Gloucester is located on Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts. With a population of about 30,000, the town is known for commercial fishing, which is incredibly physical and dangerous work. 

In 1991, Captain Frank Payne Jr. and five crew members encountered an unusual storm. Their fishing ship, the Andrea Gail, battled hurricane-force winds and waves up to 100 feet high. No one aboard survived the powerful storm. According to Bob Case, who spent more than thirty years as a meteorologist in New England, this storm was so intense because of “an unprecedented set of circumstances.” First, a high-pressure system from Canada provided a large pool of cold air. At the same time, there was a low-pressure system of warm air in the area. Finally, a dying hurricane Grace, which had moved north after forming south of Bermuda, provided “immeasurable tropical energy.”  These three meteorological events converged in the same place at the same time to create what author Sebastian Junger later named his book, “the perfect storm.” 

What does the Andrea Gail story have to do with content marketing? An unprecedented set of multiple forces is at work today in B2B marketing, creating its own perfect storm. These forces are strong, and, no matter how hard you try, you won’t beat them. That is, not if you use traditional approaches to marketing.

The biggest force in B2B marketing’s perfect storm is, of course, the internet. Access to information is unprecedented. This phenomenon puts B2B companies at a big disadvantage, because they are no longer the gatekeepers of the information their customers receive. The internet has created, and encouraged, on-demand direct consumption of information. We take quick and easy access to information for granted, and we’ve become conditioned to rely on Google for answers. Would you be surprised if I told you that more than 400 billion searches were made globally in 2008? In 2012, it was up to 1.2 trillion. And in 2018, the number was more than two trillion. It’s really hard to get your head around these numbers and their rate of growth.

Another factor in marketing’s perfect storm is that buyers don’t want to work with salespeople. Why not? They don’t trust them. According to Forrester, 68 percent of B2B buyers prefer to research potential purchases on their own. And 60 percent would rather not use salespeople as their primary information source. Think about that for a second. More than two-thirds of the prospects you want to connect with don’t want to talk to you! Think of it as revenge for all these years when salespeople were the sole gatekeepers of information about products and services.

HubSpot did some research on who Americans trust. Here are the percentages of respondents who consider the following people trustworthy: lobbyist (1 percent); car salesperson (1 percent); politician (1 percent); stockbroker (2 percent); salesperson (3 percent); and then, you guessed it, marketer (also 3 percent). That’s even lower than I thought it would be. 

Don’t be tempted to put a marketing spin on these results by saying something like, “Hey, we’re seen as three times more trustworthy than lobbyists, politicians, and people selling cars.” Accept the sobering facts, which reinforce the idea that marketers have worked themselves into a horrible reputation.

What else has created this perfect storm? The pace of business today, which is incredibly fast. Ten years ago, people had the patience to wait two to three months to launch a general marketing program. Today, it’s two or three weeks. How did this happen? Why does everything need to happen now? First, since we live in a digital world, everything is built for speed and instant gratification. Second, whatever its industry, a company probably has more competitors than it did ten years ago, and the companies that can provide buyers with quality information faster than the others have an advantage. 

Yet another changing dynamic is that large companies no longer have all the advantages. For years, large, established companies dominated their markets. In the past ten years, however, smaller firms have been successful at creating comparable, often even better, offerings. How is that possible? Smaller companies can be more specialized. They don’t rely on legacy IT systems. And they’re probably trying harder and can move more quickly, while the large companies are stuck in meetings or working on internal presentations that don’t directly benefit their customers.

That’s what your B2B company is up against. The internet controls most of the information. Your buyers don’t want to be sold to. If your company doesn’t respond to a prospective customer quickly, your competition will. And being big is no longer an advantage. Fun times, right?

So how do you survive, even thrive, in this perfect storm? The answer, of course, lies is content marketing.

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