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There is no argument that when a B2B buyer begins their journey, they start online. All the research and data points are right: the journey starts with search, and oftentimes with a solution or vendor in mind. Do you know what else B2B buyers do? They search for information even when they’re not in a buying cycle, which is a problem because most tools don’t know the difference. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

If your organization is in the advisory or information services industry, or is considered to be a thought leader in the industry, congratulations – the majority of the people consuming your content are not buyers but fans.

The expensive intent data you’re buying and the retargeting campaigns you’re running are going to waste because they’re tracking engagement – not real intent. To get to intent, you must first understand the audience’s motivations.

In particular, there are two segments of your audience who actively search and use content but neither do so as part of a buying journey – and if they are, they’re planning to make things difficult. Take for example the following two scenarios:

1. The false positive ‘C-level’

Nothing will set off the bells of a lead nurturing program like a C-level hitting your content. A senior executive ‘seeker/sharer‘ personality type is constantly scanning the horizons in search of new insights.

The problem is that they don’t own anything. They love finding new solutions, ideas, tools and vendors, but a resulting action will require someone else’s involvement. These personalities will ‘turtle‘ on you, hitting your content especially if you’re a thought leader, and then disappear only to reappear again in three to four months.

It can be frustrating for lead nurturing programs, because this person‘s behavior is not linear. They’ll hop around from topic to topic as they search for information to share with others. Unfortunately, this personality type only meets the ‘A‘ on a BANT scoring index. The budget and need, most often, will sit with someone else.

2. The entrenched ‘status quo seeker’

This is a tough one. Not only can this personality fool marketers, it can also trick sales into thinking there is interest. The ’neophobe’ personality type seeks to reinforce their own point of view by consuming information that aligns with their own beliefs. Think of this person as someone who only watches Fox News or CNN as their primary source for political news and information.

Your content doesn’t move them to take action; rather, it entrenches them in their own world. Even if your perspective differed from their own, they will read it through their own filter that will align with how they think.

As for confusing sales, this personality is friendly; in fact, it’s one of their key attributes. However, they’re unlikely to advance a sale or advocate for your brand or solution. It’s just not in their DNA.

Once you are able to filter out the false positives, you can get to real intent. Intent indicates a consumer’s genuine objective of taking action. Downloading a piece of content or attending a webinar doesn’t dig deep enough into motivations to satisfy that criteria. 

To do get to the root, you need to understand how different personality types interact with each other in the buying group. This requires watching their behaviors online. The key is not consumption of content or engagement, it’s sharing.

The ’seeker/sharer’ I mentioned earlier is the most important audience member for marketing. Stop chasing them and find out who they are sharing your information with – that’s your target. Seekers will find the ’doers’ inside the organization. And those people are more likely to have the need and the budget. That person intends to drive the buying process forward; it’s in their personality to champion others’ good ideas. Sharers need champions, champions need sharers and you need to know them to be successful. 

Scott Gillum is founder and chief executive at Carbon Design.

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