Did you know that 60 to 70 percent of B2B content goes unused?
That’s a huge waste of time, money, and resources. Many marketers mistakenly believe you can never have enough content. But it’s not about quantity as much as it’s about creating the right content for the buyer’s journey.
Let’s look at how you can do this and minimize squandering your marketing budget on idle content.
Start with a Buyer Persona
Before you develop content, judge how well it relates with your buyer persona. You have one, right? If not, I recommend this resource for defining your typical customer.
Once you complete a buyer persona, you should have a good sense of the challenges your customer faces in his or her business.
In the B2B world, this discovery process is generally easier than B2C because business people tend to have similar problems, such as the need to increase sales, boost productivity, and reduce costs.
Still, every sector can have its own set of unique challenges, and that’s why a buyer persona is so important. By outlining the specific problems of your customer, you can then assemble the right content he requires while traveling the path to your product.
The Three Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
You want to consider where your content should appear on the buyer’s journey.
This journey has three stages:
At the starting line, your customer says, “I have a problem.” He investigates the issue and conducts research to discover all he can about it. During this early part of the journey, he may read content like white papers, research reports, and eBooks.
Now your customer has reached the stage where he’s looking for solutions to his problem. At this point, he may attend webinars and view videos to educate himself on the solutions. But he’s still not searching for specific product info.
Progressing from the consideration stage, your customer looks for the products that meet his solution criteria. He is now focused on more product-specific content, such as brochures, data sheets, case studies, and demo videos.
Since your customer will compare your product to competitors, emphasize in decision stage content why your product is the best solution.
Don’t get hung up on content formats. They’re less important than the content itself, so it’s okay to have format overlaps in the different stages.
Content Audit – Why You Need to Know What You Have
Before you launch any new content initiatives, audit all your current assets. This takes some effort, but it’s a better use of your energy than creating content that’s never consumed by potential customers.
Create a list of your available content with a brief description of each.
To save time, you can download my content audit template. It has fields for the title, description, buyer’s journey stages, and comments.
What content do you have available that’s appropriate for each of the journey’s three stages? You’ll probably find imbalances. That’s okay, at least now you know.
When you have reviewed your current content, you may see opportunities to repurpose or combine pieces for various parts of each phase.
For example, you find several blog posts marked on your content audit template as appropriate for the Consideration stage. For your customer’s convenience, you might unite the posts in a single document as a special report pdf.
Again, quality is more important than quantity, but you want to ensure you thoroughly answer via your content the customer’s questions and concerns. Compare your audit to your buyer persona. How well does your content fulfill a customer’s needs as he makes the trip?
The buyer’s journey looks daunting for B2B marketers. But you don’t have to look at it that way. It’s just about delivering more focused content –valuable, actionable, and consumed. You’ll make mistakes, but at least, get the process started. Track response. Get feedback. And you’ll develop relevant content marketing that generates satisfaction for customers today and tomorrow.
HubSpot Inbound Marketing Program – http://www.hubspot.com/
Inciting a B-to-B Content Revolution – https://www.siriusdecisions.com/Blog/2013/May/Summit-2013-Highlights-Inciting-a-BtoB-Content-Revolution.aspx
The Definition of a Buyer Persona [in Under 100 Words] http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/buyer-persona-definition-under-100-sr
Businessman on Staircase graphic by Sira Anamwong, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Trade shows are still vital for B2B lead generation, even with the recent onslaught of marketing automation. And aside from a client meeting, they’re the best channel for delivering your content marketing into the right hands.
Until I researched the topic last week, I honestly thought the effectiveness of trade shows had faded.
I haven’t participated in an event since 2009, but I was curious to see the state of the industry. Here are a few stats that caught my eye:
- 92% of trade show attendees come to see and learn about what’s new in products and services
- 46% of trade show attendees are in executive or upper management
- 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority
The last statistic about the purchasing clout of attendees certainly reinforces a show’s value, and I have to admit I was surprised the buying power stat is over eighty percent.
What Content Should You Bring?
Determining what content to take to a trade show is not different from developing marketing for any other channel. It starts with the customer. Who will be attending the show from your target audience?
If you serve only a single business sector, then problem solved. However, if your business services multiple sectors, then only select white papers, case studies, videos and webinars that best fit the attendee’s niche, so he doesn’t have to waste time looking for content that’s relevant to him. Too much content can confuse and frustrate an attendee.
Do Product Brochures Still Matter?
Today, white papers and case studies occupy the spotlight in B2B content marketing. Do brochures have any role to play?
