In the not so distant past, people were largely reliant on advertisements and the occasional referral from a friend to learn what they could about a product. Now buyers have the means to be pickier.
Nobody has to trust what an ad says or hope someone in their life has managed to try out a product before they need it. We can learn most of what there is to know about almost every product you can imagine before ever making a purchase.
The Rise of the Informed Buyer
Review sites. Social media. And the daddy of all tools used by informed buyers: Google. These have all come to play a significant role in how people buy things, even for big-ticket B2B items. 75% of B2B buyers have said that social media plays a role in their purchasing decisions, and 84% of high-level executives said so.
When you realize there’s a new product you need, how often do you start by calling a company? Chances are, you go first to Google to figure out what your options are, then maybe to several websites of companies that offer possible solutions, maybe to review sites or articles that provide a third-party opinion on the products, maybe to social media to see what other people have to say there.
By the time a consumer reaches the point where they’re willing to make the time commitment required for a product demo or sales call, most will have already spent some time learning what they can on their own. The businesses that make that process easier on them increase their chances of being the ones consumers are most likely to reach out to when they’re finally ready to get in touch.
How to Help Buyers Self-Educate
The answer will likely come as no surprise to anyone who’s been working in marketing the past few years: create helpful content.
Content marketing rose to prominence in large part due to this shift in how consumers behave. Now that buyers expect to be able to find most of the information they need at the moment they want it, rather than on your timeline, businesses need to make sure that the information is out there and easy to find.
Most businesses have by now taken the plunge and started to invest in content, but one thing many still struggle with is making sure their content focuses on the customer. Obviously you want everything that gets a share of your marketing budget to lead to potential sales, but to provide buyers with the kind of content they want – the type that enables them to self-educate in the early stages of the buyer’s journey – you have to shift the focus away from yourself and think about what they need.
If the content you provide during the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey does its job and helps build trust in your brand, then it will make the work of your later-stage marketing campaigns much easier. A lead that already a) knows your company exists, and b) associates your brand with being helpful is one that your sales team has a head start on ushering toward conversion.
Making Your Content Count
One of the biggest challenges that marketers face with this shift to self-education is that it’s much harder to effectively track the performance of awareness-stage marketing tactics and know which sales they help influence. Businesses can track plenty of metrics related to the performance of educational content, but knowing how many views a blog post had doesn’t tell you how many of the readers become customers.
In order to really see the impact your educational content has in helping moving leads to later stages of the buyer’s journey, you need a way to connect all the marketing touch points you have. Many marketers aren’t there yet, but those who have made the investment in a marketing performance management solution that brings all the right data into one dashboard now have the ability to see which clicks and views lead a prospect to take other actions. The journey begins before they land on your website, continues to the point where they request a demo or start talking to your team, all the way to usage and eventually, when they become an advocate.You know that self-education is an important part of the buyer’s journey and you know you need to provide the kind of content that enables that education. You don’t have to accept that you may never know if it’s paying off.
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