With the never ending rise of new communication channels, the shift from selling to buying, the rise of the ‘empowered’ and connected buyer, and the fragmentation of the media landscape, the attention of the (prospective) customer is not that easy to get. People proactively look for information themselves. Depending on the sources, it seems that the technology buyer, for instance consults an average of seven content sources before buying. What about your customer?

The increased control of people over their own buying journey is an important argument for a seamlessly integrated marketing strategy and content marketing is part of it. The target groups we would like to reach and which we would like to find us show an increasingly complex and fragmented behavior.

In business-to-business, typically characterized by a longer buying journey and often a group process, the number of content sources as well as the consulted content formats differ from business-to-consumer. I know: we live in a P2P (people-to-people world) and that’s true. B2B buyers are also “consumers” and it’s all about getting up close and personal. But as a practitioner and also when looking at all possible research, you know there still are typically many differences between the buying journey and consulted content sources in B2B versus B2C.

Obviously, within both B2B and B2C markets, there are also differences, depending on company, industry, etc. Furthermore, the number of consulted content sources will depend on the individual buyer and even the content marketing personas.

The number of content sources and formats in technology marketing

Michael Gale
Michael Gale

A few years ago, Michael Gale for instance wrote a blog post for Forrester (he sold his company to Forrester and now works at PulsePoint group), stating that technology marketers consult an average of seven content sources and look at five or more content types throughout their buying journey. Although Gale specifically directed his post at technology marketers, much of what he said applies to marketers in general. You can find similar data for many other industries if you want to on the Web but remember that we’re always talking about the average number of content sources and content formats. Of course, a lot has changed in the two years since Michael’s post. The B2B buyer, for instance, increasingly is looking for content as you can read here.

Gale also justly remarked that the complexity in the buying journey, in this case predominantly B2B, goes much further than just the content sources and types called-up by prospects during their “buying journey”.

There is after all a rising mixture of formats in a much more integrated way than before. Think for instance about the cross-fertilization of various marketing channels and tactics and about how the buyers jump from one channel and format to the other.

Content sources: questions to answer in a holistic marketing reality

Therefore a holistic and integrated approach where the communication revolves around the prospect and customer is essential. Add to that a selective integration of various content needs in specific online objectives and actions, and it is clear that, as everyone should know by now, the marketing mix ecosystem is not linear and homogeneous.

Companies should first know how to manage the most important dynamics of the marketing mix in this fragmented and multi-dimensional situation. Otherwise you won’t know the effect of a price adjustment for example.

Determining the marketing mix is therefore no longer possible based on what we used to do. What is the first step in a different approach? Start with the customer. Look at all the touchpoints, no matter what touchpoint model you use (find some models, such as the one below, here).

Touchpoint Performance Model – more touchpoint examples here
Touchpoint Performance Model – more touchpoint examples here

Of course looking at the content sources and formats your buyers use is not enough. You also need to analyze the needs, gaps and take action:

  • Identify needs, behaviour and drivers of action.
  • Identify content/buyer personas and find the gaps.
  • Look at the different content sources and content formats consulted by your buyers.

Remember that the customer is the centre of our marketing universe. So, how many content sources and content formats does your customer consult before buying? Which are they? And do you offer the needed content across all touchpoints?