For the tech sector, the answer is “Yes.”
In fact, they’re a top choice among content assets when technology companies are considering a purchase. Have a look below at the results from the 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey.
Print vs. Digital
Digital certainly has some advantages over print, but it makes its biggest impact only if you exploit digital’s main strength: interactivity.
While it’s unlikely they have the budget to add multimedia elements to every white paper, case study, and brochure, SMEs could likely afford to produce one interactive piece for a trade show.
My vote for a multimedia makeover would be the product brochure.
- You can promote your product as dynamically as possible, and brochures are the document format of choice for displaying what you sell.
- Audio and visuals in e-brochures are excellent substitutes for text and photos found in print brochures. On the other hand, white papers and case studies are text heavy and less visually oriented.
- You can easily customize e-brochure content, so it’s relevant to the target audience attending the trade show.
Flash drives are a popular choice for content distribution at trade shows since USB ports are widely available.
On the downside, not every attendee feels comfortable inserting a USB drive into her computer due to security threats. To alleviate some of the anxiety, trade show experts recommend you don’t leave your supply of USB flash drives publicly accessible. Instead, you or your staff should personally give the flash to each attendee.
With all the bells and whistles you can add to electronic documents, should you even bother bringing print material?
Before making a decision, consider some of print’s advantages.
Whereas flash drives look the same, print documents can capture an attendee’s attention quickly with the content’s headline and graphics.
A study on reading comprehension published last year indicates printed text engages the brain more thoroughly. Researchers discovered:
“88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used information better when they read print on paper compared to lower percentages (64% and less) when reading on electronic devices.”
“80% stated a clear preference for reading print on paper for complicated materials in contrast to only 13% preferring to read complicated materials on a computer screen. Mobiles and smartphones were preferred by only 3% for reading complicated materials.”
If you sell highly complex products, seriously assess what content might be better suited for print, such as data sheets and technical briefs.
QR Codes: Worth the Effort?
A trend among exhibitors over the last few years is printing quick response codes on their marketing documents.
Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to this approach. Not everyone knows about QR codes.
Five years ago, they were hailed as the next big thing in marketing. However, their popularity never caught fire in North America, and their use seems to be on the decline. Attendees also need a QR code reader installed on their smartphone to engage with an exhibitor code.
If you decide to go QR, always develop an incentive for attendees to engage with your codes.
In an article published by EXHIBITOR magazine, live event experts Tim Patterson and Kristin Veach said there are two rules for QR code use:
- Codes must serve a specific purpose that is well communicated.
- The QR code’s landing page must be optimized for smartphones.
My view is QR codes are not worth the effort. Instead, print a short, memorable URL. Always provide strong, benefit-oriented copy on why attendees should visit the web address.
Despite their expense, trade shows still offer B2B marketers key benefits in the 21st century, such as focused lead generation, personal access to decision makers, and promoting buzz about new products and services.
When it comes to developing and distributing content for trade shows, my best recommendation is not to complicate access to your content for attendees. The more steps they have to take, the less likely they are to view it.
CEIR: The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit Into The Overall Marketing Budget-http://www.tsnn.com/news-blogs/16-powerful-stats-value-trade-shows#sthash.LlZNpRyg.dpuf
CEIR: The Role and Value of Face to Face –http://www.tsnn.com/news-blogs/16-powerful-stats-value-trade-shows#sthash.LlZNpRyg.dpuf
Cracking the Code – published by EXHIBITOR http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1496
Print is NOT Dead: 5 Reasons Why Print is Important for Marketers –http://www.hubcast.com/print-is-not-dead-5-reasons-why-print-is-important-for-marketers/
The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens –http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/
Two Sides releases results of new U.S. survey. Reading from Paper or Reading from Screens. What do Consumers Prefer? – http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Two-Sides-releases-results-of-new-US.-survey.—Reading-from-Paper-or-Reading-from-Screens.–What-do-Consumers-Prefer
2015 B2B Technology Content Survey – Eccolo Media – http://eccolomedia.com/what-content-has-the-most-clout/
USB Image and Content Design Tablet by Stuart Miles, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Prospects are swimming in content today — from you and your competitors.
The flood of popularity for content marketing makes it harder each month to stand out from everyone else.
How do you avoid content commoditization? You can use a number of techniques to burn your light brighter than the competition and do it without significant expense. Most of the tips I suggest in this post don’t require much in upfront costs, just some additional time for brainstorming and production.
Let’s dig into the ways to add value to your content.
