Media evolution and the changing role of technology marketers
As most everyone would agree, since the advent of the web, buyers predominantly conduct their purchase research online. In few places is this more prevalent than with enterprise technology purchasesâ€”where the research required is very in-depth and highly specialized.
Shift in buyer control creates shifting responsibilities for technology marketers
In general, and again especially with respect to researching business technology purchases, B2B buyers have taken control of the information gathering process. Previously they would conduct cursory research before engaging with a vendor’s sales organization. Now, studies show that 60% will compile their vendor short lists prior to any contact with a salesperson.
This creates challenges for technology marketers. In the past, marketing’s objectives were primarily to create awareness and perhaps spark initial interest before a hand-off to sales; now, technology marketers take on the responsibility for engaging active buyers, educating them, and generating purchase consideration. Prospects are reluctant to interact with salespeople before they reach this downstream stage of the sales cycle and salespeople are reluctant to call upon them.
How did we get here? Let’s take a look at how media has evolved and become more targeted and how marketer’s objectives and opportunities have evolved with that.
Media evolves from broad to targeted to match the needs of informed buyers
In the early days of media, information was delivered and consumed under a broad-broadcast paradigm. The audience had limited choice of information sources and the publishers or broadcasters determined what content would be available for consumption and when. Given the unpredictability of their media’s reach, publishers pursued a general interest approach to content to try to appeal to the widest possible audience. This left advertisers with little to no opportunity to discern or leverage potential interest in their products on the part of their readers, viewers or listeners because that interest was in no way connected to the media the audience was consuming. As a result, the objective for the advertiser was to create awareness so that when or if the audience developed a need for their company’s solution (perhaps in response to advertising or not), potential buyers would have some information about the products’ benefits and availability. When it came time to purchase, they would seek out the product or reach out to the vendor for more information to make their decision. For a very long time, a technology marketer’s opportunity and responsibility was limited to the awareness stage of the purchase cycle, with little control over whether that awareness might convert into purchase intent or consideration.
The broad-broadcast paradigm seems old fashioned by today’s standards because far more targeted media vehicles quickly evolved in response to the inefficiency of attempting to influence or create interest with such broad audiences. Special interest publishing, trade journals and the plethora of choices available through television and other broadcast mediums are a direct response to broad media’s inability to deliver a targeted audience whose interests or demographics were likely to align with advertisers’ solutions. In a targeted media environment, where advertisers may reasonably suspect that the audience has at least a potential interest in their solution, the marketer’s objectives and responsibilities expand to include cultivating that interest or progressing it to consideration. There are still challenges and inefficiencies; the purchase of golf clubs is not predicated upon watching The Golf Channel. But, the advertiser is in a much better environment to work towards that outcome and can pursue far more specific messaging to engage potential buyers.
Technology marketers now responsible for influencing buyers deeper in the cycle than ever before
Now that content has migrated online, the primary media consumption paradigm is not just targeted based upon the specific audience needs, but almost entirely under the control of the information consumer. The audience no longer merely decides if they will consume the content depending upon whether it is relevant; they are now in a position to request (via search) or consume (via download) that content on-demand. As a result, the marketer faces the prospect of reaching an audience that is actively seeking answers or solutions that their products can very likely provide. In this scenario, the technology marketer has not only the opportunity but the responsibility to identify and engage these prospective buyers with content that directly addresses the solutions they seek and the problems they hope to solve. The good news is that this focused, content-centric approach to marketing can be more productive; the bad news is that it requires more effort and precision
Overall, marketing is now the primary influencer of the prospective customer – even during later stages of the buying cycle traditionally owned by sales. By failing to identify and engage buyers as they conduct their purchase research, you risk more than diminished awareness, you risk losing sales.
Successful technology marketers must engage buyers on their own terms
To be successful in the technology space, marketers need to engage buyers when and where they are actively conducting their purchase research. Unfortunately that isn’t as easy to do as it should be. In response to audience information needs, most media has become highly targeted. If you want to watch English Premier League soccer, there’s a cable channel for that. If you want to research buying a car or plan a wedding, there are web sites that. To reach technology buyers, you need go online to find them researching purchases on sites that offer serious content, targeted to their needs and your solutions, and offering the added intelligence that helps you to understand what they’re buying and when.
The question is whether the tools and media vehicles for technology marketers have caught up. Unfortunately, even though traditional IT media companies have migrated their content online, most still operate under an outdated broad-broadcast paradigm covering the IT industry as a whole, and delivering news and other items of no more than general interest to IT buyers. Based upon this “old media” model, the connection between media consumption and purchase intent is weakâ€”just like it was in the “early days” â€”and the best you can hope is to achieve those “old marketing” objectives of awareness and initial interest.
At TechTarget, we recognize the shifting needs of buyers and are focused on helping technology marketers embrace the new responsibilities they face. With over 100 technology-specific websites and in-depth problem-solving content, we deliver targeted opportunities to engage serious technology buyers who are actively researching solutions in very specific markets and seeking solutions to problems your technology can solve. And through deep buyer intelligence, we analyze the evolving interests of our audience across the buying cycle and provide you with the tools to engage buyers and become more successful marketers.