The pandemic has changed many aspects of business, including the sales cycle. For marketers, the nearly immediate pivot away from in-person sales calls, as well as trade shows and events, has meant that in 2020, content assumed a much more prominent role in the sales cycle.
Research firm IDG recently found that content delivers real value in terms of sales over the long haul and that content has been particularly effective during lockdown. Last year’s sudden shift to remote work, virtual events and online selling has changed the way that tech buyers – or IT decision makers (ITDMs) in IDG’s parlance – consume content and integrate that information into their purchase decisions.
And while one could expect that content might wane in influence as we “return to normal,” that appears not to be the case. IDG took a deeper dive into the data around its 2021 Customer Engagement Survey and learned that ITDMs plan to consume content even more than before.
In fact, they state that 41% of ITDMs will leverage tech content to aid in purchase decisions. Some 49% say that they are “spending more time reading online content,” “watching videos online” (48%), “watching news” (39%), and “listening to podcasts” (30%). What’s more, IT buyers and influencers are consuming a wider range of content, including product testing, reviews and opinions (53%); product demos and literature (49%); technology news (42%); and analyst research (41%).
Some 63% of those polled by IDG said that the “the lack of in-person events is making it more important to seek out online events” like virtual trade shows and webinars. A 91% majority “have attended an industry or job-related virtual event in the past 6-12 months,” and those events include virtual training and workshops (75%) and one-day virtual summit/conferences (64%), while 45% say they’ve attended “multi-day virtual summit/conferences.”
Reasons for attending these events included:
- hear from industry experts (56%)
- see new products (53%)
- be introduced to new vendors and their offerings (42%)
- seek out innovation for future business projects (36%)
- bring value back to their business (36%)
A third (33%) of ITDMs indicated that there is “value in exploring sessions and attending on-demand sessions after the event,” extending the impact of virtual events past their stated hours.
What the Data Means for Content
IDG’s data illuminates the new levels of convenience and accessibility that content-driven marketing and event strategies are bringing about. Buyers and influencers now have access to content where, when and how they need it. They can easily gain the information they need, without having to schedule an in-person sales meeting. The same goes for event attendees, who can log in to events at more convenient times and from more convenient locations.
This flexibility – just like the flexibility brought about by hybrid work-from-home or work-from-anywhere models – is here to stay, and it is unlikely that the genie will ever be returned back to the bottle. The business world has learned a lot during the last 16 months, and while some will return to their offices and take part in a slow return to traditional sales calls, as well as trade shows and events, the new “hybrid” era is here to stay.
And when it comes to content, this means an even greater need for more high-quality, diverse and effective communications materials. As a content professional, I’m excited about this new era, because it reveals the true and lasting value of well-crafted content across a variety of channels.