Prospect self-education is making up more and more of the B2B (and high-value B2C) purchase journey. It used to account for perhaps 10% of the buying journey; now, depending on which research you trust, it forms 50-70% of the process. And in a few years it might be 90% for many categories.
Regardless of the ongoing debate about the actual numbers (which of course vary by industry), the trend is directionally correct, and we can safely assert that we are have entered the era of the "Self-Educated Buyer."
The Rise of the Self-Educated Buyer
The Web now provides a vast array of sources of information to prospective customers: discussion groups, user groups, LinkedIn, Facebook, and simple Google queries all provide endless sources of information to customers who let their fingers do the walking on a keyboard.
Organizations are themselves contributing to this phenomenon via demand-generation efforts that are powered by content that engages and informs prospects about their various topics of interest.
Businesses are well aware that if they don't "join the conversation" by creating relevant content that meets buyer needs, they risk becoming obsolete in an online world of full of contrary or more-compelling voices.
The Changing Cost of Marketing and Sales
The classic B2B model is for Marketing to get the prospect's name and contact information into the hands of a salesperson as quickly as possible.