Buying committee content can help persuade each stakeholder in the B2B buying group.
Buyer’s journeys are now buyer-driven with lots of self-serve content. Buyers are well along in their solution research and evaluation before they even have contact with us, and that means we have a lot less insight into how they’re progressing. As marketers, we still have the challenge of offering them content that drives them through the funnel to become sales opportunities.
Adding to the challenge is that we know the number of people involved in the research, the evaluation and the decision is growing. It’s also moving largely into the digital realm, giving us even less visibility.
In a recent webinar, Engage the Entire Buying Committee with Relevant Content, we heard a panel of C4D strategy experts discuss how marketers can target and reach today’s buying committees with content that informs their decisions.
This post is excerpted from that webinar, which you can watch in its entirety here to learn how to create the most effective buying committee content.
What do today's buying committees look like?
Kimberly Mathie, Senior Content Strategist, Content4Demand:
B2B buying committees have existed for a long time, but what’s different today is that over the past several years, websites have become the primary hub where companies attract sales prospects and customers, and strive to deliver exceptional customer experiences in order to compete. And when you think about other companies being just a click away, you’ve got to have something dynamic on your website.
This has forced people in a company who used to buy solutions on their own to have to work with multiple people across their company to buy a solution for the company and deliver those exceptional experiences. As a result, buying committees have gotten a lot larger.
You can imagine how complicated it can be to try to get all those people to agree on a single solution and how their money should be spent.
It’s a great opportunity for companies to come in and help them figure out what they want their outcomes to be and support that. Also give them the information to help those decision-makers get on the same page.
Alexis Carroll, Senior Content Strategist, Content4Demand:
There’s also a generational shift occurring. Millennials, who tend to be more interested in doing their own research and are less interested in hearing sales pitches and reading marketing copy, have moved into more and more positions of power in these buying committees. And some of the numbers I’ve read, it’s about 60% of buying committees are now made up of Millennials.
So the numbers are changing, as is the way that people on that buying committee want to engage with information, learn about new products and make decisions. And that’s not a trend that’s going to stop as we all continue to age.
Brenda Caine, VP of Content & Client Strategy, Content4Demand:
We know that marketers need buying committee content that resonates with everyone in the group, and it’s not enough just to go to one person, whether it’s the decision-maker or the champion.
How has the buying process changed since 2020?
I worked on a great project this last year with TrustRadius, a third-party website that does reviews and so forth for software. This research report pulled data from about 2,100 respondents—a good pool of people. And what they found was that software budgets have increased for a majority of companies that they looked at. That makes sense. As we were home, we had to use software to connect, and we’re still doing that.
What I think is interesting is the amount of collaboration that’s increased between the decision-makers on a buying committee. They’re using Slack, they’re using Google Docs. Those asynchronous opportunities are completely different than gathering around in a boardroom. Now—on their own time—they can do research, make different points. And I think it also is one of the reasons why it’s reasonable for them to bring more people onto the buying committee, because they’re not just looking for time in a brief meeting but sharing input with the entire group.
Right. Because we have all these digital channels available to us, we’re not limited to just going to face-to-face meetings at a particular time anymore. That changes things a lot, doesn’t it?
How do growing committees that collaborate differently change how we create content for them?
Laurie Marinone, Content Strategist, Content4Demand:
That’s kind of the million-dollar question (or one of many). With more personas in play, companies absolutely need a better mix of content so that all those personas can find what they need during their research and during the buying process. And because the buying funnel is no longer linear. It kind of looks like a flywheel with a hub and spokes now, where buyers and influencers can pop in, enter and exit at will. The content needs to be self-serve, but it also needs to cover all the phases of the decision-making process.
When companies are creating early-stage educational content, they have to remember that at that point, buyers can be in an anonymous, self-serve research phase. So companies need to deliver what buyers are looking for at that time in buying committee content.
You mentioned earlier that about 80% or the majority of the buying process—including creating your vendor shortlist—is actually happening before a customer or prospect reaches out to a vendor or looks for vendor company information. So you have to be absolutely sure that your later-stage content is relevant, industry specific where possible, and includes those details that the buyers and prospects want—like, potentially, pricing and even competitive information. And that window now to make an impact is so tiny that we really have to do so many things right.
The trick, just like with so many things, is that it’s all about the planning. If you don’t have personas, you need to develop those. You need to think through how each one of those people is going to interact with buying committee content and plan your campaign very specifically and effectively.
