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Content remains one of the most effective ways of initiating the buyer’s journey. Indeed, almost half (48%) of the more than 200 B2B marketing leaders who took part in a survey by PathFactory and Heinz Marketing said that their company’s buying process was initiated by someone on their team coming across a prospective company’s content they found interesting.

In terms of acting as a catalyst to the buyers’ journey, discovering interesting content was second only to someone vocalizing a pain point or challenge that needs to be addressed (61%). It’s often the function of content to address these pain points. However, close to half (48%) of the survey’s respondents said that one of the biggest issues they have with the content they receive is that it isn’t relevant to their pain points or challenges.

It’s true that content marketers experience challenges when it comes to procuring and utilizing their marketing data in order to tell the right stories. So what other challenges do marketing leaders experience with content?

B2B marketing leaders certainly hold strong views about the content that is aimed at them. Half (51%) of the marketing professions surveyed said that the content they receive is too fluffy and jargony. Not only that, 41% said that they had issues with content not being relevant to their company, and only 38% of respondents said that the types of content they receive are very relevant. This has not gone unnoticed by CMOs as a whole, who list creating relevant and engaging content as one of the concerns keeping them up at night.

Slightly more than one-third (35%) of respondents, meanwhile, said that one of their biggest issues with content was that it wasn’t personalized to where they are in the buying process. This may speak to the difficulties in personalizing content at scale: while marketers recognize the importance of personalization, research from Adobe has found that some of the biggest barriers to creating personalized content are time, cost and the inability to connect data to creative.

Despite Grumbles, Content Often Starts the Buying Process

An overwhelming majority of marketing professionals believe that a vendor’s content plays either an important (51%) or very important (41%) role in their decision-making process. But before they get to the decision-making stage of their buyer journey, how do companies begin their process?

About six in 10 (58%) respondents said they have members of their team conduct research. Another 52% said they read analyst reports about prospective solutions. A previous study suggested that about half of B2B marketers are spending more time researching before they make a purchase. The same study also revealed that almost three-quarters (72%) collected information on pricing, while two-thirds developed a shortlist of providers within the first three months of their buying process.

Other ways respondents to this latest survey started their buying process included having others on their team go on discovery calls (48%), conducting a formal cost-benefit analysis (45%) and conducting interviews with current customers to gauge where their interests lie (30%).

Digital Preferred Over Print

In the age of digital technology, it should come as no surprise that 41% of marketing professionals said they prefer to engage with a prospective company’s content digitally, with another 47% saying they prefer an equal mix of digital and physical. Only 12% said they prefer to engage with marketing content physically.

Reports from third-party analysts are considered the most reliable by 56% of respondents. Just about the same percentage of marketing professionals turn to research reports (52%) or vendor websites (52%) when looking for reliable information on a company. Another half (50%) rely on third-party review sites for that information.

About the Data: Data for the report was compiled from survey responses of 204 marketing professionals all with upper management titles ranging from VP, Senior Director or C-Suite with decision-making authority.

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