Content marketing is “finally” valued by B2B marketers, according to an inaugural study by Walker Sands Communications. But considering another study shows B2B buyers “remain skeptical about vendor content,” brands also will have to invest in doing content marketing right. Here’s my advice on how marketers can do that.
Don’t Be Cheap If You Want Results
Marketers who are wary of investing in shiny objects may want to take a closer look at how they invest in content marketing. Sure, personnel cost money. But poor content may cost more than no content.
And of course, the Walker Sands research released on March 21 suggests hiring third parties to create the content, because that’s what they do. Of course I say hire writers and editors, because that’s what I do. Both schools of thought are right, but some brands may still ask existing personnel to take on the additional task. Depending on how well they write, edit and still do their original jobs, that may work fine. But is “fine” all you want?
Meanwhile, there are risks to doing nothing: Old content has the danger of being irrelevant to your audience and, if it’s digital, making your site drop in search engine rankings.
On the other end, letting non-creative vendors write your material shows that “free” is never free. As David Dodd writes about TrustRadius research on April 23 in CustomerThink:
“Seventy-one percent of the buyer respondents in the 2019 survey said it is very important to understand product limitations before buying, but only 42% of the vendor respondents expressed this view.
“Marketing content and sales communications rarely address product limitations directly. It’s not that B2B marketers and sales reps are intentionally dishonest, but they are conditioned by culture and training to emphasize the positives (and minimize the limitations) of their solutions. Unfortunately, this tendency causes buyers to view most vendor-provided information with a heavy dose of skepticism.”
Speaking of skepticism, now that B2B marketers consider the tactic worth the investment, perhaps C-suite conversations doubting content marketing’s ROI will soon be as laughable as the ones that once took place about the worth of mobile and social media marketing.
According to Walker Sands’ “The Future of B2B Content 2019”:
“Nearly all B2B brands (98 percent) finally recognize that content’s performance justifies its cost.”
Create B2B Content Marketing Goals
These goals, for what you want content marketing to accomplish for your organization, should be separate from the subject of the content. Because the content will need to be audience-centric. (More on that in the final tip.)
In the Walker Sands blog post announcing its research, Tim Morral says:
“Brands expect measurable results from their content investments. Marketers’ top three goals when producing content include: boosting sales/converting customers, building relationships with new customers and increasing brand awareness — in that order.”
Know That There Are Differences Between B2B and B2C Content
While it’s one of our favorite things to say, that B2B buyers are still people, they do have different requirements of content.
For example, going back to the CustomerThink piece, B2B buyers still do use the following information while researching possible purchases: Product Demos, Vendor/Product Websites, User Reviews, Free Trial/Accounts, and information from vendor representatives.
“Snackability counts in today’s media landscape, and B2B marketers love short-form content. In fact, the greatest share of B2B organizations plan to produce more social (72 percent), website content (65 percent), video (63 percent) and blog posts (49 percent) in the next 12 months than they did during the previous 12-month period.
“Short-form content can’t stand alone, however. It needs to work in tandem with meatier, long-form content assets. But the push for content that demands less time from audiences underscores the need for a more sophisticated content strategy across the integrated marketing ecosystem.”
But, as inbound marketing agency Prism Global Marketing Solutions points out, there are four key differences between B2B and B2C content marketing.
- Motivation for Consuming Content: B2B buyers are less emotion-driven and “their goal for availing a product or service is to be educated and equipped with the expertise to help them in their decision-making.”
- What B2B Buyers Want to Find: Just like you’re trying to gain ROI from content marketing, they’re consuming your content in order to find out how buying from you can make them money. “Thus, what matters is the concrete data, the numbers, the tangible features you offer that demonstrate [ROI]. The informative ads and promotional content are concentrated on the ‘what, why, how’ of business processes.”
- Personas: The audience is pretty clearly defined already in B2B. So: “In many ways, the content marketing efforts of B2B are linear and focused, meaning the specific businesses a B2B company caters to are only what it has in mind when it generates content ideas and publishes its content.”
- More Touchpoints: B2B buying cycles take longer, require more interaction with buyers who will generally require more engagement than B2C content consumers, and — especially in the case of large purchases — involve more stakeholders for a single sale. “Selling B2B requires investing time in cultivating a relationship and pursuing a partnership with the potential buyer. This may mean offering multiple resources or making multiple phone calls to more than one person within a company or formally presenting a proposal.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: 7 Common Content Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them