We recently conducted Prospect Persona research with C-Suite executives worldwide. An inescapable observation is that in b2b content marketing, we speak before we listen, that most content is based on assumption of need rather than firsthand knowledge of what facilitates and adds value to the purchase process.
Of course, these senior executives want an expert, unbiased voice that speak directly to the specific, immediate need. Easy to say, hard to do.
From this research, and our Prospect Persona experiences, emerge three essential insights to help us create content that connects with the executive, their need, and the decision making process:
- No one in a corporation makes a decision by themselves.
Corporations rely on the buying center. Titles with subject matter expertise and/or skin in the game have responsibilities to the buying center. The buying center is virtual and expands or contracts based on the product or service being considered.
Here’s what I mean, in the words of one senior executive,
You marketing guys are all alike. You think you have to send everything to me, but that’s not the way decisions are made around here. Moreover, while you are a respected resource, I resent having to go through all of the information you send and dole it out to who really needs it.
We have many smart, talented people, each with specific responsibilities to gather information and assess what you have to offer. You must be sensitive to their needs and respond with the required information.
You would do well to learn who they are, what they do and what they need.
- There’s a sphere of influence
It is likely that there are unseen and previously unknown influencers to the buying center – folks who do not sit at the table, but contribute greatly to shaping information and opinion.
For example, during these interviews many CEOs revealed the importance of their assistant. We may imagine them with appointments and emails buzzing around their head, but many times they are entrusted with conducting primary research on matter of immediate interest. Many CIOs tune into what ideas bubble up from their engineers.
These assistants and engineers punch above their weight, having outsized influence because they are conducting, and thus curating, the content research.
You would also do well to learn whose these people are.
- The nuances of messaging can blow up your goals
A technology client had built a very successful SMB business and was now looking to move to the enterprise. For years their message spoke to their prospects about backing up your data to the cloud.
Prospect Persona research came to two conclusions:
- One, back-up, by itself, is not valued by the corporation. It’s a cost center. The corporation only values data recovery.
- Two, about a third of the enterprise technology decision makers had an “almost religious aversion to the cloud”.
So, by changing the way they said hello, from backup to recovery, from the cloud to reliability, the content could be of value to a significantly wider audience.
In summation, John Eng, CMO of TradeShift, adds his hard-won experience,
“Our content and sales teams work to empower the buying center, to empower each participant to recommend us. We work hard to build the personas to integrate our efforts and focus on what’s really important to them.
“We must connect with these executives on a personal level to really be effective. It’s the only way to prove our competitive superiority. Otherwise, we’re just making noise.”