Make their job easier
In an average workday, prospects and customers have limited time to consume content. They often have a computer folder loaded with marketing material they need to read and evaluate. A vital method to differentiate your company is developing content that’s interactive or quickly absorbed.
While there’s nothing wrong with producing white papers and case studies, also create checklists, cheat sheets, and templates that can reduce and simplify a customer’s workload.
My favorite is templates. You can develop them as content calendars, customer questionnaires, buyer personas, and many other useful tools.
Where to next?
Your content marketing shouldn’t exist in a silo. If you have similar content that may benefit them, tell your prospects and customers where to find it. You often see this in books, with a Further Reading list. Or online articles, with hyperlinks to related topics.
If you create a SlideShare presentation, do you have additional info on the subject? Then include a link to it.
Adjust your company biography to fit the content
When you read B2B marketing documents like white papers, you see at the end of each document a brief biography of the company that produced the content.
These bios contain the same text from one document to the next. They include information about years in business, products and services, and, if a public company, stock market information.
Sure, it’s easier to cut and paste this section into every document, but you’re wasting an opportunity to position your company. Instead, remind your prospects in the bio section how you solve problems discussed in content they’ve just consumed.
Create customized content
Before the Internet, you had few options to personalize marketing, other than writing your prospect’s name in the salutation of a letter.
The evolution of web analytics has gone far beyond names. It can now analyze a customer’s behavior on your website and other marketing channels, which allows you to develop content that is personal and relevant. In fact, Demand Metric reports, “78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing.”
Your company’s reward is better engagement and increased revenue. For example, HubSpot remarks, “personalized calls-to-action result in a 42% higher conversion rate than calls-to-action that are the same for all visitors.”
Here’s another vital reason to personalize content. Google co-authored a study last year that revealed 46 percent of B2B buyers conducting research on future purchases are millennials. This generation expects content tailored to their specific needs and interests. They’re resistant to the mass communication model of marketing.
Even small changes to your content marketing can boost engagement and relevancy. With so much information racing through the Internet pipe every day, it requires nimbleness to adjust content so it distinguishes you from the competition.
Have you discovered other ways to make your content unique in your business sector? Please share them in the comments section.
The Marketer’s Guide to Getting Started With Content Personalization
Content Marketing Personalization: When and How to Use It
The Talking Billboard: Introduction to Personalized Digital Advertising
Word cloud image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So what do B2B companies get wrong when they charge into the marketing arena?
In this post, we’ll look at four of the frequent missteps we marketers make, including producing content we think customers want, relying only on inbound marketing, and why focusing too heavily on lead generation can be costly.
Also, you’ll discover the surprising statistic on how much cash companies allocate to their marketing departments.
Let’s start with the biggest blunder:
1) Never test and measure marketing campaigns
One of the biggest puzzles I find is what marketers say they want versus the action they take to achieve that want. Possibly the greatest contradiction is a majority of B2B marketers claim they wish to measure the response to their campaigns, but only one-third measure and calculate their return on investment. Even when they track their initiatives, a surprising number of marketing departments never share the information with the executive level.
Why aren’t marketers persistent on measurement activity?
Financial resources appear to be a prominent factor. Recent stats show nearly 70 percent of B2B organizations allot five percent or less of revenue on marketing.
Hmmm. This is troubling. I suspect it’s because of an enduring mindset that marketing is an expense and not an investment in driving growth.
This lack of tracking leaves marketers confused about what works and what doesn’t. When asked by Webmarketing123 which promotional channel was their primary revenue generator, 32 percent of B2B marketers answered, “Not sure.” Yikes!
2) Never try print marketing
Digital marketing is so pervasive that it seems to marketers as the only game in town. But print has advantages.
For one, there’s less of it than there used to be, so while your email competes with others for a customer’s attention, sending marketing material through snail mail helps you stand out from other companies.
Most companies post their white papers and case studies as pdfs on their website. Instead, why not carefully select a few high-quality prospects and send them a printed copy of your content marketing pieces?
Today’s printing technology has made it possible to create personalized marketing documents and produce in smaller quantities than previously available with traditional offset printing.
Print can deliver a good return on investment. The Direct Marketing Association conducted research that reveals that direct mail ROI outperforms digital marketing.
Studies also suggest you can boost the impact of your digital campaigns by including complementary direct mail. Research shows elevated open rates and increases in average sale orders than using online marketing alone.
In Direct Marketing News, Richard Rushing, senior director of digital strategy at agency Epsilon remarked, “Brands with a compelling message or offer that link direct mail and digital can expect a 10 to 30 percent uplift in conversion when combining the two channels.”
