Friday, November 13, 2015

Content Strategy: Think Utility Before Customization

For a company with dozens of product lines, numerous possible personas, and a global presence, developing content can be a daunting venture. The number of permutations for information types and distribution sources can be overwhelming. But before going crazy, you might be surprised to know that customers may not need as much personalization as you think – what they really want from content is utility.

IDC's 2015 IT Buyer Experience Survey examined the content requirements and preferences of various types of technology buyers. We compared buyers who work in the IT function with those in various business functions. We compared buyers of cloud solutions with traditional on-premise technology solutions. What we found surprised us.

IDC does recommend tailoring content for specific audiences. It is helpful for ease of consumption, for relevancy, and attractiveness. However, the buyer research told us that covering some basics was even more important.

  • Highest priority – make sure content is complete. Buyer groups are much more similar than they are different. Buyers have one primary commonality – they are all human. Humans follow the same type of a decision-journey. All audience groups generally need the same kinds of information and mostly prefer similar sources to get that information.  The highest priority task should be to make sure the core information is available. Clearly and simply answer the buyers' questions for all stages of their decision-journey. Lack of critical information at a point when a buyer needs it will slow or stop journey progress.

  • Make core buying information easily accessible through at least four communication channels. Those four channels are your website, your sales team, search, and some number of third party publications - preferably voiced by objective people. Your website is the buyer's default location for all information. Buyer's talk to sales people at the point when they really need detailed answers. If sales people don't have the answers, everyone loses. (Hint: a humble Q&A fact sheet for sales is super helpful).  Discovery is the name of game in the earliest stage of the decision-journey. Search is by far the number one tool for discovery and buyers also like to find ideas for improvement perusing both general business and special interest sites.

These content tasks may be more challenging than marketers expect.  Many of the buyer's questions are not answered by even the best thought leadership pieces or the most well-messaged product data sheet. For example, Product Service Reviews was the second most desired type of content at the earliest stage of the decision-journey – not something most marketers have at the tips of their fingers.

Before going through the (worthwhile) effort to customize content for different audiences, make sure you are covering the basics and serving your customers' the most important information needs.

More information is available in the IDC report, Categorizing the Content Needs of Different Buyer Types: IDC's 2015 2015 IT Buyer Experience Study (#258780) (Subscription required)