As you mentioned already, the buyer’s journey isn’t linear anymore; however, everybody still is going through some sort of journey with your content, right? I think it’s important that even if you are focusing on early-stage content for your buying committee members, you still need to offer up middle- and late-stage content in case they want to go very fast through that cycle and get closer to that decision. And someone else may be going at a different pace.
So you have to give them a place where they can access anything they want at any time, anywhere along the buyer’s journey. We’re humans and we still have to become aware of our problem, we have to then find the solutions and evaluate and compare them, and then we have to make a buying decision. So that’s not going to change. It’s just a matter of how and when and in what order we go through that process. Buying committee content addresses these kinds of things.
What's the relationship between ABM and buying committee content?
When you’re doing account-based marketing, you’re targeting specific people in the account who are involved in the purchasing decision. You know who your champion is, and you’re building from there. With buying committee content, it’s the same general concept. You’re targeting multiple personas and you’re thinking through which part of the buying process each one is involved with.
Don’t be intimidated by this, because you already know what you’re doing if you’ve been doing ABM. But one of the tricks that you might want to think through is to take the time to talk with the salespeople and listen to the questions that they’re getting, the pushback that they’re getting within a specific account and within those buying committees. A lot of times, the champion can speak to that and tell you “this person, specifically, needs this information,” and so forth.
And then after a while, you get a handle on some shorthand in your mind about how you want to develop information for a CFO, let’s say. You just want to think through how it is you can speak to them in the language that they best understand, and the information they want. Because that is going to vary, especially if you’ve got a dozen people that you’re trying to target.
Salespeople appreciate that their voice is being heard, and they certainly can help us identify all those people who are either targets within an account and/or the people on the buying committee. And they can tell you really who are the ones that are blocking as well as who your champions are.
At the end of the day, people are selling to humans, and humans all have different needs and different objectives. And those salespeople are so close to that to know what each individual cares about and how to help get that consensus. They understand the interpersonal dynamics that are going on in that buying committee. You need that information to inform how you best position your content to support what’s happening with that buying committee.
Let's talk about the titles and roles of individuals on the buying committee.
We know that typically we have someone who signs checks, usually someone in finance. We might have someone who’s in procurement. We usually have someone who’s at the executive level involved. Almost everything today involves technology, so you can count on someone from IT being there, and then someone from operations. So those are typically the titles, but that’s not necessarily the roles.
The champion could be someone who’s maybe a manager or director, a little bit lower level. It may be in IT or maybe it’s in the line of business that actually needs the solution that they’re evaluating.
That’s the person you really want to focus on. Give that person a lot of ammunition with your buying committee content to get buy-in from the rest of the committee. And then you’ve got people who may try to block it for whatever reasons. We have to remember that there are a lot of psychological things going on besides just the business objective that people are trying to accomplish.
You want to be able to understand what the objections are so that you can address them. But you also have to think about what is it that is going to be their moment where they realize what the value is? And that may change depending on which role they’re playing. Some of the gatekeepers, if they’re worried about the money—it’s not that they’re not willing to spend money, they just need to see that the ROI is there, and they’re not willing to back off until they have that broader story told.
I was on a call this morning talking about this. You need to make sure that everybody on your team understands what the value is, what the larger goal is, how it’s going to benefit the business and why it’s worth the investment—not just of money but of time for implementation and so forth. That’s a tricky business, because it’s not just about saying, “Why is this worth the money,” but “why is it going to transform the business in some way—change of process or change of strategic direction?”
Everybody is overwhelmed with so many to-dos and it’s making that case of “why now?”—why they can’t wait, and how they can make the change and manage it with all the other things they have going on. That’s helping make that business case for why it’s so important and help them to get the buy-in for, “We need to do this now. We shouldn’t be putting this off.”
How does buyer enablement content help the buying champion get buy-in from the whole committee?
Buyer enablement content really is about giving buyers the information and tools they need to support them throughout their buying journey. Whether they’re trying to identify their problem, explore solutions, build requirements or select suppliers, the idea is to help make the process faster and easier for them to buy without a lot of friction in that buying process.
You can do that by creating content that supports each stage of the buying journey, by looking at the needs of the organization and the outcome they’re trying to achieve as well as the needs of the individual members of the buying committee. This can range from preparing messaging and buyer’s guides to case studies, solution information—those types of assets that support the buying process.
I like to think of this as laying out a buffet. You’re going to offer a whole bunch of different foods. People can take what they want. Somebody might want to heap up on, like my son wants to heap up on four servings of mashed potatoes. And that’s kind of how we function as people. And I think it works here as well.
