The Psychology of Content Marketing (or Why People Are Predictably Unpredictable)

Human nature doesn’t change. We say we’re going to do one thing, but then we do another. Innately, we are predictably unpredictable.

Actual buyer behavior is the thrust behind a game-changing shift in the SiriusDecisions Messaging Nautilus 2.0 released in May 2016. This shift in focus from content preferences — the kinds of content our audiences tell us they want — to actual behavior is reflected in the language: “Content preferences” has become “asset and interaction types.” And smart B2B marketers are leveraging the sophisticated tracking tools that collect exactly this kind of data.

It’s time stop assuming people will always behave predictably. I may say I prefer written content like E-books that give me detailed information when I’m evaluating products, but then I always end up watching one-minute videos because they’re easier to digest and less time-consuming for my hectic schedule.

“Implement tools that empower you to understand site behaviors, search behaviors, email interactions, content downloads and even [buyers’] engagement with specific assets,” our own Alicia Esposito noted in a recent blog post. “This is actual, hard data; it’s far more dependable than what buyers say they want.”

Don’t throw out content preferences as you build your buyer personas, but focus on real data to validate those preferences and make decisions about content messaging.

Tap Into Real Pain Points

Diving a little deeper, we should also look at the needs that drive behaviors and use this insight to create messaging. When we develop content marketing messaging, we tend to focus on explicit business needs like cost savings, time savings or better customer service. But there’s much more going on at a deeper level.

SiriusDecisions’ Needs Aperture looks at three levels of needs: organizational need, functional need and individual need. Organizational needs include things like cost savings and increased productivity. Functional needs correspond with the department/function level, such as automating specific processes to reduce errors and save time.

Beyond these explicitly stated needs, every person to whom you’re talking has individual needs that may remain unspoken — needs he or she may not even be aware of. These internal needs can play a major role in how people respond to your messaging and in how they purchase.

The hierarchy of needs for a marketing manager who’s evaluating marketing automation software may look something like this:

  • Organizational need: Increase revenues.
  • Functional need: Find more qualified prospects.
  • Individual need: Free me from repetitive manual processes so I can focus on more innovative, exciting projects that make a real difference for our business.

If you notice, the individual need looks a lot like a pain point. That’s because pain points often reflect the buyer’s individual needs.

When developing personas for a content marketing strategy, we must always keep in mind the pain points that speak to the people making the decisions, not just the explicitly stated goals that match the business or functional needs. Your messaging should keep these unsaid drivers at the forefront. For more tips on discovering those pain points, check out my previous blog post, “Could Your Sales Team Hold Valuable Persona Insights?”

Don’t be afraid to speak to pain points directly. Empathize with your buyers, and show them how your product will relieve them of their pain. For example, tell them how automated processes will cut down the time spent on an activity from hours to minutes and free up their time for more business-critical projects with greater executive management visibility.

Verify With Data

The lessons are two-fold. First, when it comes to creating content, look at your buyers’ actual behaviors to make decisions. Second, don’t forget the psychological needs of the buyer when you develop the messaging, and focus on the pain points that drive behavior. Don’t try to second-guess your buyers. Verify with data and insights. After all, they’re predictably unpredictable.

Want to learn more about creating content based on your buyers’ behavior? Check out The Real-Time, Buyer-Focused Content Marketing Handbook.

Let's Get Started

Search the site.

View the Interactive G-Book

Fill out the form below to view the asset.