Keynote video: The ‘pinch point’ of B2B content marketing
Tech Heads is an annual study of trends in content consumption and buyer behaviours for B2B businesses. Its launch saw Billy Hamilton-Stent, Octopus Group’s Client Strategy Director, deliver a keynote on the study’s findings and the ‘content pinch point’ – check it out in the video below.
Tech Heads was launched at Home House, London, on 8th October – the report can be downloaded here.
Check out the Tech Heads keynote in the video below
Keynote transcription below
Who we spoke to in Tech Heads
Simplicity is a really important theme of our data in Tech Heads because, as an agency, we try to simplify what we do from a marketing and communications point of view.
We spoke to 402 stakeholders for Tech Heads – that number can be broken down into these departments and business functions:
128 worked in IT
103 were at board level
77 from finance
55 from HR
44 worked in sales and marketing
What’s a tech head?
The slide has some stats from the report, which show how technology works among the audience that we surveyed.
80% said it was increasingly importantly that they know more about technology in order to make better decisions about buyers and suppliers
77% said technology was becoming more and more important in order for them to do their job
A particularly interesting point is that B2B buyers are savvy – 91% of buyers are aware of the practice of paid and placed information and opinions from vendors, so they know when they’re being sold to. The data from Tech Heads shows that most of them don’t mind this, as long as it’s the right kind of sales pitch.
So we’ve got a sophisticated buyer who’s very technology-literate. That’s what a ‘Tech Head’ is.
The ‘content pinch point’… shorter, smaller, longer, and bigger
The main theme of our Tech Heads report is the ‘content pinch point’. The content pinch point is quite simple – it’s the fact that:
The time people have to consume information is getting shorter, the devices they have to consume it on are getting smaller, the sales decision-making process is getting longer, and the appetite to consume information around that process is growing
If you put all of that together, it’s a pinch in your content. Shorter, smaller, longer and bigger are the axis of what we found out.
Shorter amount of time consuming content
Have we reached peak time?
For the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2015), we’ve asked buyers: how much time do you spend researching products, suppliers and services online, and following industry news and developments.
In 2014 there was a huge increase in the consumption of information among buyers, ranging from around 3 hrs and 40 mins to 4 hrs and 30 mins per week. At the time, as marketers, we thought that was great, but knew that at some point that was going to peak.
In 2015 that amount of time went down slightly, so perhaps we’ve reached peak time? If you’re in the world of marketing and communications, that means your world just got a little bit smaller. If that’s an ongoing trend, then we need to consider it in what we do.
Longer buying cycles
46% percent of people said the amount of time they’re spending to make purchasing decisions and on-board new suppliers is increasing, while 26% said it was decreasing. So you’re almost twice as likely to see a longer decision-making process around buying than you are to see it (the buying cycle) contracting.
That buying cycle is around 14 weeks, but it’s getting longer.
So two Tech Heads data trends are that buyers have less time to look at information and more time to make decisions.
During that cycle, 83% of buyers said they’d shortlisted or decided on a supplier before making contact with them at least half of the time. It shows that people do a lot of hunting around before making contact, making content and communications activity – what we might call the ‘top of the funnel’ experience – critically important.
Smaller devices for information
Compared to 12 months ago, are people digesting more information through phones, tablets, or laptops?
Interestingly, 50% of people said they’re consuming more through their smartphone.
While, for many, that’s not necessarily a surprising finding, what’s useful is the context that it’s delivered in – that’s ultimately the goal of Tech Heads…to give B2B marketing and communications professionals some context around findings that may already be known, so that they can be more effective in their upcoming planning and execution.
Where do buyers go for information
The data shows that a company website is still the top destination where B2B buyers go to find out about products, services and suppliers. Among social networks, LinkedIn is the preferred source.
Business-led content is the most popular among buyers (as opposed to product- or opinion-led content).
A growing appetite for content
57% of Tech Heads respondents said they are relying more on content to inform purchasing decisions now than they were a year ago. So that’s the growth in appetite in our content pinch point theme.
Information gathering influences buyer shortlisting 93% of the time.
It’s important to remember these stats because sometimes it can feel like nobody is listening or watching, but those figures show that buyers have an appetite to find out more about businesses have to say, and it’s the marketer’s job to make sure that experience is appropriate.
The purchase pinch point
Time is shorter, formats are smaller, cycles are longer, and the appetite is stronger – the trends in our data tell us that’s the scenario we’re dealing with.
So what should B2B marketers do about it?
Well, perhaps we should reverse the situation. Let’s imagine a different kind of pinch in content. One where time is longer, formats are longer, cycles are shorter and the appetite is weaker. What would we do in that scenario?
If there was more time, huge formats, very little time to get people convinced, and they had a very short attention span…what would you do? You would probably make blockbuster movies – in the sense that your planning cycles would be on a huge scale.
So we need to do the opposite of that blockbuster scale because of what the actual trends are. We need to avoid the blockbuster scale, as we’re trying to market to people in a much more sensitive and considered way.
There’s a huge variance among the stakeholders we spoke to, depending on their department and seniority.
For example, we asked whether online content levels the playing field for customer engagement between challenger brands and large businesses. 60% of respondents agreed with it, but, at board level, that figure was higher at 71%.
Similarly, we asked whether digital marketing enables businesses to punch above their weight when competing for buyers’ attention. 64% agreed, but that rose to 74% at board level.
So the data shows that there’s a definite levelling of the playing field.
Another question we asked was whether buyers wanted suppliers to treat them more as a person, rather than a potential sale. 76% agreed and it was even higher among the board-level, where 82% agreed with it.
It’s important to remember that we’re dealing with people, rather than automatons, and that’s something that particularly resonates with the board. You can’t connect with people unless you know who they are. If you don’t know them, then you’re going to treat them as a potential sale, as you have no other option.
Recommendations for the content marketing pinch point
For more insight into the content consumption habits and purchasing trends of B2B buyers, download our Tech Heads report
Image of upturned key via flickr.com/photos/barnoid/