In the Capital Markets, we are seeing a trend where buying cycles for new technology and service solutions are getting longer and more complex. This trend makes it more challenging for providers to get deals done, resulting in longer sales cycles and higher cost of sale. There are a number factors contributing to this increasing complexity.
In the past, different lines of business were often able to make independent decisions about their technology, buying best of breed solutions to support their specific businesses. However, in the massive wave of regulations resulting from the financial crisis, banks are facing increasing pressure to consolidate risk and exposure monitoring across the enterprise. As a consequence, new technology decisions usually impact more than one asset class, trading or operating group; meaning that more people need to have a voice in the decision. More voices and more competing priorities add complexity to an already challenging evaluation and decision process.
In addition, banks are under ongoing profit pressure and continue to look for ways to reduce operational overhead. In most organizations, technology consolidation offers a tantalizing opportunity to reduce costs. This makes it more difficult for teams to justify best-of-breed point solutions. It also means that every purchase decision must be considered based on its impact to the overall goals of reducing the number of platforms in use.
This trend is not unique to the financial services industry. Analyst firms IDC and IDG Connect did a webinar (registration required) a couple weeks ago where they talked about the complexity of the buying cycle and what customers need from sellers. According to research from IDC, technology buyers would like to reduce their buying cycle by up to 40%, but in reality, their buying cycles are getting longer and more complex.
The webinar made several observations that can help companies selling to the financial industry can improve the way they support their prospective customers.
Too Much Content That is Not Useful
IDG found that content on the average corporate site has grown by more than 60% in the past couple years, but customers are finding that much of that content is not helpful. We find this to be particularly true in the institutional trading and technology space. Your customers need information that will facilitate their decision process; content that is relevant to the various roles and departments who are involved in the buying decision. Buying decisions involve diverse teams with competing priorities, so your content needs to address the specific needs of those different groups.
Sales Can’t Find the Content Customers Need
Your customer needs to rely on your sales team to deliver the right content at the right time to support their process, but IDC found that 41% of sales people surveyed aren’t sure what content to use or can’t find the relevant content their customers need. Because they’re not sure what to send, most sales people overcompensate, sending way too much information all at once, taking a shotgun approach and hoping something will stick. That just serves to overwhelm the customer and is NOT helpful.
Content That is Not Relevant
In many cases, the usefulness of content is determined by how relevant it is when it is provided. Relevance is dictated by three key issues:
- Relevance to the industry segment
Content targeted to exchanges is not going to resonate with the buy-side, and vice versa. Your content needs to take the reader’s niche into account and be specifically relevant to their business needs, technical issues, and strategic drivers. These drivers are very different in each of your target niches.
- Relevance to the role of the reader
Just as important as industry segment is the role of the reader. Strategic and trading teams generally don’t have interest in reading content that is full of technical details. In contrast, your technical audience is going to quickly discard content that doesn’t go into depth on technical issues. Writing a single white paper for multiple audiences pretty much guarantees that most of your readers will find it irrelevant. You will probably need to consider multiple buyer groups as you develop your content strategy. The C-Suite, strategic planning team, trading, risk, compliance, trading technology, operations, information technology, market data management, etc. all have different needs. Make sure that your content is relevant to the groups that will participate in your buying decision.
- Relevance to the stage in the buying cycle
Every purchase follows a buying cycle that generally progresses from awareness to researching the problem to committing to change to evaluating options to selecting vendors to managing risk. Each stage has its attendant information needs. I wrote about this in an article called “Thought Leadership to Support the Entire Buying Cycle.”
Not Enough Educational Content
If you’re selling a complex product or service, then your buyer needs to be educated as part of the sales process. According to a survey by IDC where they interviewed technology buyers, the best sales people spend their time educating clients rather than trying to close. But that means that your marketing team needs to provide Sales with that educational material.
IDC found that 56% of customer time during the buying process is spent searching for and reviewing educational and promotional content. Customers are incredibly busy, and they don’t have time to dig deeply in the process of educating themselves. So companies who provide the content they need and make it easy to find will be the companies they listen to the most.
Everything Provided is Too Long and Takes Too Much Time
Studies consistently find that customers prefer content that is no longer than 7 pages, but marketing continue to pump out 20-30 page white papers and other lengthy treatises. I have news for you. Your customer is not reading all 20 pages. They stop at page 5 and quickly scan the rest to see if something catches their eye. Then they file it away, fully intending to review it later, and forget about it. Don’t blame them. They’re too busy to read your dissertation.
Remember, the value of your content is not measured by the pound (or kilo). It’s measured by its relevance to the prospects’ needs and its ability to progress prospects through their buying stages. We recommend that you modularize the content. You don’t need to describe every aspect of your platform or service in one document. Focus on specific business needs or capabilities and create short documents that sales can spoon feed to clients or that visitors can find on your website when they need the information.
Too Many Documents Rather than Video and Audio
Customers are looking for a variety of content — both to support different learning styles and to facilitate the delivery of information. We recommend that you provide a mix of video, audio, webinars, live events, and documents to support your clients’ education process. Remember, there are multiple learning styles — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic; and different preferences in how people like to consume content. Ideally, your content should support all of those styles and preferences.
Join the conversation. What kinds of content do you look for when you’re the buyer?