The Characteristics of Content That Turns Skeptics Into Believers

We recently partnered with HubSpot to conduct research to understand the human side of CIOs and what influences their purchasing habits. In this guest blog post, Lisa Toner, an inbound marketing content creator in HubSpot’s Dublin office, shares her thoughts on how the effective use of content can turn skeptics into believers. You can view the original post here.

Whether you’re just getting started with content marketing or you have an army of copywriters churning it out like Santa’s elves on Christmas Eve, there is one rule that all marketers need to keep in mind: We are writing for humans.

The reason we put our resources into creating content is to grow our business. We want to generate more leads and turn those leads into paying customers, right?

But something many marketers forgot is that customers are people — human beings with needs, feelings, and opinions. Why do we think that throwing our product features at them in a brochure will make them want to buy from us? How does that tell them what value we will add to their lives? How does that make them trust us and want to tell their friends about our product?

It doesn’t, plain and simple. To properly market to your customers, you’ve got to understand their human side — those needs, feelings, and opinions.

HubSpot recently ran a survey with Octopus Group for their Tech Heads 2014 project that gave us great insight into the human side of CIOs — often the hardest person to convince when selling technology into a new company. The way to their heart? Content. According to the study, “in terms of the overall purchasing decision, 82% of CIOs rely more on online content today than they did a year ago.

In this article, I’ll explain the five characteristics of content that they indicated were most important to them when researching and selecting a vendor to purchase from. (You can download the full report here.) Even if you don’t market directly to CIOs, by keeping these principles in mind, you should be able to create content that appeals to the people within a company and converts even your biggest skeptics into brand evangelists.

1) Honest and Well-Balanced

“During the short-listing process, CIOs will use expert opinions (57%) and reviews (54%) to arrive at a small selection of possible vendors” – Tech Heads 2014

People don’t like to feel like they’re being marketed to — if content feels honest/well-balanced, they’re more trusting. An example of honest content is when companies provide easy access to expert opinions and customer reviews on places like G2 crowd. Because your company isn’t the one saying how great you are, it feels much less salesy.

CIOs also like to hear what experts think. For gathering expert opinions from influential people about our product, service, or brand in general, HubSpot uses our Social Inbox tool to monitor social networks (if you don’t have HubSpot, you can still use the following techniques, though some of the tactics will be more manual).

We can create a list of influential people in our space and set up a stream that listens to their social activity and notifies us via email if they mention our company name. We can then embed those posts on our landing pages or use them in our sales collateral.

Similarly, we can create a list of journalists who report on our industry and set up a stream for them so that we can be notified if they mention any of our keywords — inbound marketing, marketing automation, etc. If we get any bites on that stream, we can actively reach out to them and see if we can be a resource for a story.

2) Evidence-Based

“71% of CIOs think vendors need to use more data and research to support their content.” – Tech Heads 2014

When it comes to making a decision about purchasing new technology for a company, having hard proof is essential. According to our survey, in the final phases of decision-making, CIOs will rely much more heavily on case studies (29%) and benchmarking tools (25%) to reach their final decision. So building out some case studies for the industries and company profiles that you sell into is a must-have when it comes to your content arsenal. If your lead can see how another human with the same challenges as them used your product to overcome them, you are a lot more likely to be able to convince them to make a purchase. If you need help creating case studies for your business, check out this free ebook.

3) Easy-to-Understand and Jargon-Free

“57% say they have less time to devote to reading and researching than they did a year ago.” – Tech Heads 2014

Many content creators make a mistake in thinking that when writing for a more senior audience, they should write in really advanced and sophisticated English in order to appeal to them. The truth is, people don’t have time to spend on deciphering your complicated message. Everyone likes things to be easy and by writing your content in a jargon-free, easily digestible tone, you will actually get your message across far better than if you try to complicate it with big words. You’re not writing for robots.

The style of content you should be creating varies at each stage of the buying process but should always be concise and easily absorbed. At the initial research stage, short snappy content of 150 words or less is preferred by almost two thirds (60%) of the CIOs we surveyed, with a third (35%) agreeing that 300 words is the ideal length. The appetite for succinct summaries is mirrored in the consideration stage, with 55% relying on content of between 300 – 500 words. Longer reads of 2000 words become more important to the decision-making process as decision-makers reach the final choice of a vendor or solution. Almost a quarter (22%) relish this type of content when at the end of the buying process.

4) Highly Relevant and Personal

“47% of CIOs said that poorly targeted, irrelevant communications was their number one frustration with vendor content.” – Tech Heads 2014

Hey, remember the email you got from that random company trying to sell you <<insert something you would never ever buy here>>? Probably not, right? Because you most likely hit delete once you realised it was from a company you didn’t know, a company who didn’t know you, and a company who was trying to sell you a product that had absolutely no relevance to your life.

Knowing who your content is for and writing it to target them is the first step in becoming successful with content marketing. The second step is finding out where those people are hanging out and how to reach them with that content.

5) Valuable With No Strings Attached

“76% of CIOs already have a good idea of the product or service they’ll purchase before starting their research. 75% short-list or even decide on a vendor before making contact with that vendor most of the time.” – Tech Heads 2014

Because most of the sales cycle is complete before you ever get to speak to your lead, it’s very important that your content is out there building that relationship for you. By creating valuable content that’s mapped to their needs at each stage of the decision-making process, you can ensure that your company is included on their short-list.

If you are marketing a technology product, your biggest challenge is likely going to be convincing the CIO. With the data provided in this article, you should be able to get started on creating content that wins them over. However, if you want even more insights into the mind of the CIO, you can download the entire report here.

Lisa Toner, HubSpot