Marketers can improve sales close rates by focusing on search engine optimization and providing white papers and analyst research online.
Posted Sep 26, 2005
Roughly 75 percent of technology buyers are spending up to 10 hours a week researching IT products, services, and tools online, which could spell huge opportunities for marketers, according to a new study. "Define What's Valued Online," conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer Council and technology content and search site Knowledgestorm, showed that most of those shoppers are satisfied with their online research experience and use the value and accuracy of Web content to help them make better purchasing decisions.
Roughly 90 percent of IT professionals and business users indicated that online content has a moderate to major impact on vendor preferences and selections but the satisfaction level with the caliber of online content could be higher, according to the report. Only 22 percent said they were "very satisfied," and 50 percent were "somewhat satisfied." When it comes to pet peeves, what irks buyers most is the "hype and puffery of offerings," according to Matt Lohman, manager of business development and market research for Knowledgestorm. "The area for improvement is around developing a value proposition or providing clear examples of ROI," he says. "There's so much information out there that it's important to get to the business proposition early in the marketing [process]. People on the Internet are more in the mode of scanning than delving into information, so it's important to get the information high up, not marketing hype."
So what can vendors do to bypass the hype? Providing white papers and analyst research is a good starting point, according to Lohman. When asked what content gained the highest level of confidence and trust, respondents cited those two sources the highest. Vendor white papers were the most popular type of technology content downloaded and shared with peers, followed by product reviews and analyst reports. "Vendors can add serious credibility getting involved with those types of outlets or incorporating customer survey and satisfaction tools that they might be conducting but aren't publishing," Lohman says. White papers are growing in popularity, because more people are becoming involved in the purchasing decisions. Involving third parties to provide quality reports that differ from the traditional technical jargon could be a differentiator, especially given the fact that many respondents say they share such reports with up to 10 people in their organization before deciding to buy.
Search engines and directories are another popular medium for marketers to invest in, according to Scott Van Camp, editorial director for the CMO Council. Roughly 70 percent of survey respondents start their online research at such outlets, with vendor Web sites coming in a distant second. They chose Google over Yahoo! roughly 2-to-1 (96.5 percent compared to 52.9 percent), and the three most bookmarked sites are MSN.com, news.com, and idc.com. "Search engines and directories play a monumental role in the buying process, underscoring the importance of search engine optimization and marketing efforts," Van Camp says. "By ensuring that the most effective product and solution keywords appear on relevant search networks, your company has a greater chance of being found on the Internet. By ramping up their content efforts and tracking the results, marketers have a golden opportunity to generate more leads, close more sales, and ultimately improve the bottom line."
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