By Barbra Gago published March 31, 2011

How Do Your Buyers Consume Content? Ask These 20 Questions

Great content marketing starts with one thing: understanding your audience, whether it’s a prospect or customer. Sounds simple in theory, but it can be difficult to collect the important info.

Last week, I shared some ideas on how to research your buyers. This week, I want to take it a step further and delve into how buyers actually consume content.

With the web and mobile apps giving consumers and B2B buyers access to any kind of information at anytime, it’s important that you understand how your prospects are accessing and consuming the content that helps them make a purchase decision.

Developing buyer personas that include psychographic and demographic information is mandatory, but it shouldn’t end there. What are you doing to understand how your buyers are consuming their information on and offline?

Buyer information consumption is basically how a buyer is researching, discussing, reviewing, reading, watching or otherwise engaging with content that influences their decision to buy. For business though, it’s also about knowing where that engagement takes place.

Information consumption could be as simple as reading a comment in a forum, asking a question online, or listening to a case study at a live event.

In my last blog post, I cited a number of ways you can learn more about prospective buyers. Now, take that information and ask these questions to understand how your buyers consume information.

There is no substitute for talking to your buyers. Below is a list of questions you can ask as well as alternative ideas on how to get this information.

How do they like to access info?

Questions to ask:

  • Do they attend events? In-person or online?
  • Do they subscribe to RSS feeds?
  • Do they like email newsletters?
  • Do they access content online or via a mobile device?
  • Do they get most of their information during work hours or at home?
  • Do they get their information through word-of-mouth from their business community?
  • Does advertising play a role?

How to find this info:

Knowing the right questions to ask is key, but getting the answers can be a bit more tricky. The easiest way to get a real sense of how your buyers are leveraging content through these channels is to talk to them:

  • Interview new customers
  • Conduct a survey with a trusted research firm (and publish the results if appropriate)
  • Engage in conversations with thought leaders in the space.

I am currently working on a project where I need to get into the minds of engineers.  I am reaching out specifically to engineers who are active in their communities online. Because they are already engaged within the community, many of them have been very open to a 15-20 minute call. This has been extremely helpful not just to get the information, but also to affirm assumptions that I have made.

What topics interest them?

Questions to ask:

  • What content are they consuming?
  • Why are they consuming that content?
  • What format is their preferred content in?
  • Is the content they need  to make a purchasing decision different from their primary interests?

How to find this info:

Your web analytics can be the easiest way to determine what content your buyers are interested in and what formats they prefer. Take a look at what topics are the most popular on your site (e.g., blog posts or product pages) and cross-reference the format in which that content is presented.

Talking to your sales team can also shed some insight on the kinds of content they need for themselves as well as for any decision makers at the client site.

How much information do they want to receive?

Questions to ask:

  • How often are they exposed to new content/information?
  • Do they subscribe to RSS feeds?
  • How often do they log on to social networks? Which ones?
  • Do they attend events frequently?
  • How much content do they consume at different stages of their buying process? Do they need more at the early, mid or later stages of buying?

How to find this info:

Knowing how much information your buyers want to receive – and how they want to receive it – is difficult to discover unless you have some conversations.

Providing an RSS feed on your blog or website sheds insight into how often buyers are actively engaging with the new content you provide, but this is not the only metric to track. There are a lot of other places these people are getting their information. Consider talking to owners of other popular sites that your buyers are visiting regularly, or examining community engagement. Evaluate how often people are commenting or posting new content to community sites.

Who or what influences them?

 

Questions to ask:

  • Where do they like to get content?
  • Who do they get their content from? Industry analysts, vendors, thought leaders, friends?
  • How does the format of content they consume change throughout the buying process?
  • Are there internal/external influences in the kind of content they choose to consume? (Does an internal event trigger certain content consumption? Does the community itself drive the content needs/expectations of individuals?)

How to find this info:

It’s critical to understand how buyers are influenced. Use your web analytics to see what “referring domains” people are coming from. However, to really affirm your assumptions, ask a few of your buyers, prospects or thought leaders within the targeted professional space.

Knowing who your buyers are is great, but understanding how and why they consume content will help you truly and effectively engage them from an unknown prospect to an evangelist for your brand. What other questions would you ask?

Author: Barbra Gago

Barbra Gago is the Director of Demand Gen Strategy at LeftBrain DGA. She's expert at developing buyer 2.0 personas, mapping content that engages buyers throughout their buying process, developing social media strategies that drive revenue, and using marketing automation for compelling lead nurturing and effective lead scoring. You can follow her on Twitter @BarbraGago.

Other posts by Barbra Gago

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  • Anonymous

    Love this post so much, Barbra, that I wrote a blog post about it for Fearless Competitor that points back to this article. It runs early next week.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers
    http://www.findnewcustomers.com

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Jeff!

  • http://www.webmaxformance.com Igor Mateski

    Finally got to read the Junta newsletter, and I’m glad I took the time, on Easter.
    This was a great read as I’ve also recently started a consulting project with an engineering-oriented website. Going down to the engineer’s mind and how they consume content is very different than the broader audience that is more into casual updates. Engineers are very organized (at least most of them) and dont like web fluff.
    So my 2 cents contribution to your article would be to also consider formatting and thought-flow of each text. Start with the elements of Abstracts: what’s the problem, what are failures of previous solutions, and what’s the extra mile of your solution. Then move on to each section and use plenty of bulleted lists to enable people to glance at the text and quickly get the idea. Otherwise they just won’t read prose-type texts without knowing where the text leads.

    • Barbragago

      Igor, I think that’s a great suggestion. From an development perspective, there definitely needs to be the same thought an structure going into each content piece. Great point, thank you!

  • http://www.webmaxformance.com Igor Mateski

    Finally got to read the Junta newsletter, and I’m glad I took the time, on Easter.
    This was a great read as I’ve also recently started a consulting project with an engineering-oriented website. Going down to the engineer’s mind and how they consume content is very different than the broader audience that is more into casual updates. Engineers are very organized (at least most of them) and dont like web fluff.
    So my 2 cents contribution to your article would be to also consider formatting and thought-flow of each text. Start with the elements of Abstracts: what’s the problem, what are failures of previous solutions, and what’s the extra mile of your solution. Then move on to each section and use plenty of bulleted lists to enable people to glance at the text and quickly get the idea. Otherwise they just won’t read prose-type texts without knowing where the text leads.