Can B2B content marketers improve their business results in this environment?
I ask myself this question on a regular basis.
Because we’re at an important point where outside factors create incredible marketing opportunities—and challenges!
Beyond global economic uncertainty, we’re in the midst of a seismic shift in marketing due to the convergence of:
- Voice first
- Marketing AI
- Content saturation
Together these elements provide exciting opportunities to transform marketing across the B2B organization. (BTW–Engagio’s Jon Miller feels this way too.)
Against this background, Gartner B2B Sales Research underscores the power of content to help B2B buyers.Information, not individuals, makes the B2B purchase process easier. @GartnerClick To Tweet
If you substitute “Content Marketing” for “information” and “Sales” for “individuals”, you have Tiffany quality support for your work!
As content marketers, we need to create quality content across the entire buyer journey including post-purchase.
To do so effectively, we must change the internal conversation to develop supportive relationships while dismantling internal silos and political fiefdoms.
In the process, let’s help other departments improve their content, information and data to meet their business needs, not turn it into marketing!
Against this dynamic landscape, Content Marketing Institute / MarketingProfs’s 2020 B2B Content Marketing Research provides insights and a roadmap for astute marketers. (Big tip of my orange beret to Ann Handley, Stephanie Stahl and the rest of the CMI team.)
So, let’s see how you can use it to improve your content marketing.
Will Your 2020 B2B Content Marketing Goals Help You Succeed?
B2B content marketers top 3 goals reflect core elements of marketing but can’t often demonstrate measurable business value. So they’re often less valued within the business!
- Develop and maintain brand (86%). When used consistently, brand delivers value and visibility. But it’s difficult to measure. So it may not receive much budget. (Note: British accounting standards include brand valuation! Hat tip: George Stenitzer.)
- Educate extended audience (79%). Beyond prospects and customers include endusers, internal audiences, media and others. This also supports activities like employee advocacy.
- Improve trust (75%). Since building trust with customers, employees and the public can’t be overstated, 100% of B2B marketers should fact check their content! (Yet 8% of B2B marketers don’t!)
As important marketing activities, they take time to yield results. Further, in today’s connected, always-on world, one misstep can damage your brand and/or your trustworthiness.
BUT more important for the c-suite:
Marketing must show results in financial terms. [ Although ⅔ of CMOs can’t do this! (CMO Survey 2019) ]
To align goals with core business objectives and show financial results, B2B marketing must:
- Build a subscriber base (45%). Your email housefile saves costs and builds business value because you don’t pay for advertising to find a qualified audience. BTW— Joe Pulizzi focused on subscribers as his key metric!
- Attract and nurture qualified leads (70% and 68%). While at the heart of B2B marketing, translating MQLs into SQLs remains a challenge.
- Generate profitable sales (53%). For most B2B marketers, this includes post-purchase sales such and other ways of monetizing your content marketing (such as events and advertising).
Further, building a subscriber base and acquiring sales leads should be closer to 100% because these 2 attributes are at the heart of B2B marketing success!
Why Your B2B Content Fails To Support Your Goals And What You Need To Do
While B2B marketers give lip service to driving sales, saving costs, and building business value, their content doesn’t support these objectives!
According to CMI’s 2020 B2B Content Marketing Research, most content focuses on the initial buying stages:
- 50% aimed to generate awareness and interest
- 22% supported purchase consideration and buyer intent
- 14% supported evaluation and purchase
- 11% aided post-purchase loyalty and brand advocacy
- 3% provided other types of content
This emphasis on building awareness content hurts your ability to show measurable results across the entire B2B purchase journey including post-sale.
Further, this content breakout brings into question B2B marketers’ ability to offer consistent customer experiences along the entire purchase journey. So it’s no surprise that 52% of respondents believe that they provide an optimal customer experience.
Only 1 out of 10 B2B marketers create content supporting post-purchase; most marketers view their work as finished at that point.
