Too Much Information – The Confused Customer

information overloadMore information is not always better. I am reminded of this constantly when I make more expensive purchases (such as when I bought my latest camera). It is interesting to me how complex some stores both online and offline make the purchase decision. Most consumers are not experts, especially for products they purchase very infrequently. Yet, it seems that retailers often want to tell us everything there is to know about the product.

However, this really isn’t the way to help consumers make better decisions. In fact it is a good way to drive customers away. Most people begin with a short list of attributes that are important and they use these attributes to weed out the first set of choices. Then based on secondary attributes they further whittle down their choices until they come to their final choice. It seems to me that in many cases sellers offer too much information up front and try to let the consumer figure it out. This can lead to the customer second guessing whether the attributes that they thought were important actually are. Studies have shown that consumers are likely to use only information presented and in the way it is presented when their experience with the product is low. As doubt in the customer’s mind then increases purchase likelihood begins to fall. I think a really good example of this is how Amazon displays products. If I know what I want to buy I always use Amazon. However, if I am doing comparison shopping on anything other than price I am likely to go somewhere else as the amount of information thrown at you can get kind of ridiculous. The results are then the increased likelihood that I am going to purchase at a different location too.

Since more information is not always better here are some relevant questions to ask yourself when you are presenting product information:

Do I know what attributes my customer thinks are most important?

Do my customers know which attributes should be considered?

Am I presenting that information in a way that can easily be processed by the customer?

Am I providing too little or too much information?

 

Target Your Content with Buyer Personas

target content marketingRecently I wrote about “Using Buyer Personas to Develop Content Marketing Strategy” and I discussed the role of decision makers and influencers. In December the IT Service Marketing Association released a great study on “How Buyers Consume Information Survey” and highlighted a third group involved in making purchase decisions within organizations; Evaluators. Evaluators are research focused individuals who are vetting potential partners and putting together the short list of final candidates for decisions makers. This study surveyed 299 professionals with the breakdown being 13% Influencer, 19% Evaluator, and 67% Decision Maker who make IT purchases greater than $500,000.

In my previous article I raised the question of “do you know how your target customers are searching for information?” The ITSMA survey answers some of those questions for IT buyers and points out some very interesting trends. The survey groups buyers into two separate categories based on their behaviors:

Social Buyer: Someone who uses online communities to make purchase decisions

Traditional Buyer: Someone who feels online communities are not as useful to make purchase decisions

The study separated the two groups by the question “How useful are social media channels during the purchase process from 1 – 5” (1 being not at all useful and 5 being very useful). Participants rating from 1 to 3 were grouped as traditional buyers while those noting 4 or 5 were grouped in the Social Buyer Category. I think the traditional category is skewed somewhat as 28% of respondents (the highest total for one rating) gave social media a 3 as far as importance. Even with the smaller sample size I believe the study gives marketers a good idea of how buyers are consuming information.

The first difference between the two types of buyers is that Social Buyers spend 6.5 hours per week consuming content while Traditional Buyers spend only 4.3 hours or 34% less  time-consuming content. There was also a significant difference in the way that the two buyer types preferred to receive information:

Social Buyers: Research Reports, Social Media, Email Newsletters, In-Person Seminars/Conferences/ Trade Shows, Print Journals/Magazines

Traditional Buyers: In-Person Seminars/Conferences/Trade Shows, Research Reports, Virtual Conferences/Trade Shows, Webinars, Sales Call/Private Briefing

Just looking at these few factors alone we can see how you may want to start tailoring your inbound and outbound marketing strategies to meet audience interests. In this study there were slightly more traditional buyers than there were social buyers but I think that trend will shift as time goes on. It would be really interesting to see how type of buyer shifts across industries. Looking at the results we see some overlap in content that both types of buyers are using such as In-Person Seminars/Conferences/ Trade Shows as well as Research reports. I would use this information to build my marketing strategy in these two areas and build out to include integration of content that can be distributed across the differing channels. Hopefully this helps you better see how building customer personas can help you develop a targeted content strategy.

