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Study: IT marketers meeting buyers' online content needs

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Marketers are doing a much better job of giving IT buyers the types of content they seek in the media formats they prefer, according to TechTarget's “2009 Media Consumption Benchmark Report 2: Closing the Gap.”

TechTarget surveyed 1,700 IT professionals and 500 marketers for the report to assess the supply of and demand for IT media. The technology media company conducts the survey semiannually.

The study found that IT buyers consume online media throughout the buying process, favoring specific content types at specific times. For instance, buyers use online communities in the first phase of the buying process (awareness) and into the second phase (consideration). They use webcasts primarily in the second phase, and use online vendor demos in the second phase and through the third and final (decision) phase. Buyers use search engines throughout much of the entire buying process, according to the report.

In general, marketers' supply of media and content is better at meeting the demands and interests of the buyer community than it was a year ago, the study found. Marketers have developed a better understanding of how to produce more effective content in newer media, for instance, by keeping online videos to less than 10 minutes running time.

“Compared to a year ago, the gap or the chasm has definitely tightened,” said Marilou Barsam, senior VP-corporate and client marketing at TechTarget. “A year ago, especially when we asked questions about newer media like [online] videos and virtual trade shows and even podcasts, the IT buyer showed much higher interest in them versus the marketers' investment in them. And now you don't see that. Now, if anything, you see the reverse.”

For example, 28% of IT buyers said they had watched online videos in the previous three months to get information on enterprise technology solutions, while 41% of marketers said they had used video in marketing in the previous three months.

“IT buyers are very interested in video as an online medium, and marketers now are supplying, meeting and even exceeding that demand,” Barsam said.

The study found that white papers, product literature and software trials are among the online content types most used by IT buyers. Marketers are doing a better job of providing software trials (35% now offer them), but still aren't meeting demand (54% of IT buyers want such trials).

One area representing a large disconnect, according to the study, is the supply of and demand for vendor comparison data. Fifty percent of IT buyers indicated they used vendor comparisons, but only 24% of marketers provided such comparisons. IT buyers want that information, especially when they are in the final stages of the buying process, but marketers often are reluctant to offer it, Barsam said.

“They're not really comfortable with comparing their solution to their competitors' because they feel there's a risk involved in doing that,” she said.

What many marketers don't realize, Barsam said, is that buyers in the final stages will make those comparisons anyway, spending significant time doing it themselves if such information isn't already available. Marketers that provide that information are doing buyers a service and giving themselves some control over the outcome.

Another key finding, Barsam said, is that buyers are using social communities in the buying process. “Everyone's asking questions about social communities, and marketers are concerned about if they should be investing in and sponsoring these communities,” she said. “A very high percentage of the buyers indicated they now consider social communities to be one of the major places they'd go for information on the Web.”

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