I’m currently updating my blog after moving it to a different web hosting company. You may find deadlinks in some posts. I will be updating these links over the next week. My apologies in advance.
Traditional B2B marketing collateral like brochures and data sheets are viewed by many young marketers as too “old school” for today’s audiences. But not so fast. According to new research published by Eccolo Media, B2B tech buyers ranked these marketing resources as the number one content asset for evaluating a technology purchase.
The 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey was comprised of over 100 respondents who were accountable for influencing or making technology-buying decisions in the six months prior to the survey. Thirty-three percent listed themselves as influencers and 67 percent as decision-makers.
Specifically, when it came to traditional content like brochures and datasheets, the study 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 a shock to marketers who deem social conversations, tweet updates, and LinkedIn connections as the undisputed top methods to influence B2B buyers. But having worked with engineers — from mechanical to software — I know many of them find valuable information in brochures and data sheets.
Decision makers and influencers in technical B2B sectors often need hard data and specifications to ensure any products they purchase are compatible or adaptable with their current systems.
You should still include benefits, even on datasheets. But for this kind of audience, I try to avoid using too many adjectives. They can come across as hyperbole, so I stick to low-key verbs. I took this approach for a client brochure selling scientific equipment for pharmaceutical, chemical and petroleum applications:
Surprising Stat for Blogs
The top five content assets among the survey respondents were…
In this age of social media, how did social content come out as a purchase influencer? Facebook and LinkedIn ranked at only 34 percent. Twitter was even less, at 25 percent. This doesn’t mean that social media has no marketing value; just that it’s not as effective as other marketing formats for purchase influence.
One stat that surprised me is blog posts. They ranked at just 30 percent, below most social content. Perhaps it’s because blogs tend to be more observational in nature, commenting on state-of-the-industry and trends rather than on product specifics.
It’s Lonely at the Bottom
I’m sure you’re curious what content channel landed last in the survey.
For least consumed content asset, we have a tie for this dubious honor: ebooks and podcasts (24%)
The least influential content on buying decisions: ebooks (7 %) and tweets (4%).
I bet if you asked any B2B marketing consultants about top five content formats, I doubt brochures and data sheets would make their lists.
In the end, I take away from this study that you shouldn’t be too quick to follow experts’ advice on content marketing recommendations without he or she first talking to your customers and understanding their preferred content choices. What works for one B2B sector may not necessarily work in another.
Testimonials are a vital way to support claims in your marketing. But there are a wide variety of ways to structure testimonials that go beyond the classic customer quote
Of the many methods to structure a marketing piece that includes testimonials, my favorite is The Motivating Sequence. Direct marketers have used it for decades, but you can also apply it in many types of B2B marketing content.
This is how the Motivating Sequence is organized:
1) Get attention – with a headline or title emphasizing valuable information or similar benefit
2) Problem – What is the challenge the prospect is facing?
3) Solution – Position your product as relieving the prospect’s problem
4) Benefits – The advantages your product offers
5) Proof – support your benefits with credible third-party information (see below)
6) Call to action – What’s the next step the prospect should take?
Proof is a Must
Number 5 of the Motivating Sequence is what makes it especially appropriate for our age of skepticism. Testimonials from satisfied customers have long been the choice for this section. But you can boost the impact of customer acclaim by including…
- Specifics. Back up each product benefit with a customer testimonial specifically supporting that benefit. For long testimonials you may want to include a headline to encapsulate the strongest benefit described in the text.
- Use the customer’s full name, title and company under the testimonial
- Include a photo of the customer.
But you don’t have to stop with testimonials. Here are several other ways to prove the credibility of your product:
- Show the problem before the solution was found. Then show after your product solved the problem. (This is especially effective in video.)
- Are you the leader in your industry? Include this fact, but use customer testimonials that support your leader position rather than engaging in idle boasting.
- Mention years of experience in the industry you serve as well as awards, media coverage and positive reviews.
- Got jargon? If you’re selling products to a business sector that has its own jargon, use it in your content as a way to show your industry knowledge.
