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.
“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.
I’ve written in the past about the importance of lifecycle marketing to your customers rather than just focusing on new customer acquisition, which is always more expensive than reaching out to clients you already have.
Marketo’s blog published a related post “Why Marketing Doesn’t End at the Sale – Customer Obsessed Lifecycle Marketing.”
On the flip side, I also wrote a post about lifecycle marketing for the stages of a company rather than for customers. You can read it here.
“It’s not the ghost town it once was,” said a colleague of mine, who was an early adopter of Google+. Times they are changin’ for this social media channel as it’s seeing dramatic growth. At first, Google+ seemed to be nothing more than Google trying to play catch up to Facebook’s phenomenal expansion.
Like many in the marketing biz, I sat on the fence when it came to Google+. I was already juggling enough social media with my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn activities. The additional time drain did not equal much in the way of benefits from keeping my Google+ profile up to date. Why bother with Google’s vanity project?
However, a couple of things happened recently that have me focusing more on my Google+ presence.
Facebook’s organic reach has dropped. I don’t really blame Facebook for trying to monetize its service by spurring Facebook user’s to pay for promotion. There’s no free lunch in social media, even if the mirage of “no cost” seemed compellingly real in the early days. But as a B2B person, I just wasn’t seeing much in the way of benefits for my Facebook efforts.
I checked into some Facebook Groups related to B2B marketing, and I wasn’t impressed by the level of activity, engagement or content. I find Google+ does at better job with its equivalent Communities. The engagement appears more active than similar B2B Facebook Groups and its layout and design visually pops. Google+ also provides basic text formatting functions like bold and italic to make your posts stand out.
If you’re connected with B2B marketing, then join my Google+ circle at… google.com/+DavidCoyneCommunications
Two days ago I received an email that started with ”I’m contacting you today for a rather unusual reason.”
Well, that didn’t sound like a regular business inquiry. But since the email had not been banished to my spam folder, I gave the author the benefit of the doubt.
He introduced himself as a technical writer, who also received a rather unusual request. A potential customer approached him to write copy for nutritional supplements. As he had zero experience in writing for the health market, the writer was surprised by the inquiry.
He turned to me because I write for the health industry and asked if I was open to helping the client in exchange for a finder’s fee.
My Answer: “Yes.”
I’m happy to pay a 15 percent referral fee of the total project cost for the first assignment.
However, there are a few caveats:
(1) The potential client and I must reach agreement on terms, such as price and deadlines. In addition, the client must sign my quote and pay a deposit.
(2) I reserve the right to decline a project for any reason. But here are some examples on why I’ll say “No.”
- A few years ago, a prospect asked me to write copy for an energy drink named after an illicit drug. I declined. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. So I may pass on writing for a product that’s makes me uneasy.
- I’ll decline a project if the prospect wants to include copy that violates FTC, FDA or similar regulations or laws.
- The prospect has a bucket full of unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Sorry, but if he treats customers poorly, he’s not going to treat vendors any better.
“What about writing beyond your specialties?”
Occasionally, I’m asked if I will write for markets outside my niches of B2B and health. It depends on the product or service. I don’t write for the fashion market because it just doesn’t interest me — much to the chagrin of my wife.
But I have written for a number of other sectors, including real estate, hospitality, publishing and non-profit. If in doubt, drop me a line. I may be interested.
To sum up, if you’re a fellow writer or other marketing colleague who has received an inquiry for a project you don’t want to take on, then please contact me. You could make yourself some easy money.
infographic by brightinfo.com
With a video camera now as close as your cell phone, the quality and professionalism of video during previous decades seems relegated to the back seat of our YouTube age.
Just about everybody can now shoot, post and share video; you no longer need a bulky, expensive camera like the pros. And after all, how much quality do you really need to post a video of a puppy chasing its tail?
But when it comes to using video for marketing, quality does count with viewers.
Your Video’s Impact on Buyer Confidence
The other day I came across video marketing stats that revealed 43 percent of people who watch video online said they would switch to a competitor if the video quality was poor.
And 52 percent of consumers agree watching product videos makes them more confident in their purchase decisions. So upping your game and putting a bit of polish in your videos can serve you well.
I believe some prep work before you shoot can go a long way in developing appealing videos. Generally, marketing videos are much shorter today than when I started writing and producing them in the 1980s. But preplanning is an excellent practice, even for a two-minute video.
Write an outline of what needs to be covered in your video– this is a minimum requirement. If your video is longer or more complex, then a script can actually save you time and money by avoiding production mistakes and omissions.
In my Video Content Planning Guide for B2B, I explain situations where you should always opt for a script.
Should YOU Write the Script?
