Sometimes, the rationale for content marketing is SEO. Sometimes it’s because “everyone is talking about it and we need to do it too” (pro tip: this is a bad reason). But really it’s about delivering information to the customer across the new buyer’s journey, building trust with that prospective customer and ultimately creating preference.  It’s an acknowledgment that the buyer is now in control of the relationship.

And that Buyer’s Journey just got longer.

According to the 2015 B2B Buyers Survey Report from DemandGen Report, B2B buyers are spending more time than ever before researching solutions before they make a purchase. Almost universally, they are not spending that time in discussions with a salesperson; rather, they’re searching the web anonymously, educating themselves to understand the nature of their challenges and the possibilities available for addressing those challenges.

The report shows that 53 percent of buyers say that their time to make a purchase has increased over the last year. Eighty percent say they are taking more time to research; 82 percent say they are viewing more sources. Specifically, 52 percent said they looked at two to four pieces of content before making a decision; 28 percent said they viewed five to seven pieces of content. They’re turning to social media for a lot of that research: 61 percent of those surveyed said that LinkedIn had “the biggest” impact among social channels in making purchase decisions. Another 58 percent said blogs had the biggest impact.

This is an opportunity. It’s a clear sign that the B2B audience is ravenous for information. Give it to them, and reap the rewards. As the authors of the report state in their conclusions:

“Content is increasingly important in forming early impressions for brands and helping to drive engagement at all stages.”

So, what is a brand to do when it has lost control of the buying process? The first thing to do is to realize that the old marketing approaches – broadcasting how awesome your products are – don’t work any longer. Many B2B firms with strong sales cultures still struggle with this. The Sales Department has been taught to be relentless in pursuit of the making its numbers. Every quarter, those goals get higher. Consequently, they want shortcuts. They want sales, and they want them right now!

Yes, that hard-driving approach can get you some short term wins. However, it typically means that your marketing efforts remain beholden to renting someone else’s audience – you’re building your future on rented land and banking on that media company is going to exist in a few years. Call me crazy, but I’m not betting on any media company’s business model.

On the other hand, if you build a content-driven presence on property you own – like your website – you can get off the media buying treadmill. You can create an audience that is far more targeted than any media company’s audience will ever be.

As the buyer’s journey grows longer and B2B buyers invest more and more time in research, B2B sellers are wise to be there to meet them with smart analysis and helpful content.

Of course, the content has to be good. It has to be different. It has to stand out. It has to give people a reason to want more.

It has to walk alongside the buyer as they travel this new journey, providing useful advice along the way and guiding them towards the right decision.

Creating the quality and quantity of content isn’t easy. It requires a long term commitment. But, every time a new report comes out it seems to verify the wisdom of taking this approach. Old school marketers may struggle to wrap their head around it, but this is how customers act now, and it’s foolish to ignore this reality.