I always shake my head when, after downloading a vendor white paper as research for a story, someone from sales calls offering more info on the $100,000 storage virtualization platform I was researching.

You’d think the fact I clicked “1-5 employees” on the registration form would have told him or her I’m not a systems architect for a Fortune 500 data center. But if the vendor is doing only rough lead scoring (“Call anyone who downloads the XYZ white paper”) they waste effort and money on unqualified leads like me.

Now, it is true that the internal decision-making process for IT products and services is getting more complex, making it harder to tell who’s a cook and who’s a bystander. A recent survey done by the Demand Gen Report  sponsored by marketing automation vendor Act-On showed that in 45 percent of B2B buying organizations, four or more people are now stirring the pot in the purchase process.

As Act-On’s Chief Marketing Officer Atri Chatterjee said during the survey Webcast, this requires content marketers to appeal to more people, each with their own titles, job functions and needs, than ever before. He cited a company in the logistics business that successfully tailored its content to a variety of different “influencers.” This ranged from the operations group, who were most interested in making sure shipments arrive on time, with all the required items, to the finance folks who are most concerned with cost and pricing.

As sales “committees” become larger, with more and more players with different agendas, “one size fits all” content marketing clearly doesn’t cut it. Some ways to more accurately score prospects:

  •  Use more than one metric to “score” prospects. Downloading a “five questions to ask before you buy” story should, of course, raise a prospect’s score because it shows someone who’s interested in how to buy your product or service. But someone to also at least click through to their Web site to make sure they’re not a competitor (or mere reporter) before placing a sales call.
  • Examine not just one download, but the sequence of landing pages or content they clicked on for more clues into who they are and what role they play in the purchase process. Think back to the poor sales person who called me based on my download of a single white paper. If they had also checked my LinkedIn profile and found I was an independent storage consultant, and also found I had sat through a very technical video on deployment of the vendor’s platform, which would have been powerful evidence I was a serious prospect worthy of a call.
  • Design each piece of content to very specifically meet the needs of different influencers at different stages of the buying cycle. For the logistics provider Chatterjee cited, a piece for the financial folks would have focused on dollars and cents with, perhaps, an ROI calculator. For the operations folks, the “proof points” cited might instead have included on-time delivery rates and percentage of incomplete shipments.

And by designing this content up-front with the specific B2B buyer or influencer in mind, tracking who read what also gives you clue about their real role in the purchase process — something not always reflected by their title.

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Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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