5 Things My Sick Cat Taught Me About How People Research & Consume Content Online

Recently, my 15-year old cat fell seriously ill with what would turn out to be hyperthyroidism. For those of you who don’t have cats, fifteen is pretty old, roughly age 76 in people years. The poor thing, who had always been a little on the plump side to be honest, began to rapidly lose weight and suddenly couldn’t keep any food or water down for more than a few minutes. Over the course of a weekend, in between cleaning up after the sick cat, my wife and I read everything we could find online about our cat’s symptoms and what might be causing her sickness.

We made our way through a cornucopia of cat-related websites, browsed discussion forums for cat owners (there’s no doubt, cat owners are a quirky lot. Oh, wait, I resemble that remark…), veterinary hospital websites, pet food blogs, sites specializing in the treatment of geriatric felines – you name it.

By the time Monday morning rolled around and I could finally get the cat in to see our vet, my wife and I had correctly diagnosed her condition, weighed the treatment options and relative costs and had a game plan for what we were prepared to do – and spend – based on what the vet could confirm about our cat’s condition. If worst came to worst, I’d even bookmarked the name of a vet with great reviews who specializes in palliative pet care and in-home euthanasia… Bottom line: we had done our homework. We were well-informed and knew what questions to ask the vet.

Our online research skills were vindicated when the vet asked me what I do for a living. She went on to say that, based on how I was describing my cat’s symptoms and the questions I was asking, she assumed I must work in the medical profession. Nope, I’m just a B2B content marketer! Which brings me to my point: The online research and content consumption behavior of our B2B buyers isn’t so very different from my own dealing with a sick cat. When B2B buyers need a solution to a problem, they consume everything they can get their hands on. Here are 5 things my sick cat taught me about how people consume content online today.

1. Engaged Buyers Binge
The rule of “everything in moderation” goes out the window when you have a problem to solve. Our beloved cat puking every 15-20 minutes was a real motivator for my wife and me to find a solution FAST. Buying Lysol wipes and paper towels in bulk gets a little expensive…. Now, while a B2B purchase might not be a matter of life and death, it can be a career-altering event. If the cost of the B2B solution is high enough and the decision wrong enough, it can make for some awkward exchanges with senior management and the CFO – can you say, "career limiting move”?

The wrong decision may even get you fired. If you've been around long enough, chances are you've been on the wrong side of a bad B2B purchase decision once or twice. And once, burned, twice shy. You'll do everything in your power to avoid having that happen again. On the flipside, if you make the right choice, one that has a positive impact on the business, it might just lead to a well-deserved promotion.

People who are on a B2B purchase committee do their homework, they are excellent digital researchers and they are highly motivated to consume as much relevant content as they can to self-educate. If you’re a B2B marketer, ask yourself if you’re making it easy for your buyers to consume all the information they need to make an educated and informed decision. Or put another way, are you accommodating your engaged buyers’ desire to binge on content?

2. Length Doesn't Matter So Much, Quality Does
When you have a problem to solve, relevance and quality win out every time. I looked at 500-word blog posts, 1,500-word articles and even a 5,000-word monograph in a scholarly veterinary medicine journal (ok, I might have skimmed that last one...). I viewed 30-second videos on how to give a cat a pill, 2-minute videos on treatment procedures for hyperthyroidism and 20-page long forum discussions. Whatever the format of the content, what mattered to me was whether the material was well-thought out, concise, credible, informative and useful.

3. People Want Information, Not Sales Pitches
While we were researching online, sales pitches earned a speedy “close window” – it’s amazing how easy it is to do that with just one little click. The self-proclaimed “world-renowned” feline hyperthyroidism specialist from Hawaii who was willing to fly anywhere in the world (at our expense, of course) to administer his $2000 USD radiation therapy, no matter how old the sick cat, took the cake in the blatant sales pitch department. A for effort, but no thanks. Likewise, sites that seemed more like quackery than fact-based science earned the same result. Nothing to see here, move along, folks.

4. The Full Story Is Hard to Come By
As a content marketer, I should have expected this, but I was frankly surprised by how hard it was to find the information I needed. I had to go to A LOT of different websites to piece together the full story of what we and the old cat were facing. No one source or “solution provider” gave us everything we needed to make an informed and educated treatment decision. We also had to weed through a ton of information that was old, outdated, irrelevant or questionable. Sound familiar? Like maybe the last time you were involved in a B2B purchase decision?

5. Gates Are Just Obstacles in Your Buyers’ Path
My wife and I were hyper-engaged in finding a solution rapidly (our timeframe for purchase was, like, 20 minutes ago….), but you know what, we didn’t fill out a single form to access a piece of content. Those forms were just obstacles in our path and we weren’t having any of it. If you’re a B2B marketer who is trusting form conversions alone to identify your most engaged B2B buyers, chances are you’re leaving a lot engagement – and potential sales – on the table. As a B2B content marketer, all of this was a real eye opener. Marketers need to make buyer education easier and more frictionless. We’re simply making it too hard for buyers to do their homework.

Summing Up
When my cat became gravely ill, suddenly I had a problem to solve and I was empowered by the Internet to go out and self-educate and solve it myself if I could. I didn't have to wait for the veterinary clinic to open on Monday morning to get up to speed. B2B buyers are empowered too: They’re savvy researchers and they don’t appreciate marketers putting obstacles in their path. B2C buying behavior simply isn't that different from B2B behavior. As marketers, we’ve been slow to adapt to this fact. We need to acknowledge that B2B buyers have B2C lives that shape their expectations for how content should be delivered today. It’s this recognition that is driving many marketers to abandon those old B2B and B2C labels and focus on H2H (human-to-human).

Your buyers are human beings who have a problem to solve. As a marketer, if you want to win the trust of your buyers, think about how you can remove friction from the B2B buyer education process and align your content strategy with the way humans research and buy today. If you can tap into and accommodate your buyers’ natural content consumption behavior, your audience will love you for it. Oh, by the way, the dear old cat is now on a super-expensive, iodine-free diet (I’ve renamed her “The MoneyPit”), her weight is back to normal and she’s doing fine!

cat yoga

Steve McOrmond is Content Marketing Manager at LookBookHQ. He has over 15 years of experience creating marketing content that fuels demand for high-growth technology companies. A reluctant "cat person," he's fond of this quotation by Jim Davis, the cartoonist who created Garfield: “Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.”

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