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What Marketers Get Wrong About Content’s Role in the New Buyer’s Journey



Many people talk (and write) about how the B2B marketing process has changed. But they overlook how the entire buying process has changed.

Volumes of research and points of view articles explore how digital marketing needs to change to meet the needs of the modern B2B buyer. Heck, I’ve written plenty of them.

But it’s not a one-way street. The Internet and associated digital technology have also upended the way B2B customers research and purchase things.

You’ll find it easier to adapt your B2B marketing process if you first understand how B2B buyers’ journeys have changed (and why).

To get better at #B2B marketing, you need to understand how the buyer’s journey has changed, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Let go of the outmoded discovery-driven buyer’s journey

Have you ever wondered why the sales department holds such a powerful voice in your organization?

Before the web era, discovery drove the B2B buying cycle. When it came to new or innovative purchases (as opposed to simple commodity repurchases), buyers would discover options for new products and services through their existing relationships with current vendors and in print trade journals.

Buyers needed education about changing materials, technologies, and services to give their business an edge, as they still do today. But once they discovered that this new “thing” existed, they’d turn to their existing, trusted network of existing vendors and partners for information.

One B2B study from 1987 found a “strong association of newness and the amount of information desired, but a weak correlation of this information and the consideration of alternative sources” when purchasing new products and services.

Put simply: B2B buyers needed more information for new purchases, and they preferred to get that information from their existing vendor relationships.

Is it any wonder that in the 1984 book Industrial Marketing Strategy, the authors discuss the importance of the relationships between sales personnel and buyers? They wrote that “buyers have a heavy reliance on their sales representatives… [they are] the backbone of new product marketing effectiveness.”

Today, we all understand that the process of gathering product information and the information sources themselves have fundamentally changed. What’s not as clear is whether the role of salespeople is decreasing or if buyers are longing to trust their sales representatives to steer them to information and options.

An article in Harvard Business Review indicates the latter may be true. The authors describe the modern salesperson as more than a facilitator of a sale, but also an “educator, negotiator, consultant, solution configurator, service provider, and relationship manager. They are integral to discovering the ‘something more’ that customers want.”

#B2B buyers once turned to trusted vendors for purchasing advice. Are those days really over, asks @Robert_Rose? Or are buyers longing for our help? Via @CMIContent Click To Tweet

Understand the new change-driven buyer’s journey

Regardless of the salesperson’s role, the buyer’s journey has evolved into a change-driven process. Decisions about new purchases at B2B companies have become what sociologists would call an “intentional change process.”

The intentional change process is a theory developed by Richard Boyatzis, a professor at Case Western Reserve University. It outlines five common-sense steps to follow to make a lasting change. The five steps include:

  1. Envision the ideal destination (by describing a desired outcome for our future)
  2. Explore the gaps to get there (by asking what is needed to manifest that future)
  3. Develop a learning agenda (by developing our expertise to build roadmaps)
  4. Execute and practice the new habits (by deploying a test of the new habit)
  5. Get support (by solidifying the relationships that will help us stick to the new habit)

The prototypical B2B buyer’s journey today lines up with the intentional change process almost exactly:

  • Envision a destination (awareness). In the B2B buyer’s journey, companies increasingly start with a desired future change.
  • Explore the gaps (discovery). Then, an assembled team explores and focuses on internal gaps to narrow down the type of solution that makes the most sense.
  • Develop a learning agenda (learn and try). The team collects information from vendors, consultants, analysts, and even competitors to become subject matter experts in this solution category. Next comes a trial of the product, a prototype of the new operation, or a proof of concept.
  • Practice new habits and get support. Once the decision is made, the buying group facilitates the internal process and support for successful change management and implementation of the new solution in the group.

So, what’s the problem? Marketers spend so much time trying to help buyers envision a destination and explore gaps that by the time the buyer is ready to set a learning agenda, they’re overwhelmed and ready to give up.

In focusing so much on convincing B2B buyers they should change, marketers have forgotten that buyers are trying to learn how to change.

In focusing on convincing #B2B buyers they should change, we’ve forgotten to use #ContentMarketing to teach them how to change, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Marketers are missing buyers’ intentions

Since the first three of the five journey steps involve consuming content, many B2B marketers assume they need to create more and more digital information for the buyers to find as they build that knowledge.

They optimize content for organic search results or buy their way to the top of those results. They develop deep learning or resource centers to attract buyers looking for information at step one.

But this approach produces an almost unclimbable mountain of research, information, and education. In fact, research firm Gartner recently pointed out that B2B brands need to rethink their content marketing, saying:

In a world where customers are struggling with too much information rather than not enough, the most successful marketers are focused on providing less information, specifically designed to make buying easier.

B2B marketers need context on where and how to deliver different kinds of information, not just more early-stage information.

The classic marketing goal is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Most businesses have nailed any one of the three, but few manage all three simultaneously.

To get it right, you must understand where the buyer is on their intentional change journey. In other words, what is their actual intent?

The context of the buyer’s intent is the most important thing to understand because it is the only way you can provide the contextual (and differentiating) message that helps buyers make a decision.

An original research project

So, what is the answer?

I recently worked with ContentGINE to develop a framework to answer that question. We wanted to know how B2B marketers can map the buyer’s intentional change journey with data and content consumption tools to gain better insight into potential buying signals.

I’ve created a tiered approach to thought leadership programs that provides a framework for differentiating content, not just overloading buyers with more research and information.

You can read the full paper here.

Buying is about trying to minimize change

Change always requires time and energy. One widespread fallacy about the B2B marketing process is that buyers are looking for the most significant – or most fundamental – change to the solution they want to replace. It’s not true.

Many B2B buyers have set a transformational vision. But the intentional change journey often involves exploring an incremental improvement.

Regardless, buyers want to assemble a roadmap that provides the least amount of disruption on the way to their intended future destination.

Serving contextually relevant content to a buyer based on their intention will almost always be the best next action you can take to help them change.


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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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State of Content Marketing in 2023



State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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27 Best About Us and About Me Page Examples [+Templates]



Your about page summarizes your history, values, and mission — all in one place. That’s a tall order for just a few paragraphs. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to these about-page examples for inspiration. 

about us page example: laptop held in palm of hand


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MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow



MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.

Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 

Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.

Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.

Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 

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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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