Here’s a new print approach to try. The website Minibuk lets you produce 3.5″ by 5″ booklets. They’re small enough to mail in a business envelope or carry easily for distribution at trade shows. Your booklet can contain text and graphics of a presentation, webinar, case study, special report or just about any other type of marketing content.
3) Too little focus on customer retention
You may have heard the business maxim that 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers. But is this true? Yes, according to research conducted by marketing firm Gartner Group. The statistic proves the importance of keeping your customers happy to prevent defection to your competitors.
However, as you can see on the B2B Marketer’s Accountability chart below, customer retention doesn’t get as much focus as lead generation. This stat is mystifying considering marketing to current customers is significantly cheaper than acquiring new customers. And according to Marketing Metrics, “The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.”
Even marketers give themselves poor grades in this area: 70 percent rated their retention activities as either “average, poor, or needs improvement.”
To boost retention, you should audit your current content marketing assets. As well as creating content for customers, look at what you have that you could repurpose. What could you use to upsell, cross-sell, or keep your company top of mind? How about sending customers case studies that introduce products and services they have yet to purchase?
4) Producing content for marketing channels your prospects rarely use.
A major mistake in content marketing is relying too heavily on what your competitors create. Unless you have a spy working in a competitor’s firm, you don’t know for sure which of their content is successful. While every industry has best practices, nothing beats testing the waters with your prospects before producing a load of content in a channel they don’t access.
For example, buyers from diverse business sectors may have different preferences on content formats. A study published by Eccolo Media on B2B influencers and decision-makers in the tech sector revealed:
“More than half of respondents (57%) said they had looked at product brochures/data sheets from B2B technology vendors in the past six months, the most engagement with any content type.”
This may be surprising considering all the attention that digital marketing receives, but when you put tech prospects under the microscope, it makes sense. Where a consumer might rely on a friend’s product recommendation in a social media post, a technology buyer requires in-depth details datasheets provide, particularly if they need to ensure compatibility with current corporate systems.
Marketing is complex, more so than many people realize — even marketers. It has to appeal to both logic and emotions of your prospect and customers. That’s no easy task. For a B2B marketer, you have the added burden of trying to persuade both influencers and decision makers. You’re unlikely to hit the bull’s-eye every time.
Making mistakes shouldn’t embarrass you, as they’re crucial to helping you see what appeals to your target audience and what doesn’t. Mistakes can serve as the best marketing intelligence you could ever hope to uncover!
*[Infographic] Why are B2B Content Strategies Important? – CMO Council.
Stop sign image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In a recent survey, 52% of B2B tech buyers consumed a white paper before evaluating a technology purchase. It remains an important B2B marketing content format for both buyers and sellers.
But can you actually sell your product in a white paper? Not overtly. Mentioning your product upfront in a white paper violates the unwritten rule of sales-neutrality. Even though a white paper is a marketing document, the tone of the text is editorial rather than the more subjective tone of sales copy.
That said, using copywriting techniques can assist this content format. Even with its editorial style, a white paper still implements words and concepts that copywriters often apply in sales-oriented B2B communications, such as the benefits of saving money, boosting revenue, and increasing efficiency.
Of course subtly is vital, as B2B prospects are generally more suspect of the often slick, hyperbole heavy B2C copy. A good way to implement low-key copy in a white paper is to create curiosity and credibility among your target audience with questions, statistics, and industry concerns.
How One Business Launched this Approach into Action
Marketing services company Ion Interactive published a white paper called Beyond the Landing Page: An Introduction to Post-Click Marketing. On page one it proposes this challenge:
“The real question is: what happens after the click? Far too often, the answer is nothing. Even with the best of intentions, what happens after the click is seldom a consideration— and even less frequently a priority.”
The topic content addresses some of the issues marketers face in understanding more about the prospects that click, how to boost the quality of leads, and improve ad buys.
As it continues, the white paper reveals linear conversion paths are not always the best choice and suggests marketers: “Put up multiple versions of your path and see which ones convert the best.”
“Easier said than done,” is probably what many readers would be thinking at this point. Again, the paper cues up a likely problem for the prospect: He or she simply doesn’t have the time, resources, or skill set to take advantage of post-click marketing.
The answer to the problem comes next. In the final paragraph of the white paper, Ion positions its services as an easy way to take advantage of post click strategies:
Exact placement of company information in a white paper plays more importance than any other type of marketing communications. Ion has wisely placed its corporate information in the final paragraph, as it answers questions raised in the topic text.
