The Six Kinds of B2B Content Consumers

Everybody’s a publisher. It’s a phrase commonly uttered in digital circles, a mantra for the dawn of content marketing. But the truth is, that while everybody publishes stuff, everybody is not a publisher if you define the word as an entity puts out content that is both credible and that people actually want to consume.

“We lived in this time when we sat in our luxurious bubbles and congratulated ourselves on having just written the most compelling data sheet that anybody had ever put out about a semiconductor,” says Liz Miller, SVP of marketing at the CMO Council. “Then along comes social media and someone says, ‘Well, that’s just a brochure online. It’s not worth my time.’  Half the battle of content marketing is moving to where your customers are.”

But according to a new study of 352 business buyers conducted by the CMO Council and Netline Corporation, the battle remains a losing one on the part of the marketers pressing their content campaigns across the marketplace. Even the ones that overcome the corporate urge toward self-promotion face a personnel and logistics challenge that might have stymied U.S. Army field commander Omar Bradley. According to the report, there are six types of content consumers among companies doing the buying, further complicated by the fact that there are three prevailing methods of sharing content within their organizations.

“Automation and content sharing circles have put last-click attribution in a very shaky spot,” Miller says. “The indicator for attribution is no longer the last single click. If your customer is in an organization that shares from the middle out, you can make a wrong assumption about who influenced the purchases.”

In “Middle Out” content management systems, which characterized 35% of the companies surveyed by the CMO Council, execution-level executives drive purchases, but only after input from senior management. Content is filtered by junior and middle management at “Bottom Up” organizations (30%) before it’s sent upstream to ultimate decision-makers in senior management. The opposite program, meanwhile, is in effect at “Top Down” concerns, where honchos consume and vet content and direct it downstream to mid-level purchasers.

Publishing, therefore, is a more complicated game for marketers than it is for actual publishers; the latter has already made the sale if someone’s holding their magazine or viewing their website. The commerce equivalent of publishers have to create and disseminate content that’s suited not only to three types of buying processes, but six categories of readers. According to the study, entitled “The Content Connection To Vendor Selection,” these categories are:

Grazers/Sharers (32% of respondents): This is the larger segment of the “researcher” set of content ingesters found at larger enterprises. Grazers/Sharers research, consume, and summarize content with the singular intention of sharing the resulting intelligence with colleagues. Research reports and studies are their favorite food for thought because they feel they are most important to executives in the evaluation phase of the purchase cycle. Technical specs and trade journal articles are also high on their list.

Hunters/Gatherers (10%): The smaller complement of researchers are pros. Their job is to research and identify relevant content, but they rarely engage with it themselves. Two-thirds of them are in a constant state of content-gathering, focused on new best practices, trends, and marketplace advancements. They believe that analyst intelligence and insights are most valuable in the evaluation process.

Critical Contributors (25%): They have no budgets and so never pull the trigger on purchases, but they are primary influencers in the buying process. They are more strategic than researchers, reaching out for content that addresses specific problems and needs within their organizations. Critical Contributors are hungry for insights and so seek out a broad range of content, including summarized “quick bites.” They shy away from blogs, preferring research reports and studies, data sheets, and white papers.

Informed Influencers (4%): The biggest fans of infographics and pictograms, the opinions of these influencers are highly valued by the people in the organization who sign the contracts. They want content that is expertly packaged, favoring analyst insights, use cases, and research papers.

Decision Drivers (23%): These content consumers are the holders of the Holy Grail. Decision Drivers are primary decision makers and they seek out and consume content to inform their decisions. Two-thirds say they constantly consume content to stay up to date on new solutions that can have an impact on their organizations. The great majority (77%) favor research reports and studies. Other valued content includes technical specs and data sheets (61%), analyst intelligence (48%), and white papers (37%).

Authority Leaders (6%): They make the calls, and 61% say they rely on outside content to inform them—but they depend on valued colleagues to supply the goods. Research reports and analyst intelligence is high on their content lists. They are also more highly influenced by industry peers than any other segment.


So, how to satisfy all six content consumers? Miller says the key is to emulate the pros.

“What we seem to forget is that real publishers have editorial departments with editorial vision and editorial voice,” she says. “As marketers adopt this belief in content marketing, they also have to bring to bear the rigor of professional publishers.”

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