- Show similarity to prospect: Provide evidence that you’re part of the prospect’s world. For example, here’s an excerpt from a product brochure I wrote for Thermo Fisher Scientific, whose target market is technical personnel:
Scientific is Part of Our Name for Good Reason
We are also scientists and engineers and have 50 years of experience in producing solutions as well as creating scientific instruments and equipmentThe next time you’re unsure how to structure a content marketing project, try the Motivating Sequence. By including strong proof elements, it’s an excellent format to both inform and persuade your target audience.
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When I tell people I work in the marketing business, they’re either dismissive (“Marketing doesn’t work”) or slightly baffled (“What’s a copywriter?”). Even within a company, other staff may not really understand what’s involved in the marketer’s role.
This infographic on the modern marketer sums up the two hats most of us wear. It’s especially true in the corporate environment, where resources are often overstretched and budgets shrunk to the size of a nanometer.
For artist (I would’ve substituted the word “craftsperson” for the word “artist” but that’s a nit picky point.) and scientist, marketing requires constant learning and education, since few of us are evenly split between left and right brain functions.
I’m probably more of the artist type, but the scientist in me knows that creativity in itself does not necessarily equal effective marketing. I recently signed up for a six-month certification program in social media marketing strategy to keep up with the complex science of social media analytics.
In researching this blog post, I came across some quotes on marketing and many of them weren’t too positive about the topic…
“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.”
“In marketing you must choose between boredom, shouting and seduction. Which do you want?”
“Marketing is the devil.”
Ouch! I’m not feeling the love. But I’m willing to endure the slings and arrows aimed at marketers because the topic still fascinates me after 20 years. How words and graphics can motivate people to take action to achieve their needs and wants.
If you feel self-conscious about working in the marketing and advertising business, take heart from this quote by one of America’s most famous authors, Mark Twain,…
“The spider looks for a merchant who does not advertise so he can spin a web across his door and lead a life of undisturbed peace.”
I just published the November issue of The Multichannel Marketer e-newsletter.
One of the most pressing problems for B2B marketers is how to develop social media as an effective way to generate sales leads. This topic is addressed in the newsletter, as Marketo has developed an free e-book that covers this subject. Some of the statistics published about social media in the book include…
- Marketers rate social media as the second-most important factor (64%) in organic search success, behind only effective web pages (82%).
- 60% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through Linkedin, followed by 60% through company blogs, 43% through Facebook, and 40% through Twitter.
- One-third of global B2B buyers use social media to engage with their vendors, and 75% expect to use social media in future purchases processes.
Other topics covered in the November issue include a marketing tool to develop an accurate buyer persona, how the best bang for your buck with B2B video, and choosing the right website colors to improve your conversion rates.
I just completed this 14-page guide that covers issues related to creating video content for the business-to-business sector and have made it available through my website.
I divided the video guide into three sections.
1) Brainstorming: This section lists questions to help jumpstart your creative juices and shape the content of the video. I also include common tasks that you often need to complete along the production path, such as developing keywords and phrases for your video, clarifying your call-to-action and promoting your video through various communication channels.
2) Video project template: Contains quick reference information to be completed for each video, including key dates, deadlines, objectives and contact information for those involved in the production.
3) Tips for creating a quality video: A series of short articles I’ve written based on my own experiences as a video scriptwriter and producer. Some of the article topics are …
- Script or No Script? Do you always need a script to produce a video?
- Should YOU Write the Script? Questions to ask yourself before you decide to write the script instead of hiring a professional scriptwriter.
- How to Keep the Video Script on Target. After you’ve assembled all the information you need to create a video script, you may feel overwhelmed by it all. Here’s advice to help stay on track as you write.
- Video: Is it Show or Tell? Ideally, it’s more show than tell, but here are three situations where you might rely more on audio.
- Best Practices for Video. Guidelines for creating compelling audio-visual content.
Currently, I am making the video planning guide available only to marketing managers, but I may release it to a wider audience in the near future.