As well as describing its services, Ion backs the copy with a case study on post-click marketing and conveniently includes it at the end of the white paper rather than as a separate pdf.
White papers and case studies don’t have to be separate documents. Ion supports its white paper by adding a case study at the end of the PDF.
Don’t Paste Your Boilerplate Corporate Bio into Your White Paper
If you’re planning to produce or add more white papers to your content marketing mix, look to current industry concerns and trends to spark topic ideas. But also evaluate how you will specifically address the challenges mentioned in the topic section. Customize the copy in the corporate bio area so you clearly demonstrate how you can solve these problems.
“Sharing valuable content on LinkedIn Groups is a sure-fire way to generate leads,” advise so many social media marketing experts.I’m not convinced, especially for B2B. Oh, it may generate some leads. But after being on LinkedIn for five years or so, I can count on one hand the number of leads I’ve produced from sharing content in Groups. It does have marketing value, but I wouldn’t advise sharing content this way as your primary lead generation strategy.
Here’s why I think B2B sellers have trouble with this technique for developing leads:
Vendors outnumber decision makers in most LinkedIn Groups – This is as true in social media networking as it is with in-person networking.
Buyers don’t want to generally hang out with vendors, unless they have an imminent need for a service or product — which is rarely the case. Even within industry-specific networking events, you can find it a challenge to meet your ideal customer.
For several years, I was a member of the American Marketing Association, and I attended their events and volunteered for some of their activities. Yet, in the several years of doing these endeavors, I only ever met one member of my target market. Almost all of the AMA’s committees and members were from the vendor side of the marketing world, such as ad agencies, SEO specialists, graphic designers, and copywriters. Decision makers from the corporate side of the world, such as managers and CMOs, were almost never present.
Decision makers belong to groups that block vendors from joining. You may find a LinkedIn Group where your prospects are members. If you can join, that’s great! But some Groups gate their membership, sometimes even requiring you to complete an online application so they can weed out vendors.
Competition – Your competitors are likely using the same “post and share” technique, so the chances of your target customer seeing your post is relatively slight, especially if the Group has lots of postings on an hourly basis. You’re often at the mercy of being “at the right place and the right time.”
What I do instead…
Since joining as a premium LinkedIn member, I’ve been using my copywriting skills to carefully craft messages that I send directly via LinkedIn Mail to members of my target audience. I get a much better response from this lead generation tactic than I do from sharing content the usual way.
As mentioned earlier, it’s unlikely that the prospect has an immediate need for a vendor’s service. But that’s okay. If I get a response to my first contact message, at least I have introduced myself and started the engagement process rolling. Then I send an occasional touch base note — and this is the time and place where I share with them valuable content and resources.
Spend some time creating personalized LinkedIn messages for your prospects and see how it compares to just posting content in Groups.
According to the recent report 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, marketers were asked to rate the effectiveness of their content marketing on a scale of 1 to 5 (not effective – very effective). Only 9 percent of marketers rated themselves a 5; most (41%) rated themselves a 3.
The middling rating by the majority of marketers could be linked to another revelation in the study: only 44 percent of them actually have a written content strategy. But those organizations that produced a plan were more effective and less challenged by the content marketing process.
I had a related discussion a couple of days ago in a LinkedIn group. We chatted about trying to get executives and other stakeholders to reach consensus on the importance of developing content, and it came back to producing a strategy before discussing which media — articles, blogs, white papers — you’re going to use.
Without a plan, many companies spread themselves too thin. They dabble back and forth on the distribution channels with no consistency. And they soon discover the whole process becomes unwieldy without first laying the foundation.
There’s lots of other interesting finding in the report. Have a look at this Slideshare overview:
As I mentioned in my previous posting on unique selling propositions, B2B content marketing generally has a low tolerance for hype. Expanding a bit further on this theme, I have a writing technique I use sometimes to flush out text that might be too sales oriented. It may seem a bit unorthodox, but I do find it works…
Write your ideal customer a letter, as if you were writing to a friend.
This doesn’t mean that your completed marketing piece has to be a letter. But writing content in the personal letter form reduces hyperbole in your text that you might find in more sales oriented marketing material.
Assign your imaginary customer a first name, and start with the standard salutation “Dear [FIRST NAME].” (Spending time first developing a buyer persona can focus your picture of your ideal customer even more strongly. Here’s an example from Hubspot.)
Try the letter technique for the early drafts of your marketing content to see if it keeps your tone genuine.