We want to make sure that the table is set with everything they may need. If they want to gorge themselves on all the details about the specifics of a tool, they’re absolutely welcome to do that. But if there’s somebody who wants to stay high level who is much more of a “meta” kind of thinker, then they can just take a little bite as they go along. So I think that’s a good metaphor to think through.
You’re going to have some people who are more visual learners and they’ll want the visual information. You’ll have other people who are more detailed. I want all the details and I want to read it in print, and I’m going to go through a big E-book to get all of my information. You’re going to have a full spectrum of how people prefer to get information, and you need different assets that support that.
How do we develop specific messaging that's relevant to all the buying committee members?
We have to keep a few things in mind. We definitely need to speak to each persona on the buying committee, recognizing now that there are many of them, but we can’t lose or abandon the need for general messaging as well.
And while we’re creating that messaging, we always have to be buyer focused and business outcome-centric, and we have to avoid falling into the trap, which is absolutely natural, where we slip back into sales speak or product features or solutions. That just by nature is our default, and we have to fight hard to overcome it and not get railroaded into sales speak.
Because companies are being invited into the discussion much later in the process, we don’t have any time to lose. And we absolutely have to be sure that we’re including ROI and building a case for the business solution in all our messaging.
Another thing that happens: Because the committees are large and folks are sharing with each other now, we have to make sure that our content is shareable. Committee members are talking to each other. Particularly if we have a champion involved, we want it to be very easy for that champion to share content with others on the committee so that they can really evangelize what we’re wanting them to do.
The most recent Content Preferences Study from Demand Gen Report actually helps us understand what content types people find most shareable. And those are research surveys, E-books, webinars and case studies. We need to keep that in the back of our minds as we’re creating our assets and designing our messaging in buying committee content.
I’ve got a great tip for you when you’re actually building the messaging. If you look on different review sites, on LinkedIn, other third-party sites and see how your content’s being shared, and also what are people saying about you? How do they speak to you? What are the words that they’re using? If they say they have a specific kind of success, incorporate that language, because as Laurie’s saying, we need to have it shareable, but we also need to connect by speaking the same language as our audience.
I know how hard it can be to be the marketing person saying it needs to come from the perspective of the audience and getting pushback on that. Maybe other stakeholders want to lean into more sales speak, more giving the message they want to give. But I liken this to, What is your reaction when you see the word “telemarketer” pop up on your phone? I recoil like I’ve been smacked, right? So we want to make sure that, if it all possible, we make it seem like this is information sharing, not at all trying to shove a message down somebody’s throat. It’s trickier than you think it’s going to be.
Sometimes we need to use a specific term because that’s what is used in the industry. But people get so tied up into using the same business jargon that everybody else is using. Not only is it vague, it doesn’t differentiate your solution from anybody. Everybody can say, “It’s scalable. It’s flexible. It’s agile. It’s this. It’s that.” It doesn’t differentiate you, and it isn’t effective. We need to use language that is simple, clear and concrete, and actually says what we’re trying to say instead of resorting to the catch words that people use.
Is it possible to reach multiple stakeholders with a single asset?
Yes, but you have to be pretty clever about it. Primarily, you must remember to concentrate on speaking to the person that you’re trying to reach. But it is also possible to include enough ammunition so that that asset works for several personas, or so that it’s shareable and that asset can be passed down the line and used to get buy-in from others. And this kind of buying committee content can work in both a static form and an interactive form.
What might be helpful is to share two successful examples that we’ve created for clients to bring that to life. Our first example is for Intralinks, and it’s an immersive “day in the life” experience for three different personas in the investment space. You can be a deal maker, you can be a member of the investor relations team or you can be the CFO.
You can dive into this experience as a unique persona and learn from your own perspective and lens what you need to know about the challenge and different elements about the solution. Your learning experience and your buying experience throughout this asset will be very different from your colleagues. Yet, collectively, it’s a much more powerful asset than something that would be designed for just a single individual or persona. That’s what you want from buying committee content.
And an example in the interactive space is something that we recently did for our client RSM, and it’s around back-office transformation post-merger. The interactivity in this amazing asset allows multiple personas to choose their own journey. You can see here from the screenshots that within the content there are essentially four self-guided paths for four different roles within an organization.
You can be a CIO, you can be an information security lead, you can be in finance or you could actually be part of the human capital team, and you can dive into the aspect of what you need to learn. This asset will give you a ton of great information. Each persona’s experience in the asset is unique from their colleagues. Yet, as a whole, the asset really gives you a sort of 360-degree picture of the topic for everyone who’s involved.
