Sales and Marketing Software

Content Marketing: Help Buyers Use Content to Help You!

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst

Latter Stage Digital Assets are a Key to Sales Momentum

According to IDG Connect buying team research, an inability to find relevant, needed content adds up to 20% to the duration of the  decision process. Slowing down the purchase cycle increases sales expenses and exposes you to competitors who work to grab business out from under you.  What drives a great portion of those delays is a lack of content that matches the context a buying team member needs based on their current buying stage.

We map out the buying cycle into five distinct stages. Each has been shown to demand different content types, formats, value proposition emphasis and topical coverage. Our stages are based upon a customer-centric approach. That is what the customer is trying to do. Many of your peers currently map to stages that are sales or delivery centric, namely, Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase and post-purchase, Loyalty. We suggest stage labels that help ground us in the customer’s shoes and stay there as we create stage-specific digital content. They are:

General Education: The desire to gain an understanding about a potential area of IT investment. The buyer clarifies that the opportunity and/or risk is relevant and builds context for internal discussion. (Sometimes called Awareness)

Business Case Development: After confirming interest around defined needs, the buyer resolves gaps in understanding and focuses on business justification relative to organizational needs. They confirm the relative investment priority. (Sometimes called Consideration)

Evaluation/Implementation Scenarios: The buying team wants to actively compare alternatives and use business case scenarios to build confidence in making the right purchase choice.  (A second part of consideration where in-depth assessment and comparison takes place)

Shortlist Creation: The evaluation stage provides a real-scenario comparison and confirms viability as the now expanded buying team considers exactly what to purchase along with pricing, delivery, service, support and other aspects of this smaller group of finalists. (Sometimes called Preference)

Final Decision: At this final stage the buying team makes a selection and negotiates the purchase. (Sometimes called Purchase)

There are several tendencies that you need to consider about your content portfolio related to buying stage coverage. They might well affect how effectively direct, in-direct, and channel sales close business.

Fact One: IDG Connect research shows that buyers are moving themselves further along the purchase process than ever before prior to wanting or needing to engage with sales. This is most often the case with software, hardware, and support services. Professional services still shows a desire for earlier stage engagement.

Fact Two: Research shows that buyers want over one-third of vendor provided content to address their needs for the last two stages of the purchase process because they need help to educate the broader buying team with their individual agendas and needs. But take a look at the overall mix of vendor content among your peers. It shows the percentage of coverage of the last two stages falls far short at only 13 percent. Mind you this is an improvement as it was only 8 percent several years ago.

Buying Stage

Overall Asset Stage Coverage

General Education




Business Case Development


Evaluation/ Implementation Scenarios


Shortlist Creation


Final Decision



Fact Three: Assessments by IDG Connect of thousands of vendor, editorial and social assets shows that even when the last two stages are addressed it is done only in a passing way. That is, the asset focus is on multiple stages and puts an emphasis on those earlier in the process.


No one would say it is unimportant to shorten the sales cycle, arm internal champions to sell others effectively and avoid late competitive thrusts enabled by relevant later stage content assets.  But wait a minute. There might be a disconnect between what you currently do and these goals.

It is Time to Pay Attention to Later-Stage Content


As an executive, how do you incent and reward your teams to create later stage content that in some ways remains hidden from view as it is used for internal conversations rather than collected/consumed in response to outbound and inbound marketing activities?  Creating later stage content, beyond being a tool for sales during prospect conversations, presents a softer, less clearly measurable priority.

Such assets are harder to create as they are less feature/function or capability centric, and must often speak to the needs of business functions and executive management. They commonly stress more strategic insight, driven by thought leadership, vision or alignment of your business with current and future needs. They also intend to convey how you will be there to enable them, “after” they invest in your solution. Not so easy as task versus creating early stage assets that directly relate to brand visibility lead generation or sales enablement.

So unless you get a handle on how your portfolio mix is today relative to stage coverage and dictate or provide greater rewards for content that enables the buyer to sell internally, improving the health of your content portfolio will be slow and painful.  A quarterly “feed the beast” lead mentality will dominate and you will lose business to competitors that can see how having a mix of assets that address the later stages helps buyers help you.


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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