Using Buyer Personas to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

content-marketing-wheelDo you understand the buyer personas within your industry? To really understand how to develop your content marketing strategy you need to understand the buyer persona and the sales value chain within the industry you work. In this article I am going to discuss the buyer persona and how it can help you develop better content by understanding this key component of the sales value chain.

Buyer Persona – Buyer personas encapsulate your business’ knowledge and understanding about the types of people marketing and sales speak to in the sales process.

Many people think of buyer personas as simply segmentation but I believe that they are so much more than that. Robert Wright wrote a great post on buyer personas titled “Building Buyer Personas: A Checklist for High-Tech Marketers” on CMO.com where he highlighted four main topics you need to understand about your audience to build a solid buyer persona: Background, Market Dynamics and Challenges, Motivation, and Decision-Making Process.

Background helps you understand the person that you are marketing to. How did they get to where they are? What drives them in their current position? How fast does the company the person works for move within the changing market conditions? I think the old adage that you can’t understand where we’re going without understanding where we’ve been is a great way of understanding the Background element.

Market Dynamics and Challenges is pretty fundamental when doing any type of marketing and especially with content marketing. Understanding what market dynamics are causing your target buyers to make a purchase decision and to what affect it has on the information necessary to make a decision is extremely important.

Motivation is what is driving the decision maker to make a purchase. How will the buyer personally gain from buying your product? Will it make his or her boss happy? Is he or she looking to keep up with competitors in the industry? Are there relationships with internal stakeholders affecting the decision? Understanding motivation behind a buyer’s decision will give you great insight into how active you will need to be in order to motivate the buyer into letting you on the list of potential business partners.

Decision-Making Process is the end to end of the sales value chain in my opinion. Who has the ultimate authority to make a purchase decision? Who are the influencers to making the decision? In most B2B transactions there is usually a team of people who make the final decision. The question to understand is if there is someone who has more weight on the committee than everyone else?

Here is a great resource for “10 Rules for Buyer Persona Development from Goal Centric if you need more help on developing buyer personas. So how does this help you develop a better content marketing strategy? I like to ask myself the basic five W’s when developing my content: who, what, when, where, and why.

Who: Who am I targeting with my content?

What: What type of content are they consuming?

When: When are they consuming content within my average sales timeline?

Where: Where are they going to get content?

Why: Why are they consuming the types of content that they are?

Understanding the four elements of Buyer Persona will help answer all five W’s but how will it help you develop your marketing content strategy? Now that you have built your buyer persona you should have a clear idea of who will be involved in making the purchase decision from the direct decision maker on down to key influencers. You should also have a clear idea of the type of content that each key player uses to make decisions. The final piece is developing an idea of how involved each decision maker and influencer is in making the final decision. I would weight the amount of content focused on each person in the decision in direct proportion to the final decision. Again it is important to understand if there is someone on the team who has more authority (like a CFO) then a majority of content should be developed and targeted there (say 60%), with 30% focused on other members of the decision team. Although the big focus is on the ultimate decision maker don’t forget to make sure you have content developed for influencers as well! Being seen by everyone along the value chain is important as in many cases information gets passed along through so many different channels.

How Buyer Personas Can Sharpen B2B Marketing | Business 2 Community

See on Scoop.itDigital and Social Media Marketing for B2B

B2B marketers who develop a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy their products can form a bond of customer trust that most rivals can not

Kevin Chase‘s insight:

This is a great precursor to my blog post upcoming next week focusing on B2B purchasing and marketing within that value chain. To understand how businesses make purchase decisions you first need to understand the people behind these decisions and how they make purchase decisions on a personal level. After you understand this you can move on to better understanding of how purchase decisions are made across teams.

See on www.business2community.com

Four Steps to Convince CEOs that Demand Generation Should be a Marketing, Not a Sales, Function

See on Scoop.itDigital and Social Media Marketing for B2B

TweetFor most of us, the phrase “demand generation” conjures up things like campaigns, trade shows, and the corporate website. But what about sales prospecting?

Kevin Chase‘s insight:

Great article highlighting how you can quantify the direct impact to sales of prospecting and attach a real dollar value. The post builds highlights exactly why demand generation belongs in marketing.

