End users are relying more than ever on online sources of information to influence their purchasing behavior. But the idea that there is a single decision-maker determining whether to purchase your products or not isn’t true anymore.
According to a survey of B2B buyers conducted by The CMO Council in partnership with NetLine Corporation, the majority of marketing materials and the products they’re pitching go through several levels before a buying consensus is reached. Specifically, the research found that companies regularly go online to find, compare and research vendor offerings, and that “sourcing, sharing and consumption of content occurred mostly among three types of informally structured buying groups” or “sharing circles” within enterprises, each of whom typically respond to a different type of content:
Researchers seek out broad content such as industry reports and studies that help inform them of new solutions and trends.
Influencers also respond to general messaging, but are more likely to explore technically oriented information such as specifications, data sheets and use cases. According to the CMO Council, “influencers” are the segment most likely to respond to content marketing, such as infographics, video and blog commentary.
Decision Makers “want to stay informed through research reports and analyst commentary but also expect to have access to data in order to quickly enable better decision making.”
While online vendor marketing messages are consumed and disseminated relatively evenly throughout the corporate hierarchy, purchasing decisions usually begin with lower or mid-level employees and are passed up to leadership. By contrast, online marketing content originates with senior-level executives in less than a third of cases, and from there it is typically sent downstream for product identification, and final purchase and execution.
This dynamic creates an interesting conundrum for B2B marketers, and seems to contradict the simple strategies often promoted by industry experts, who recommend targeting messaging to executives with the authority to make a purchasing decision.
So how should marketers respond? Linda West, partner and marketing director at New York’s Defined Creative, said B2B marketers need to begin thinking outside the marketing funnel and build a “marketing ecosystem” that anticipates the fluid dynamics of enterprise decision making.
“Your customers won’t all act alike, and they certainly won’t follow a singular linear path down a funnel that you’ve predetermined,” she wrote.
Ultimately these messages will get in front of someone with purchasing authority, but there are many channels and the key is choosing the right one for your target.