Today’s Buyers Are Not Mono-Channel

I was recently in the market for a new car and while I was fairly certain I knew the car I wanted, I was intent on doing my research. Like most people in today’s digital age, I went to GoogleTM and typed in “best all wheel drive vehicles” and scanned through the results. Several more searches on key terms led me to a manufacturers website as well as some good consumer blogs. As a result, I had narrowed my search to three cars specifically and it was a pretty quick and efficient way to research.

shutterstock_308899754A few days later, I went to Edmunds.com to further my research, as I wanted an independent review. In addition to my online research, I talked to a few friends (some in person, others online) who had the makes and models of the cars that were on my short list to ask about their experiences. During this process, I also received a direct mail piece from one of the manufacturers that aided in my decision making process.

The later stage of research (speaking to friends and scanning the web) was done over the course of several weeks. In addition, I emailed various dealers in town with questions and specifications of what I was looking for and simultaneously researched my best financing options.

All in all, I used multiple channels during my purchase process (web, social medial, word-of-mouth/peer referral and email) and it took about two months. I used four channels just to end up buying a car, but this is the digital age and as the buyer,I have access to all of these channels easily via my phone. Why not use it to my advantage as the thought of walking onto a car lot and dealing with a car salesman was not an option.

I am no different than other consumers in this scenario. We conduct our own research, we ask questions directly, we collect information, and we read independent reviews. This applies to buying a car or picking a place to eat…we use multiple channels to consume information that may or may not lead to a purchase. If this is how we operate in our personal lives, why is it that B2B vendors lose this concept when marketing to their buyers?

According to recent articles and blogs the best approach to a B2B demand generation program is mono-channel.  Advice like how to have “The Best Email Campaign”, “Tips to Accelerate Your Social Media Strategy,”  “How to Implement a Webinar Program” and the list goes on focus on mono-channel solutions. However, today’s buying process is more multi-channel than ever with buyers consuming content across an array of mediums and sharing across the buying committee. If this is true, then the idea of a one-channel program or a strategy designed for one specific content channel is a waste of time, effort and money.

There are a few key changes that B2B organizations can make to address this issue and better align with their buyers and their purchase process:

  1. Break down the Departmental Silos: Many of the B2B marketing departments I encounter are designed by channel or function. Email teams, web teams, social teams, content teams, event teams, etc. Each has their own focus and measurement and in reality, they each only ever own a fractional part of the buyers journey. They work in silos and have no vision into the full approach their buyers take to buying. This needs to change. Companies need to begin looking at holistic demand generation that encompasses the full buyers journey and design their organizations accordingly. Without this holistic approach, content will not properly align to the buyer and organizations run the risk of poor communication in general, not to mention wasting valuable resources on ineffective content, leaving buyers less than impressed.
  1. Theme First, Channel Second: I speak to many marketers who begin planning their approach to demand generation with the content asset in mind – white paper, eBook, webinar, video, etc.  However, this should come secondary. The first thought needs to be the topic or theme of the content piece. What needs to be said to the buyer at this stage in their purchase process? Once that is determined, then the channels and asset type can be determined and most likely the theme will be used across multiple channels.
  1. Gain an Understanding of Your Buyers Content Consumption Patterns: The best way to understand the channels your buyers use during their purchase process is to ask them. Simply asking your customers and buyers how do you like to consume content, where do you consume content and what type of content serves you best during the purchase process will help drive the content strategy. Without this buyer-centric understanding, everything else is a guess.

The multi-channel approach we take in our consumer lives is not all that different than how we participate in buying in our B2B lives. Organizations need to adapt to this approach and understand it is a multi-channel (and not always digital) world.

Author: Carlos Hidalgo @cahidalgo CEO/Principal, ANNUITAS