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One particular trend I have noticed this year, in participant observations with B2B buyers, is the movement towards what I would label Intelligent Engagement. I referenced this in my previous article whereby I questioned the phrase Reach and Engage in contrast to Listen and Engage. Simply stated, B2B buyers are learning at an increasing rate how to decipher meaningful, relevant, intelligent, and engaging content from the fire hose that is now marketed to them. What we are seeing is a shift in buyer behavior from that of trying to drink from the fire hose to that of selectively choosing Intelligent Engagement. Closely correlated to social media fatigue, B2B buyers are looking for a garden hose and not a fire hose.
The field of content strategy and content marketing is still relatively new. However, it faces significant challenges just as it begins to solidify into a publisher mode of practice. The challenge is that B2B buyer behavior may already be moving beyond the publishing context to a new expectation of Intelligent Engagement. This is presenting an enormous challenge for strategists and marketers to learn how to establish “built-in” engagement that is intelligent as opposed to being the mere presence of a document which can be printed. Also, this movement compels content strategists and marketers to think well beyond content alone.
Moving beyond content alone is becoming the prerequisite to enhancing the buyer experience. Intelligent Engagement begins to define the buyer’s real-time and social experience with what a company has to offer. By the term “offer”, I do not mean just a service or product they are marketing and selling. The buyer experience has wrapped up in it all the components of what constitutes a rewarding, intelligent, social, and engaging experience. Also, content strategists and marketers will need to see how what they produce contributes to the totality of the buyer experience as well as how it rewards buyers with Intelligent Engagement.
The social age is ushering a new era of what I would call Experiential Buying. Buyer behavior and expectations are changing indeed. No longer is it a straight buy or re-buy that a B2B buyer may be seeking. The demand for Intelligent Engagement and Experiential Buying, in my opinion, will become essential components of a post-social media frenzy that seems to be showing signs of fatigue. I recently touched upon this concept whereby social buyers were establishing their own Social Buyer Engagement Index that assessed a company's engagement capabiltities.
Companies today though can begin to re-examine their current buyer experience and content strategy efforts by looking at two questions in particular:
How much built-in Intelligent Engagement do they have in their content strategy as well as overall touch strategies with buyers?
Do their current content marketing, sales interactions, and service interactions contribute to enhancing the overall buyer experience?
These are good starting point questions that may cause reflections on existing efforts. They offer a chance to take a deep breath amidst the social media and content marketing frenzy that has taken place in the last couple of years. I am willing to bet there will be a few pauses like: “did we really do that?"