41% believe marketing content is effective and 40% of potential sales are lost due to mismatched content.

How to Create Relevant Content

So relevant content is key to getting on the coveted “short list” for buyers contemplating a purchase. As Strohlein said, “If you’re not oh the short list, you’re not on any list.” How do marketers create relevant content?
First, Strohlein said relevant content is role-specific. It anticipates and answers buyer questions before they ask them and is engaging, appealing and concise. Content should also be objective and actionable and available when, where and how the buyer wants.

“Engage the customer digitally and live by exchanging valuable information,” recommended Strohlein. “Marketing and sales must work together,” he said, humorously adding this may go against everything marketing and sales departments are used to.

Learning Opportunities

Understanding Buyer Psychology

Strohlein described the buyer’s journey asa “unique cognitive process” of the buyer in making a purchase decision. “The buying process starts before the vendor is contacted,” he stated. “There are multiple stages and states and multiple decision-makers with their own agendas. Content needs to be different at each stage, role and situation.”

Creating buyer “personas” can help marketers better understand the buyer’s journey, said Strohlein, but these personas must do more than describe a buyer’s role (such as CEO). “Personas should include a buyer’s goals, concerns, preferences and decision-making processes,” he said.

Co-presenter Randy Woods, president of Non-Linear Creations, expanded on the importance of fully-fleshed personas to successfully driving the buyer’s journey (or “user’s journey” as he called it). “You can’t just upload personas and expect them to work,” he said. “The primary way to differentiate personas is by what content they view. When someone visits your site, unless they’re lost, they have a motivation for being there.”

Tracking and analyzing the content personas view can help marketers refine and better manage them, said Woods. In addition, some types of users can be quickly identified by what content they choose to view. “You can tell job seekers and tech buyers very quickly by the content they look at and assign values,” said Woods.

Editor's Note: Catch all our Gilbane Boston conference coverage in our special events section.