January 14, 2019

How Video and the Power of Opinion Energize the Buyer’s Journey

There was a time, before the internet gave us round-the-clock access to information, when buyers sought expert opinion before making a purchasing decision. These were the days when the owner of the neighborhood hardware store knew more about brand quality than anyone else. The owner’s opinion mattered and could help close a deal.

When buyers gained access to endless information, the role of the expert shifted. Now the buyers saw themselves as the experts, collecting facts and making educated comparisons between products. Sales associates were unexpectedly encountering buyers who had pre-qualified themselves, using research to work their way nearly 70 percent down the sales funnel before engaging.

A curious thing happened, though. As access to information grew, so did the amount of information available. Before long, brands inundated buyers with the research equivalent of white noise. That noise made it difficult for buyers to self-qualify. There was too much to digest.

To make sense of the noise, buyers are returning to the digital equivalent of the neighborhood hardware store owner. They are seeking expert opinion to help fortify their buying decision, they are looking online to find that opinion, and they prefer to consume that opinion via video more than almost any other content type.

The Influence of Opinion on the Buyer’s Journey

Because opinion is the bridge between emotion and fact — and, finally, decision — it is important to understand the role emotion plays in the purchasing cycle, or buyer’s journey. Conventional wisdom suggests buyers are persuaded by solid data. Show a prospect how your product creates a more efficient business process that boosts the bottom line, and the prospect becomes a buyer. Logically, it makes sense, but research reveals something different.

In one study, researchers asked students to create and deliver a one-minute persuasive speech, explains Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, in a short video about the power of story. Most of the students used statistics as supporting points to drive home their message. A few, 1 in 10, told stories. When asked to write down everything they remembered from each presentation, only 5 percent remembered any statistics, but more than 63 percent remembered the stories.

Researchers soon learned people are more likely to buy from an organization or brand they identify with and whose story resonates with them. While it was once believed that our rational brain makes decisions, says Aaker, we now know emotion drives decisions, and we use facts and statistics to rationalize the decision afterward.

Opinion as the Bridge Between Emotion and Statistics

Expert opinion works as the bridge between that emotional decision and the rational information that supports the buyer’s conclusion. As prospects become savvier, they better understand a business’s content marketing strategy and grow more skeptical of it.

It is less that they distrust branded content and more that they understand its influencer intention, muting its ability to persuade conversion. Instead, prospective buyers are turning back to expert opinion and influencer content. Where prospects engage with expert opinion — and how they engage with it — in the buyer’s journey is critical to an organization’s content marketing success.

Where Opinion Falls in the Buyer’s Journey

Traditionally, marketers and sales departments define the buyer’s journey by three stages: awareness, consideration and decision. Some marketers like to break up the journey further or simplify it into early, middle and late stage. Expert opinion content usually works best during both awareness and decision stages.

Early in the sales cycle, buyers are in research mode. They tend to know what they want and need, but they still aren’t clear who will provide them with the best solution. Buyers are searching for expert opinion about the questions they should ask and the roadblocks they should avoid and advice about the brands they are reviewing.

Buyers want expert opinion during the decision phase as well. They turn to independent assessments and conclusions to reinforce their own. Once they have that, buyers are prone to trust brand content even more.

The Power of Video To Share Opinion

By far, video is one of the most powerful and effective ways to share expert opinion. In fact, website visitors prefer watching a video over text nearly 60 percent of the time, according to Diode Digital. Forrester Research goes so far as to suggest one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.

Video also allows the buyer to connect with the expert providing the opinion. Emotion is delivered in face-to-face conversation as well. If the buyer connects with the expert because of the way he delivers his message or performs on video, the buyer is more likely to trust the brand.

Engaging experts within your organization and encouraging, hosting and connecting to video content from key influencers in your industry will drive interest and generate leads. Along with branded and third-party content, make sure to include smart video opinion in your marketing mix.