More Marketers Say Buyers Are Revealing Themselves Early in Their Journey

March 21, 2018

Marketers (primarily B2B) are almost as likely to say that buyers reveal themselves early in their journey (37%) as they are to say they reveal themselves mid-way through their journey (45%), according to a study [download page] from Demand Metric and ion Interactive. That represents quite the change from a similar report in 2014, when marketers were more than twice as likely to say that buyers reveal themselves mid-way through the journey than early-on.

The findings are somewhat surprising given the conventional wisdom that much of the B2B buyer’s journey is complete before approaching a vendor. Yet the results are supported by recent research in which B2B buyers expressed a preference for hearing from vendors earlier than later in the buying process.

This would represent a welcome development for B2B marketers. That’s because 78% of respondents to this latest survey believe that engaging buyers earlier in their journey is very (42%) or somewhat (36%) important.

Moreover, this has implications for content marketing: respondents believe that their content is most effective in the early stage (46%) of the buyer’s journey as opposed to the middle stage (40%) or late stage (14%).

And while it’s not necessarily a causative relationship, it’s worth noting that revenue-growth companies (40%) are more likely to report that buyers reveal themselves early in the journey than do companies with flat or decreasing revenues (30%).

At the same time, though, revenue-growth companies may be doing a better job of using their content to move buyers into the latter stages of the funnel. That’s because these companies are slightly more likely to see their content as being most effective after the early stage. (See here for the content types that move buyers through the funnel.)

What Types of Interactive Content Are Being Used?

Interactive content has been tagged as B2B CMOs’ top marketing trend planned for implementation in the next 2 years, and is an area of prioritization in account-based marketing.

For the time being, though, most content is passive, in that it fails to produce measurable engagement. Just 29% of content rated by respondents to the Demand Metric and ion Interactive study is interactive in nature, either highly engaging (8%) or producing measurable engagement with the buyer (21%).

The most commonly used interactive content types are:

  • Assessment (23%);
  • Interactive White Papers (22%);
  • Contests (19%);
  • Quizzes (19%); and
  • Configurators (18%).

While ion Interactive has a stake in the results demonstrating interactive content’s effectiveness, it is worth noting that interactive content was found to be more effective at educating buyers, differentiating from competitors, and getting shared frequently.

Moreover, roughly three-quarters of respondents believe that interactive content has at least some impact on buyers’ decisions early in their journey. And one of the key challenges faced by content marketing is a lack of opportunities for interaction and engagement, which this type of content could address.

Other Survey Highlights

In other notably findings from the report:

  • Budget constraints (52%) and staffing/resource constraints (48%) are the most common barriers to content marketing, with fewer (35%) professing to a limited understanding of the buyer;
  • Budget constraints persist despite more spending: the majority (58%) of respondents are devoting in excess of 10% of their budgets to content marketing, up from 44% allocating at least that much in 2014;
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) use either basic measures of consumption such as views and downloads (52%) or none at all (13%);
  • Website traffic is the most popular content effectiveness metric, followed by sales lead quantity; and
  • Revenue growth companies are more likely than no-growth companies to be measuring sales lead quality, conversion rates, and subscriber/community growth.

About the Data: The Demand Metric Content Effectiveness and the Buyer’s Journey Benchmark Study survey was administered online during the period of January 3, 2018, to January 21, 2018. During this period, 428 responses were collected, 290 of which were complete enough for inclusion in the analysis. Half of the respondents come from mostly or entirely B2B companies, and another 23% from companies that are a blend of B2B and B2C.

Respondents hailed from a mix of company roles and sizes.

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