Marketing and selling to business buyers are becoming increasingly difficult. More than ever before, prospective buyers now control the buying process.  They decide when and how they will research purchasing decisions and when and how they will interact with potential suppliers.  The Internet has put a huge volume of information about almost every conceivable product and service at the fingertips of business buyers, and they've become convinced that they can find whatever information they need, whenever they need it, on their terms.

Easy access to information makes potential buyers much less dependent on sellers than in the past, and this means that many traditional marketing and selling techniques don't work as well as they once did.  Consider cold calling by salespeople.  Not that long ago, cold calling was a reasonable way to generate sales leads.  Potential buyers needed information, and salespeople were the primary sources of that information.  As a result, prospects were reasonably receptive to meeting with a salesperson.  Today, potential buyers are obtaining information online, and they are delaying conversations with sales reps until much later in the buying process.

Easy access to information also means that business buyers are far less receptive to traditional marketing messages and marketing materials than in the past.  Today's business buyers are incredibly busy.  Their time is their most precious commodity, and they protect it at all costs.  If they receive marketing messages or materials that are mostly hype and self-promotion, you can imagine how they will react.

What business buyers will pay attention to is information that helps them to better understand the business issues and challenges they're facing and how those issues and challenges can be addressed.  In other words, business buyers will pay attention to information that helps them do their jobs better.

B2B marketers have started to recognize this, and they are creating educational content that speaks directly to the major issues and concerns of their potential buyers.  This approach to marketing is known as content marketing, and it's growing.  According to a recent survey by Junta42, 59 percent of marketers plan to increase their spending on content initiatives in 2010, compared to 56 percent in 2009 and 42 percent in 2008.

Content marketing has two objectives.  First, it enables a company to demonstrate its expertise on issues that are important to potential buyers.  And second, it helps to establish a company as a "trusted advisor" that buyers will be comfortable turning to when they are ready to buy.

Printing companies, particularly those that are making the transition to a marketing services provider model, face the same marketing and sales challenges as other B2B companies - empowered, independent, and very busy buyers.  To break through the clutter and create real engagement with potential buyers, marketing services firms need to develop content that speaks to the marketing issues and challenges that their potential buyers are facing.

For example, if you sell web-to-print marketing collateral management systems, do you have a white paper that explains the hidden costs of manual collateral management and the advantages of an automated collateral management system?  Do you have a white paper that explains to potential buyers how they can decide whether an automated collateral management system would be right for their company?

If you don't have these kinds of high-value marketing materials, you should make obtaining them a high priority.