Thought Leadership Content
Aligning with...The Buyer Cycle Revolution
How sellers can capitalize on this new trend in buying behavior
You are doing online research for a project about, say, social media monitoring solutions, and in the process subscribe to a vendor newsletter. Naturally you are required to fill out a web form with your contact details…
A few days later your phone rings. It’s a sales rep from that same vendor, wanting to know whether you are ready to buy their service. “Sign up before the end of the week”, he suggests, “and I can give you a 20% discount on an annual contract.”
Annoyed, you try to get him off the phone as quickly as you can.
Sounds familiar?
If it does, you’re not alone. Across the world, prospective buyers of both business - and consumer -oriented products and services are in revolt against traditional sales and advertising practices. We are no longer willing to listen to sales pitches via the phone. We fast-forward television ads. We delete vendor emails by the hundreds.
As buyers we realize we are still in the market for products and services, as we always were. But before we are ready to buy, we will now do our own research – for a new car, a laptop, or a social media monitoring solution. We do that research online, because we have found that almost everything we need to know about a particular product or service can be found there. We ‘Google’, we speak to our friends on Facebook, put inquiries out on LinkedIn, do queries on Twitter, peruse sites such as Yelp, and we might access vendor websites to see if they offer anything of value beyond their product pitches.
Once we have informed ourselves adequately, then and only then are we ready to walk into the car dealer showroom, to access the vendor’s e-commerce site, or to speak to a sales rep from a vendor we have chosen based on our own online research.
This behavior reflects the revolution which is taking place in how we tend to buy products and services. The easy access to a wealth of information to just about anything has created a mass empowerment of the consumer. In this new environment control of information has shifted from the seller to the buyer – in the past the buyer often had no choice but to talk to a sales rep early on in the sales process. Now a buyer will postpone that conversation until the very end, when she is properly informed and ready to buy – on her terms.
Sellers need to adjust to this buyer cycle revolution, and there is a way to do this most effectively. How? By engaging the buyer with the information they’re looking for, when they need it, and where they needs it. A buyer today is not looking for mountains of product or service features and benefits – at least not at this early stage in the cycle; they are looking for a company that understands the general issues, problems or challenges they themselves are facing, a company that can place thier issues into context, a company that demonstrates a broad understanding of the field or industry it is in. In other words, buyers today are looking for an organization that demonstrates thought leadership in its specific industry or field. And they will search for that information pro-actively online.
So how can a seller effectively achieve that thought leadership position? By providing the specific content the buyer is looking for, delivered via the (primarily online) channels the buyer is frequenting to search for that content.
And that content doesn’t necessarily need to take the form of white papers. It can be delivered in the form of content aggregation, webinars, sponsorships or via third party research. It doesn’t even have to necessarily be online. Offline channels such as conferences and seminars can also be perfect venues to demonstrate a thought leadership position.
Thought leadership isn’t just delivered via corporate or industry content; it’s also demonstrated via engagement with critical stakeholders who over time take on the role of promoters and evangelists of a brand, product or service. They are the individuals who might have a critical influence on prospective buyers via social media platforms and community sites.
No matter what form content might take, it has to be relevant, captivating, and be able to meet the information needs of the buyer in order to get the attention and thereby be effective. And it will have to be found where prospective buyers congregate. Moreover, when content is perceived as relevant and captivating, it is increasingly likely it will be picked up by blogs and other online outlets, increasing inbound links, and thereby improving search engine rankings.
Organizations that have put together effective thought leadership programs have seen one precious commodity rise by substantial margins; the number of qualified, inbound leads. That should come as no surprise. By implementing thought leadership programs, they deliver what buyers are searching for, and by engaging with them throughout the buyer cycle, they meet their specific information needs along the way, until they are ready to buy. As the seller is increasingly seen as a trusted resource, the buyer is open to engage during the final phases of the buyer cycle. And as a satisfied buyer of the seller’s product or service, he might even be on his way to become an effective evangelist.

By Stephen Debruyn, The Thought Net, LLC

Stephen Debruyn is the Managing Partner, Marketing Services at The Thought Net (, a consulting firm that helps organizations build their brands to become market leaders via thought leadership programs. You can reach Stephen at

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Aligning wth...The Buyer Cycle Revolution – The Thought Net PDF Presentation, 2010
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