See on b2bleadblog.com

Don’t Rush to Inbound Marketing Too Quick

Along with content marketing I have been reading a lot of information on the explosion of inbound marketing. Marketers are quick to embrace the higher conversion rates and ROI that comes along with having an effective strategy. I think it makes total sense that someone who is already looking for your product is going to have a higher conversion than someone who isn’t. Having an optimized strategy to reach these customers makes complete sense and I am not disagreeing with an emphasis on inbound marketing. However, two words come to mind when I hear marketers talking exclusively about exploding investment in their inbound marketing budgets:

-SLOW DOWN-

Do you fully understand what is driving customers to you in the first place? If I sell accounting software, are people coming to me because I simply have accounting software or is it because they want MY software. Are customers in my target market aware of the unique benefits of my product and the issues it can solve? If you have a very unique product or service many potential customers may not even know you exist and thus are not actively searching for you. Marketers, especially new ones, sometimes forget about this important question in the marketing cycle and when developing new marketing strategy.

Quick questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is my product high involvement or low involvement?
  2. Is my brand or product well-known or more obscure?
  3. How do my customers search for information about my product?

Asking yourself these questions will give you a better picture of how much emphasis to put on inbound versus outbound marketing activities. The definition of a high involvement product is one where a consumer generally spends much more time to make a purchase decision meaning an optimized inbound marketing strategy is essential.

Having a less well-known brand can be somewhat problematic when it comes to determine inbound versus outbound marketing. There are a lot of variables that can shift your thinking between the two. If your product solves a common problem then focusing on making sure you are right up front is extremely important. What if the benefit of your product is less known in the marketplace such as you are solving a problem that may not have had a solution before? I think a recent advertisement from Ford has done a great job priming potential customers by highlighting a problem that may have been unrecognized by many. It is the ad highlighting the new hands free liftgate. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. Ford has done a great job highlighting a common problem that many people may not have known they had. With buying cycles being fairly long in the car industry it may be years before these types of advertisements pay off.

The last is how your target customers are searching for information. Are they going to trade websites to find your product and read your customer reviews? Or are they asking all of their business connections to provide recommendations? Is there a national organization that has a listing of the products or services that is recommended to your target customers? Trade shows are extremely expensive but can be effective in industries where face to face interaction and high involvement of purchase decisions are required. Understanding how purchasers are influenced in their buying behavior is extremely important to understand. It may make sense for you to abandon some of your traditional marketing tactics but just make sure you really understand customer behaviors first

Remember that customers will come in two forms; those who have no idea that they have a problem (or will have) and that there is a solution, and those who know they have a problem and are actively looking for a solution. Every customer starts out in the first situation, with inbound marketing capturing them when they move into the second situation. Traditional marketing tees up the problem and the solution early in the buyer’s mind and inbound marketing makes sure that when these consumers are ready to buy they can find you. Inbound marketing is extremely important to any organization and provides many valuable benefits; however I think we need to slow down a bit and not abandon outbound marketing just yet.

Developing Content Marketing Strategy

brimageI’m currently working on developing a new campaign for my company which got me thinking about the sales value chain and how content marketing should be targeted to hit key stakeholders along this chain. This prompted me to launch a survey on how people are using social media in their personal lives versus for business. I know that I personally have completely separated Facebook from my business life and don’t really use it for anything other than to connect with friends, i.e. I don’t go around liking my favorite brands. I use LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress, and Pinterest pretty regularly for business as I am constantly doing market research and trying to connect with others in my industry. I use Reddit, Scoop.it, YouTube, and others for both business and pleasure.

The question that I started thinking about was, well, how do I use social media to educate myself on products both personally and professionally? A great example is that my company is currently implementing a new task management program. My process for this was to check out the website, watch a video on YouTube demonstrating the software, read some reviews, and visited a forum to see what people were saying about their experience.

What process would an accounting manager go through to analyze the same product? Are they more likely to weight product reviews higher than reviews posted by actual users on a forum? Would they be more interested in a white paper on how the task program fit in the accounting market? These are great questions that I would like to find an answer to; how, when, and what type of content are key stakeholders using to make decisions?

If you have any great resources you would like to share I would love to hear about them! Also feel free to take my short 9 question survey on Personal and Business Use of Social Media.