By Brian Tervo
It’s no secret: B2B buying patterns are changing. In the past, buyers had few options to acquire information on their own and depended on the sellers for details about products and companies. As a result, sales reps were in control of the buying process. But now, according to industry analyst firm SiriusDecisions, nearly 67 percent of the buyer’s journey happens digitally. With easy access to content through search and the Web, today’s buyers are far more knowledgeable than in years past.
So, what does this mean for demand generation in the channel? Resellers, agents and other partners, you must rethink your tactics, and reevaluate the content and technology coming from your vendors so you don’t get left behind.
As buyers become more savvy, new methods that rely on quality content to engage them will become more prevalent. According to SiriusDecisions, about 50 percent of current marketing program spend is digital and focused on inbound marketing. Over the next five years, we can expect to see that number increase to about 65 percent, with mobile technology driving the increase.
For partners worried their digital marketing campaigns aren’t driving leads, read on for ways to ensure your demand generation keeps up with the times.
Content Is King
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “content is king.” This couldn’t be more true for today’s demand generation strategy. One of the beauties of the Internet is that it places an endless amount of information right at a user’s fingertips. However, this also means salespeople no longer are the first source of contact in the B2B buying process. There is an opportunity for marketing departments to capitalize on the growing trend of research-first, sales second, and to use the Internet as the marketing collateral platform. Yet, it’s not enough to just put any content online – high quality content is a must to increase engagement.
Recently, at the SiriusDecisions Summit in Orlando, the firm’s analysts revealed several eye-opening survey findings on content: some organizations waste as much as tens of millions of dollars each year due to ineffective content creation. More than 29 percent of the survey participants cited publishing irrelevant content as the culprit, and an additional 13 percent attributed the loss to publishing low-quality content.
It’s hard to rationalize content strategies if an organization isn’t getting value from the content produced. Often, vendors are responsible for ensuring that content is accurate, relevant, timely and engaging, but it’s critical for VARs and other partners to have a thorough understanding and connection with the content as well. Additionally, large vendors who run global operations may not understand the nuances of a local market in the way that a partner does.
Take the time to review the collateral and discuss the option of adapting content to local audiences. The extent to which this is feasible will likely depend on the vendor, industry, product, etc., but any vendor should have a vested interest in adapting collateral to best drive revenue. High-quality content is often a gateway to sales – both for the partner and the vendor.
Consider a Vendor with a Content or Social Syndication Program
For demand generation to be effective, partners need access to the latest and greatest when it comes to marketing messages and collateral. To ensure that you’re always getting the content you need to boost success, consider selecting a vendor that uses a channel content syndication solution.
Brands that push out their digital content through content syndication have an enormous leg up on the competition when it comes to generating leads. Content syndication services make it extremely easy and cost-effective to distribute content consistently and in real-time across a partner community.
In addition, partner branding is reflected and adapted automatically across all digital partner sites or product detail pages where brand content lives – without the traditional, resource-intensive manual processes of informing, selecting, replacing and updating assets. Vendors that use these types of platforms are more likely to be on top of getting lead-generating material out to their resellers and improving overall sales success. They also save time for their channel partners by ensuring that all collateral comes accurately co-branded and ready for use.
With the greater emphasis placed on social media marketing these days, it makes sense to also consider whether a vendor provides a social syndication program. While still relatively new to the market, social syndication holds huge potential for companies looking to better use the channel. Like content syndication, social syndication removes the manual step of publishing social content across Twitter, for example. All tweets automatically link back to vendor content on the partner’s website. From the outsider’s perspective, it looks as if partners are publishing the updates, but, really, tweets are automatically published through the partner’s Twitter identity. These types of offerings save time for resellers and help improve results, so they are worth looking for as part of the vendor selection process.
Analyze Your Content’s Strengths, Weaknesses
It’s not enough to simply push out content across all digital channels. Content needs to be optimized and personalized to make sure marketers are reaching the right targets.
Often, you’re looking to your vendor to assess the strength of content; however, with analytics, VARs now have the insight to identify which content works and ensure that it’s delivered at the right stage of the demand generation process. Whitepapers, peer referrals, webinars, email, user events, analyst reports and case studies are relevant, worthwhile materials for engaging the buyer, but someone who is at the education phase, for example, will be less interested in a customer event than someone who is already at the purchasing phase.
Thus, choosing the right content for the right consumer is critical, and resellers should have a say in this as well.
Across the board, today’s business buyers are more knowledgeable than ever and are tending to engage with representatives later in the sales cycle. To address this, marketing needs to help sales build a “digital-relationship” with the buyer, to help influence them before contact is ever made with a sales rep. With buyers proactively consuming content and educating themselves on products and offerings, it’s critical for channel partners to implement targeted marketing strategies to ensure their content remains accurate and consistent, and tells the story a buyer wants to hear.
Brian Tervo is president and CEO of Chief North America operations for TIE Kinetix, a provider of SaaS-based e-commerce and channel marketing solutions.