And it’s more fun. I think that’s another thing. We’re talking about people. It’s not a video game, exactly, but there’s something about the interactivity and pressing the button and making it go that is very childlike in the most delightful way. I love being able to use interactive pieces like this to do more, but also to be different than just a white paper. It gives a lot more energy to the piece.
Also, there was a lot of information in this piece. We identified four layers of information, but rather than putting it all in one very text-heavy piece, the interactivity allows you to break it up into tiny bites. You can dive as deep as you want. You can stay high level. You can look at all four personas. So you have much more control. You can still offer up a huge amount of information in your buying committee content but keep it very manageable and bite-size, so to speak.
What kinds of channels are buying committees interacting with?
I want to hark back to the TrustRadius report that we did last year, because it covers this really well. One of the things I think is most interesting is that it’s gotten to the point where they’re doing this survey each year, the number of people that want to reach out to a sales representative to get more information is almost zero.
But what was really striking to me was that almost 20% of the respondents said that if pricing, let’s say, isn’t readily available on the website, they abandon looking at that product. It’s out of consideration. And that number is terrifying.
So some of them will contact a sales rep and some will put it to the side, but that nearly 20% saying “just forget it” needs to reinforce for us how important it is that even though they’re not coming to your website to get information at the beginning of this journey, you’ve got to get into that conversation where they are. So I think the priority really is, What are the channels? Where are your people going?
There are different job boards, discussion boards, forums in different places, communities where people like to share information. That’s definitely something you want to consider. What’s going on LinkedIn and Twitter? Where are there other conversations happening about your product or your entire field?
Think through that portion first. And make sure that once they’re looking at your website, you’ve got a lot of self-serve options, self-serve demos, ROI calculators and other information that can help people who are in those final stages of buying. Because by the time they get to your website, they’re in those final stages of buying.
Focus on what their learning style is. If you can have a mix of some short videos, some case studies—we do a lot of solution guides, selection guides—those are all tools that can be used internally, not only to help sell your product but to help them plan for the implementation. Because once they’re making room for you, then it’s a lot easier to close the deal on that sale.
There are going to be some people on the buying committee who aren’t going to go anywhere for information except other people on the buying committee. The CEO is probably not going to go out and look for information, nor is, probably, the CFO or the procurement person. Those people are going to be counting on the people within the buying committee, whether it’s the champion or other people who are assigned to research and evaluate to report to them.
So we have to make sure that the buying committee content we create is something they’re able to share.
The number of people relying on analyst reports year over year has increased pretty significantly. It’s the case from Boomers down to Generation Y that analyst reports are becoming more and more important. You can bring an analyst report back, hand it to the CEO and they understand, “Okay, this is a third-party validation that this is worth my time.” Research reports do that as well.
How do we connect with buying committee members in the evaluation stage?
When we get to the middle of the funnel, that is where you’re having those more in-depth conversations. That can be things like how-to articles, solution content, E-books and guides—even webinars and podcasts, those types of things. But for the buying committee, it’s providing that educational piece about what you’re offering, what sets you apart from everybody else and how you can help them more than somebody else.
Once you’ve made the sale, there’s going to be some sort of customer success portion built in there, that they have someone that they can go to if they have problems. This is a front-end version of that. If you can help a customer or a prospect to understand, “We’re here for you. We want to help you understand the process. We want to help you through this decision. But we also want you to plan for implementation and success.”
I think that that sort of foreshadows the kind of quality they’re going to get from you after the sale. That’s important to a lot of us, especially when you’re talking about a B2B product that is going to impact the way you run your business.
For more insights about how you can create content that speaks to everyone in the buying group with personalized, relevant content, be sure to watch the full webinar here: Engage the Entire Buying Committee with Relevant Content.
Brenda Caine is VP of Content & Client Services at Content4Demand. She has spent most of her career in corporate marketing—primarily in technology, finance, healthcare, utilities and higher education.
Kimberly Mathie is a Senior Content Strategist at Content4Demand. She has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, content strategy and corporate communications.
Alexis Carroll is a Senior Content Strategist at Content4Demand. She’s spent more than 20 years in sales and marketing, working with non-profits, tech firms and healthcare organizations. She also served on the faculty at Texas State, where she taught Technical Writing.
Laurie Marinone is a Content Strategist at Content4Demand. She has more than 30 years in sales and marketing roles across a range of industries including finance, technology, electronics engineering, life sciences and agriculture.
Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian.