Gartner’s VP Marketing Strategies, Laura McLellan, released the findings of a tech marketing survey that was conducted at 501 organisations in the U.S., Europe and China.
According to this survey, technology consumers consume different types of marketing content, depending on where they stand in three successive phases that make up a sales journey. Here’s what marketing content works out best in each phase:
Creating the Content that Customers Want
The tech buying process is often long and complex. What’s more, it typically involves multiple stakeholders:
Phase 1: Determining Solutions to a Business Problem
Prospective Customers, at this early stage, are educating themselves about your industry or market. According to Gartner, they rely mostly on paid and earned media during this discovery process:
1. Advertising ranks as the most influential tool with IT managers (64%) and Line-of-Business managers (50%). Since 2012, though, online advertising (45%) has displaced print advertising (24%) as the medium of choice.
2. Newsletters — both printed and available online — score highly at this early stage of the buying cycle, as people want to hear from vendors on a recurring basis. According to Gartner’s survey, respondents prefer to have their newsletters delivered by email, on websites, or in video-based format.
3. Press Relations also rank high (54%), as tech executives place a high level of trust in trend and news articles that run in well-known professional media.
4. Social media is effective at educating prospective technology buyers early in a branding program. The preferred digital channels are, in descending order of importance, blogs that are written by influencers, such as industry experts and analysts (40%), followed by webinars (31%). Surprisingly, blogs from technology vendors rank quite low (6%) in terms of perceived effectiveness. Gartner, as a result, recommends launching programs that are designed to engage with influencers.
Phase 2: Identifying Providers
Prospective buyers here seek to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you offer. They’re looking for differentiators vs. market alternatives. According to Gartner, the most influential tools, in descending order of effectiveness, are:
1. The corporate website, in part because it is linked to the social and mobile customer experience.
2. Marketing literature — both printed and online — and in particular white papers, brochures and videos to convey thought leadership.
3. Customer-facing tools, such as events, ongoing contacts and sales presentations.
Phase 3: Selecting a Provider
At this stage in the B2B buying cycle, decision-makers have completed their research on trends, reviews and comparisons of the available products. By the time they engage with a salesperson, according to Forrester, their decision is anywhere from two-thirds to 90% complete. This is the time to engage with these prospects on a personal level:
1. Customer references have been rated the single most influential marketing activity in this phase (54%) for the fourth year in a row. They’re also a major factor to get featured in Gartner quadrant ranking. Laura McLellan recommends to her clients that they begin by initiating a case study program. Reference communication preferences vary by country: in writing in Europe and for Line-of-Business managers; by telephone in the U.S. — particularly for IT managers; and in video in China.
2. Sales presentations, event participation and ongoing contacts with prospects should complement customer reference programs as a way of closing the sale.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Getting the right content in front of the right buyers at the right time can be critical to a go-to-market strategy. What’s more, it may require shifting marketing resources within specific phases in the sales journey to influence the decisions to purchase.