Engaging the Self-Directed Buyer in B2B Demand

Post by guest blogger, Kim Curry / Strategic Planner, Babcock & Jenkins

I’m relatively new to the world of B2B demand gen, MQLs, SQLs and waterfalls – about five months into it. As I get up to speed, increasingly I see parallels to the best practices I learned from decades in the world of  “mass” or general advertising and brand stewardship.

The main and fundamental point of overlap is this: time and money invested upfront developing a strong strategic platform and compelling creative work with a strong point of view is rewarded with more qualified prospects traveling through the funnel faster. (However you want to define that funnel.)

From Gyro to Babcock & Jenkins (BNJ), we see leading demand gen practitioners getting really serious about creating messaging and content that are so compelling as to invite enthusiastic sharing.

Why might this be?

One reason could be that in this era of 24/7 information overload and instantaneous connection, curation is all the rage.  As of today (April 9, 2012), Pinterest is now the third largest social platform in the world and Facebook just paid a billion dollars for Instagram.  We rely upon our friends, colleagues (and strangers with similar tastes and interests) to make sure the content that will add value to our lives makes it onto our radar.

The latest research from Sirius Decisions provides another motivation. We now know that consumers of all manner of things—of business services and technologies, of consumer electronics, of hotel stays, of cars and boats and presumably of private jets (although I can’t personally vouch for this) — are increasingly self-directed. This means a marketer’s content and messaging must be so damn great they positively impact a good-sized chunk of the sales cycle.

By the way, bonus points for you as a marketer if that content is also shared widely—tagged with a curator-like note that says, “This is amazing, you HAVE GOT to read/watch this!”

And here’s another thing: in the realm of technology and product innovation, people are OK with the brand being the trusted expert.  A reality of today’s fast-paced innovation cycles is the fact that few beyond the innovators themselves can have deep expertise and so increasingly consumers turn to them as the very best source for information and education.  Imagine the impact on sales (not to mention thought leadership) if the content provided were as compelling as a TED Conference presentation?

When you think about it this way, it does make sense that well-crafted content holds more value than content that is slapped together and jammed behind a gate as bait to get some basic prospect information. Wouldn’t it be far better to produce content of such high value that prospects go out of their way to gladly spill details in return for 24/7 access to your content and the right to curate it and share it widely?

Put simply, is it so hard to believe that an IT buyer might pass along to her CIO a memorable, valuable white paper on a new technology as enthusiastically as a teen age boy might pass along the newest Old Spice YouTube video?

Not convinced yet? Then consider this. Let’s say you’re a marketer with so-so content—the kind that is downloaded and placed in a folder “for later.” Now imagine your competitor comes along with compelling content steeped in memorable story telling and wrapped in a relatively high level of creativity with the “street cred” of having been passed along by a trusted source.  Your competitor might well move to the front of the prospect’s short list. Why? Because your competitor added more value at that moment than you have with your boring content.

This is precisely the scenario that has befallen Gillette at the hands of start-up and YouTube sensation, Dollar Shave Club.  In just under a week after launch more than 3 million people watched the ad campaign on YouTube. The spots (which cost less than $5,000 to produce) are hilarious and went viral instantaneously. The Dollar Shave Club versus Gillette smack-down is now fodder for articles on BusinessWeek, Forbes, CNET and AdAge.

So here’s my challenge to B2B demand gen practitioners. Have a goal of making your content not just downloaded or even viewed, but curated. Passed along with a “you really should see this” note. Passed along enthusiastically because the “curator” honestly believes your content will add value to the recipient’s day.

With an open mind and a creative spirit, anything can be made quite compelling.

I leave you with this tidbit about the police blotter of an Alaskan fishing village. The crimes are typically quite innocuous, which gives the blotter writer, Sgt. Jennifer Shockley, license to be very creative. According to a recent story on NPR:

“When Sgt. Jennifer Shockley heads out on patrol each day, she’s got the police blotter on her mind. Her goal is to paint a detailed picture of the town’s often-ridiculous crimes. While most blotters are dry retellings of a police department’s calls, Shockley’s are so outrageous that they even make her laugh. She strews her write-ups with words like ‘ruffian,’ ‘sternutation,’ ‘belligerent and lout,’ and her storytelling has earned a following larger than the town.”

According to Google Analytics, Shockley has readers across Europe and South America. The editor of the local paper describes Shockley’s entries as “little soap operas” and says they’re far and away his most anticipated feature.

So, if a police blotter for an Alaskan fishing village can be so compelling as to generate readers thousands of miles away, then ANY and ALL content can be rendered interesting and curation-worthy.

About the Author: Kim Curry is a 20-year marketing veteran with a talent for helping clients gain clarity about their key targets. Her experiences include managing global brand initiatives for Microsoft (leading the account for Wieden + Kennedy) and dozens of other strategic initiatives for world-class brands while at Hill Holiday, Ogilvy & Mather and Ziba Design. Kim can be reached at kimc@bnj.com.

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