The channel ranked by business software purchasers as the most influential third party source of information doesn’t even rank in the top 5 of content managers’ distribution channels.
Browsing through industry reports over the past few weeks, I was very struck by the significant divergence between where software purchasers say content has most influence with them, and where distribution efforts and resources are concentrated by content marketers. Notwithstanding all the much trumpeted efforts taken in ‘building brand personas’, it seems most content marketers don’t go the extra mile to evaluate where prospective purchasers get their information and develop a focused delivery mechanism, instead relying on channels they should know are ineffective and scattergun. They prefer to adopt the easier "press 'send' to deliver" approach.
Take the last State of Inbound Report by inbound specialists HubSpot for example – HubSpot asked over 6000 industry respondents what sources of information they relied upon when purchasing business software in 2017. Topping the list - at 54% and 45% respectively - were “Word of Mouth” and “Customer References”. Coming in just behind these – at 39% - was…media articles! That’s right: the top source of trusted information for buyers of business software outside of existing customers’ word of mouth/references was the media.
Yet if we read last year’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends Report by the Content Marketing Institute, when it asked content marketers which distribution formats they used for their content marketing efforts, the responses were surprising: Print Magazines; Print (other than magazines); and Digital Magazines were ranked at just seventh, eighth and ninth respectively. That’s right – the channel that business buyers ranked as their most influential third party source of information doesn’t even rank in the top 5 of content managers’ distribution channels.
This is all the more surprising when the (lack of) effectiveness of their top chosen formats is considered: the number one choice (email) has click-through percentage rates bumping along in single figures, while their number two choice (social media distribution) has aneven lower rate again! Yet, these channels had usage rates of 95% and 93% respectively among B2B content marketers. All that effort and money going into activities that very few people will ever actually read! At best these are complementary channels.
It seems that all the effort (and budget) focuses on presentation, videos and infographics, but not on positioning the message where it will actually be seen, and where it will have most influence with purchasers.
And of course this is the true differentiator of the traditional PR over the content industry. As well as generating the message, PR practitioners place just as much emphasis on shaping that message to suit the format and needs of targeted media channels - delivering your message through to your chosen audience via a channnel they regard as credible.
It's not enough to just construct a persona that walks through the pain points and purchase decision of your prospective buyer. You also have to research which channels your buyer trusts to research their purchase decision, and position your message there.
(Pic: St. Enda's Snowdrops)