Has the IT b2b marketplace (a somewhat nebulous term, but let’s cast the net wide) been over indulging by consuming too much content?
This post on ‘content shock‘ by Mark Schaefer is almost two years old but the problem he highlights remains. In fact, I believe it’s bigger than ever. (If you haven’t yet read Mr. Schaefer’s post, I’d encourage you to take a look and then come back here.)
I’m never surprised these days to learn that IT staff have been content dieting. There are too few hours in the working day for doing much beyond ‘fighting the fires and keeping the lights on’ – a buzz phrase of those who don’t have to handle this messy, grunt work. The stuff that end users see and complain most vociferously about.
‘Read vendor’s white paper’ might be written in an IT professional’s todo list – but often tagged with the ‘someday’ category. Whenever that is. I know, I know. Outsource those pesky routine things and keep your subject experts for the core competencies and special projects. Alas, that’s a whole different discussion.
Although I use the phrase ‘content marketing’ in discussions with my clients and other b2b writers, I am not a fan. It’s too bulky and impersonal and implies, to use a foodie metaphor, being stuffed with calories but starved for choice.
I suspect that’s why targeted consumers (your prospects and, if they choose to buy what you’re selling, your customers) are getting savvy at which content banquets and buffets they select to dine on.
My own experience as a networking engineer (and this is from the 2000-2006 timeframe; ancient history, I know) was to read white papers and technology updates when:
a) in the planning stages of a new project e.g. moving multiple Asia-Pac links from frame relay to ATM, and much was expected of the regional implementation engineers. In other words, career self-interest. Nobody wants to rollback an unstable upgrade at 2 am on a Sunday morning because there’s a router config error you don’t understand and can’t troubleshoot fast enough.
b) participating in the internal review of RFIs and RFPs. These were effective ways of checking out the readiness of incumbent vendors and of those hoping to displace them. If, on closer examination, it turned out they had little in the way of content aimed at our specific project (everything from sales brochures to case studies to technology white papers to implementation guides), it was easy to conclude that they probably did NOT have sufficient marketing muscle or the technical depth to understand our business environment and therefore position themselves as the solution to our problem. (That was a long sentence, phew!)
So, yes, when it comes to major IT purchase cycles, I think a vendor’s content remains important in satisfying the information requirements of a wide range of ‘stakeholders’. These include the prospect’s staff, along with any relevant outsiders they might retain to do due diligence e.g. those ubiquitous consultants. Sometimes vendors can badly underestimate the role and influence these external stakeholders play in the early vetting of solution providers and their marketing reach.
What’s to be done?
Well, as a content provider, I’m somewhat biased. If a vendor’s marketing director wants a white paper or a customer success study, then that’s what I deliver. What they then do with these pieces I have no further role in. However, I do think that just shelving them on web pages is an inefficient use of the time and resources spent in their creation.
Since many content consumers seem to be intermittently fasting in their approach to the dollops of content that marketers are serving up, maybe that’s the sweet point.
Get to know your customers’ business cycles, and those of their competitors, so well that they think you are psychic.
Content then appears specific to them and what they will likely need from your solution. Of course, that requires a focus on timely and targeted content. Going with a shotgun smorgasbord will miss the moving target that online marketing has brought to the business of relationship marketing.
As ever, I am at your b2b content marketing service for 2106 and beyond.