Actionable B2B Content Marketing Tips:
- Audit existing content, information and data. If possible, extend your audit across your business. This helps you to identify content to update, renovate and transform into other formats. Also you can fill your existing gaps.
- Assess where you can transform existing content to serve other buyer personas or different points in the journey. Bear in mind that end-users may not have been involved in the purchase process. This provides opportunities for renovated content and/or additional post-purchase revenue opportunities.
- Support sales, customer success and other customer facing teams to improve their content. BUT don’t try to make it into content marketing.
Top 2020 B2B Content Marketing Priorities
With lower organic content distribution reach and tracking difficulties, 2020 B2B content marketers’ top 5 priorities include:
- 48% want to improve the quality and/or conversion of their audience
- 46% seek to extend content distribution
- 46% focus on content quality
- 44% want to improve content measurement
- 34% seek to increase the size of their audience
Without this knowledge, you can’t improve your content quality, distribution or conversion!
While you may have information on your buying audience and marketing personas, you risk not knowing the full breadth of your ”true” buyer audience and their purchase influencers due to the current seismic shift.
Even worse, you may overlook members of the buying team or lack sufficient detail to differentiate and personalize your content!
- Over 60% of B2B buyers prefer to self-educate.
- The average B2B buying team consists of 6 to 10 members and each reads 4 to 5 pieces of content. (Gartner)
Actionable B2B Content Marketing Tips:
- Get customer facing coworkers to provide real life customer insights, where possible. Use this information to better tailor your content marketing.
- Understand your audience’s context when they seek or want your content. Like consumers, B2B buyers use a variety of devices, content formats and seller contact channels. Find out who they turn to for input and what platforms they use to search or validate content. Don’t assume they do this during business hours or want text.
Do B2B Content Marketers Need To Know Their Audience Better?
Given the seismic shift in marketing, B2B marketers must be able to:
- Be the best answer for voice search because only one response is given. Further, provide audio versions of your content.
- Deliver a personalized content experience. While, often based on marketing AI, this goes beyond inserting a buyer’s name. If you don’t do this, your competitors probably are.
- Become part of your audience’s inner content circle by consistently delivering quality content that they want to receive, read and share!
One in five B2B content marketers creates content for 6+ segments despite the fact that the average B2B buyer group consists of 6 to 10 people. While Gartner doesn’t break out buyers by job title, they probably represent different areas. In my experience, acquiring the wrong or poor quality audience data translates to lower customer conversion and low-value customers.
Further, end-users and others need content to integrate your product or service into their organization. Instead of creating new content from scratch, re-envision it to meet their objectives.
To improve content distribution and conversion, understand target audience segments and the context in which they want or seek your message. So you need to know them better. For B2B businesses, this can be difficult due to friction between marketing and sales. Until you truly know your audience, your results won’t deliver.
Since 40% experienced B2B buyers’ remorse extend your content marketing to support buyers post-purchase to assuage regrets and build customer loyalty.
Actionable B2B Content Marketing Tips:
- Curate content to reduce creating additional versions of content marketing by adapting elements of your newsletters and social media.
- Help other teams to improve their existing content, information and data to meet their specific needs. By having access to this information, you can transform it to meet your needs.
2020 B2B Content Marketing Research Conclusion
Based on Content Marketing Institute / MarketingProfs’s 2020 B2B Content Marketing Research, B2B Content Marketers understand where they should focus their strategy and priorities.
Unfortunately, their content and related work still lags when it comes to implementation.
I view this as progress.
Because, today, content marketing doesn’t exist without support from sales and other areas.
As a result, we can use these findings to adjust our content marketing plans going forward. Even better, for many marketers, this means improving the basics of our existing strategies and applying new rigor to following best practices in light of the seismic shift in marketing and the B2B content marketing opportunity.
How do you do this?
One step at a time.
Go on, use this opportunity to improve your content marketing.
While you’re at it, let your career shine!
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Content is highly important, but widely ineffective. What does that mean for the modern marketer?
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