The Buying Process: Who's In Charge Here, Anyway?Forrester estimates that buyers will find nearly 70% of the content they need on their own, with only 15% sent by marketing and only 15% delivered by sales. [ref]Content Marketing Is A Key Differentiator For Tech Marketers, January 12, 2012[/ref]

Back in the day, not long ago, marketers and the sales force had a lot to say about what buyers got to see. Like sheep, we read the ads, salivated over the sales pitch, and followed their advice to “have it our way.” Now customers really are “having it their way” — and now own the sales process. Marketing and sales have less to do with the process, and this is a great thing.

The Challenge of a Customer Owned Process

The growing irrelevance of sales and marketing means that the real work lies in making your content a perfect fit for your customers. The two factors that play the most powerful part in this are delivering content how and when the customer wants it.

Deliver content to the customer how they want it

Assuming you have relevant content for your customers, are you delivering it how they want it? Are you using email newsletters for updates and news when your customers would rather subscribe to an RSS feed of your blog or a post on Facebook?

Remember that the “how” can change based on what is being communicated. Find out what they expect to appear on social networks versus on your website or via email. Of course the classic way of dealing with not knowing which channel is the best fit is to broadcast on all channels. The problem here is for customers subscribing to your content on multiple channels, who will get bombarded with duplicate content, making your great content feel “spammy”. You don’t want the “unsubscribe,” “unlike,” and “delete” buttons to become attractive. Not good.

Deliver content to the customer when they want it

Just as important as the “how” is the “when” of content delivery. Take a close look at your sales funnel and see how you can anticipate a content need as customers progress through the process. Deliver just the right content at just the right time. Too soon and it’s irrelevant, too late and it’s frustrating or confusing.

How do you find out the “how” and “when”?

Ask your customers in a systematic and proven way that gets actionable information. This is not the time to use analytics or online surveys, because the information they provide is either incomplete or too general. Invest in a thorough interview process of a group of your best customers. Find out what “worked” for them, what you could do better, and use that information to improve content delivery in the sales process.

Need help? Contact us to set up a complete customer marketing research plan.