In virtually all cases, these buying groups must reach a consensus before a purchase will be made, and that doesn't come easily or quickly in many cases. Recent research by CEB found that B2B buying groups now typically include diverse stakeholders whose goals and interests can conflict, which can make consensus difficult to reach.
The CEB research also found that while reaching consensus decisions is hard at all stages of the buying process, the greatest challenge is getting consensus on the type of solution to acquire and implement. The second most difficult challenge is reaching a consensus on the definition of the problem that needs to be addressed.
This means that buying groups have the greatest difficulty achieving consensus during the early stages of the buying process, when they are more likely to be performing research on their own and relying on content to help them define their problem and identify possible solutions. Therefore, it's important for B2B marketers to develop content resources that will help buying groups reach a consensus on these essential issues.
Developing content that supports the consensus-building process requires a deep understanding of buyer goals and interests. To lay the foundation for creating consensus-friendly content, you will need to take three steps:
- First, identify the relevant goals and interests of each member of the buying group.
- Second, identify which goals and interests are shared by multiple members of the buying group.
- And finally, identify which goals and interests are in conflict (actually or potentially).
CEB has recently argued that the use of personalized marketing messages and content can actually make it more difficult for buying groups to reach consensus decisions. I don't completely agree with this view, but it is clear that most major content resources, such as white papers, e-books, and longer videos, should contain material that supports the consensus-building process.
For example, suppose that you are developing a white paper for a specific buyer persona. The overall objective of the paper is to describe the benefits provided by a type of technology solution. In most cases, you'll want the white paper to provide answers to two questions:
- How will this type of solution help me [the target persona] achieve my goals and protect my interests?
- How will this type of solution help my colleagues in the buying group achieve their goals and protect their interests?
Obviously, the primary focus of the white paper will be on answering Question 1. But if you also address Question 2, you can help your target buyer contribute to the consensus-building process.
Image courtesy of Daniel Orth via Flickr CC.