Andrew Hobbs, Head of Technology Content, Incisive Works, explains why a long-term content presence is vital to engaging IT decision makers
The research we conduct at Incisive Works regularly informs us that IT leaders are bombarded by demands for their time and attention. When you carry out around four research projects a month, you soon learn what keeps them up at night.
This high demand is partly due to the fact digital maturity is a false peak. Just as you attain it, a new summit emerges ahead.
On top of this, technology decision makers must pivot with the changing nature of work (and the cyber security challenges that come with it), facilitate the evolving needs of employees, and take on responsibilities previously outside IT's traditional remit.
IT leaders have had an extraordinary year. They were called on to coordinate the response to the pandemic, under considerable strain and time pressure. Without them, businesses would have ground to a halt. The indispensable role they've played has had a transformational impact on the influence of IT leaders. Digital transformation has rapidly accelerated, and they are firmly in the driving seat.
In this context, the content we create must be extremely well thought out to generate engagement, understanding what makes readers engage and when, and recognising it's not enough to win their attention for a few moments every now and then.
The sheer volume of content available now, across a whole spectrum of quality, means IT leaders often turn to their peers for recommendations instead. However, they still rely on the authority of research-based white papers for the big decisions. In order to maximise the time buyers dedicate to content, you need to provide quality resources for every part of the purchasing journey.
Firstly, the content itself must be valuable and it must be recognisable above the noise of other content clamouring for their attention.
Secondly, that value, those key takeaways, must take up residence in the technology reader's mind in the long-term. Downloading and accessing a piece of content is one thing, true engagement is another. A customer who accesses a white paper and leaves after the first paragraph is not the same as someone who reads it to the end. The question is - how many quality engagements are required to tip someone from interest into action? This is extremely difficult to define, and depends on a range of variables.
Thankfully, you don't necessarily need to directly solve this problem at all. The best content strategy response is to make content accessible all the way along the buying cycle. With repeat visits, you are able to penetrate their thinking, rather than just scratch the surface. By having multiple hero assets, promoted longer-term, across numerous channels, you can reach the buyer as many times as possible and the question of the conversion tipping point ceases to be a headache.
Enter the content hub
So, what is Incisive Works doing to enable you to reach IT leaders with clearly valuable content that engages in the long-term - content that can lead to a place at the table when it comes to purchasing decisions?
Our latest campaign with Oracle, Cloud Thirst, features a bespoke content hub. It contains a series of research reports with a common narrative running throughout - insight into IT leaders' cloud ambitions and experiences - with each piece focusing on a different use case or consideration, from high performance computing to the benefits of a single source of truth.
Each report has its own landing page, where infographics highlight some of the key findings and point readers to the full download to learn more. To-date, the hub has played a central role in achieving 1,369 web seminar registrations and over 150 white paper downloads.
Whilst each hero asset is distributed at the time of publication, it crucially also takes up residence in the content hub for further promotion and maintains a constant, long-term presence.
The hub is a fluid and flexible home - able to play host to multimedia, including webinars (and other video, infographics, articles, research reports and animated digital content experiences. It changes as new content is created, strategies evolve, and engagement is analysed.
Rich content for the time poor
Having just explored how challenging it is to win the attention of technology buyers, it may seem counterintuitive to advocate for a content hub populated with time-consuming media over a longer period. However, it's this perennial nature of constant promotion and renewal that means you're meeting the reader where they are, rather than demanding their attention in a particular moment. It's a flexible strategy that allows engagement on their terms.
Someone spending a lot of time with a piece of content is far more interested than someone who leaves after a few moments - with the surface-level content driving more engaged readers into hero assets. A successful content strategy will cater to the fact that only a minority will go on to engage more deeply, and tailor the content hub accordingly.
In other words, without sacrificing depth, you're providing IT leaders with content that is always present, with multiple points of entry (through social, email, native and display channels) but allows them to engage however and whenever suits them.
You sometimes encounter the misconception that because IT leaders are time-poor they don't want to read long-form, in-depth content. When they're making high-stakes, high-cost purchasing decisions they want detailed insight into what their peers are doing and the results they're seeing. They want to learn from the mistakes and achievements of those who have gone before them. And they're happy to lean into this when the time is right. If they've got a clear and present challenge, they will be looking for this content.
When you have a longer-term content presence, it's far more likely your new-found ability to occupy that decision maker's mind will coincide with, and play a role in, important technology purchasing decisions.
That's why it's vital to think long-term when it comes to your content strategy. Whilst it's important to question how best to meet this month's targets, it's vital to also ask, "How can we create an ongoing coherent narrative that tells a bigger story, meets IT decision makers where they are, and builds longer term brand presence and revenue?"
One-off content may allow you to strike while the iron is hot, but the content hub is a forge that keeps on burning.