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Last year, ITSMA rolled out the new 4 P’s of content marketing: Personalized, Proactive, Peer Influenced, and Proven. As shown in our 2016 buyer study, The Changing Landscape for Customer Engagement, B2B buyers of high value services and solutions are constantly looking for new ideas and insight. But they are also increasingly demanding of highly relevant and credible content.
As we noted with last year’s study, “the bar keeps rising for content and communication that truly connects.”
Our recently published 2017 study, Understanding Changing Buyer Behavior: Marketing Priorities for Improving Engagement, adds another valuable data set to the conversation.
Long story short, the 4 P’s are even more relevant today (with a slight amendment, as noted below). In the connected economy, B2B buyers want to engage with companies that provide highly-tailored ideas and information oriented to their specific business, industry, role, and situation.
The Four P’s of Content Marketing
- Personalized: Buyers want innovative ideas focused on their specific issues and needs. The sources of information they use run the gamut from peers to in-person events to social media. Everyone has his or her own preference, requiring solution providers to execute across multiple delivery channels to personalize the experience. In addition to personalizing content and delivery channels, solution providers also need to personalize content formats. Despite the temptation to make all content more snackable, many buyers still relish digging into with a robust whitepaper. In fact, content preferences split fairly equally across short-, medium-, and long-form content.
- Proactive: New ideas and collaborative innovation are essential at all stages of the customer lifecycle. Some 89% of buyers view content, especially thought leadership, as critical or important during the early stage of the buying process, and they don’t want us to wait to be asked. New buyers and existing customers alike find SME points of view and visions for the future among the most helpful types of information. And when making renewal decisions, customers heavily weigh the solution provider’s ability to proactively innovate and add value to the business.
- People influenced: Although the time people spend researching online is certainly growing, buyers still spend a large portion (43%) of their time during the purchase process offline, primarily with their peers and solution provider subject matter experts (SMEs). We’ve actually amended last year’s “Peer Influenced” to “People Influenced” this year to reflect the broader set of influencers that buyers engage with in the early stages. High value B2B services and solutions are still a relationship-based sale, and trustworthiness, an attribute based on personal interaction, is key for deciding which providers make the shortlist.
- Proven: It’s not surprising that credible proof points are extremely important to buyers. But it remains a great challenge for marketers and sales people to providing the right ones in the right formats at the right time. Although engagement between solution providers and buyers is increasingly digital, the most effective proof points continue to reflect the human touch. The most effective proof points include: Subject matter experts who are available for conversations, meetings, and workshops, third-party validation, proof of concept, customer case studies, knowledgeable salespeople, and referrals from peers and colleagues.
The desire to provide highly personalized, relevant, and credible marketing is certainly nothing new. And B2B marketers in recent years have invested heavily in new tools and approaches to market to smaller segments and even markets of once (hence the rapidly growing investments in account-based marketing).
Amid the rush to full, data-driven personalization, though, a sizable gap still remains between the desired future and current reality.
The quest certainly makes sense. B2B marketers, if anything, should accelerate investments in customer and market insight, as well as marketing technology, to enable increasingly tailored marketing based on priority topics and tactics for each buyer and account.
Meanwhile, though, the 4 P’s provide essential guidance to support those investments and create more effective approaches along the way.