There’s no single answer to this. It depends. But some of the factors you should consider before making a decision include…
1. Are you confident you can write effectively for the audio-visual medium?
2. How complex is the video? (Many locations? Requires graphics?)
3. Do you know how to properly format and structure a video script?
4. Can you write natural dialogue and narration effectively?
5. Do you understand video terminology?
6. Do you have the time to write the script?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions, then you should seriously consider hiring a professional scriptwriter.
As author Alan Wurtzel states in his book Television Production:
“Understanding the best way to combine words and pictures and when to let one or the other carry the program’s message is the essence of the scriptwriter’s art.”
(*Television Production. Copyright 1983, 1979 by McGraw-Hill, Inc.)
It’s that time when we marketers ponder about our objectives and strategies for the New Year. After two decades of experience in the industry, I haven’t seen marketing communications splinter into so many different channels, especially in the social media space.
But having more channels doesn’t necessarily make things easier for marketers.
The Business Marketing Association and Forrester Inc noted anxiety among marketers in research presented at the BMA’s annual conference this year. Their study found that, “97% of b2b marketers are doing things they have never done before as part of marketing, and 34% of senior marketers feel ‘overwhelmed’ by change.”
If you feel snowed under and unsure about your marketing direction, have a look at some of the trends and predictions for the New Year. It might deliver the right guidance on where to aim your marketing arrows in 2014 – or at least give you a little time to prepare.
Social Media Trends for 2014
Top 7 Content Marketing Trends that Will Dominate 2014
Digital Marketing Techniques That Will Be in Vogue in 2014
Search Engine Marketing & Pay Per Click:
Will It Be an SEO or PPC Year for Marketers?
Winterberry Group’s 2014 Predictions
For my own forecasting, I predict a cooling of social media’s cool factor. Its popularity won’t sink, but companies will achieve a better understanding of where social media excels and where it doesn’t. It’s inevitable that this marketing channel would start to mature, like all others before it.
I expect to see the fast emergence of new players within social media, giving pioneers like Facebook and Twitter a run for their money. Mobile marketing will become more integrated into ecommerce and content marketing.
What about you? Where do you think marketing is headed in 2014? Please share your thoughts.
Ezines, or e-newsletters, are ranked number 3 in popularity for content channels as published in the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. In the realm of email content, the ezine is still the main player.
Ideally, you should associate your ezine with the face of your brand. This could be the CEO, other C-level executive, or, for smaller organizations, the company owner. Whomever you choose, he or she should be the consistent voice of your ezine.
Why Does It Matter?
Socialmedia Today published results of a survey that revealed…
“68.7% of respondents believe that C-suite social media engagement enhances the perception that a brand is honest and trustworthy, and 83.9% believe that CEO social media engagement is an effective tool to increase brand loyalty.”
While ezines don’t fall under the social media umbrella, the research shows that content with a face likely delivers improved customer engagement and response. The ezine is a more personal marketing channel than social media, so it provides a great opportunity to apply this persona branding technique.
Real World Examples
I helped a client develop a successful monthly ezine that followed this approach — combining useful content, a low key sales approach, and a personal point of view. His product was aimed at health-conscious consumers, but you could adopt this format for a variety of products in the B2B or B2C sector.
The first item to appear in my client’s ezine was an article about a specific health topic, usually a vitamin, mineral or herb. There was no direct selling of a product in the article, just interesting and valuable information, such as this excerpt on the importance of probiotics:
EXAMPLE – 1A
After the article my client would comment about its content and often included another piece of interesting information or little-known benefit. He would then casually introduce his health product…
EXAMPLE – 1B
Here’s another article from a different edition of the ezine:
EXAMPLE – 2A
And here’s his follow-up text:
Why did he have success with this style of ezine? His readers appreciated the fact that he was providing useful information up front rather than an immediate sales pitch. The tone is personal, from one health-conscious person to another, and the product benefits are delivered in a matter-of-fact way.
I used to think brainstorming was an annoyance. I felt like it was a way to seem busy but without really making any headway on a task. But when it comes to creativity, inspiration is an unreliable visitor. So I have to suck it up and try other ways to coax ideas into the spotlight.
It would be a folly to try and list all the possible ways to brainstorm ideas. But I can share at least some of the methods of developing content both for my own company and clients.
1) Write a Letter to a Customer (But Not a Sales Letter). You’re not trying to sell with this technique. You simply write as if you are responding to a problem a customer has shared with you. By focusing on articulating the benefits in a more relaxed format of a letter, you open the possible solutions that can be a source for content.
2) Review Your Social Media Channels. See if the headlines in your news feed spark ideas. I prefer Twitter for this, perhaps because it’s concise, and I can view a lot of content topics in a single glance.
3) Read Your Competitor’s Content Marketing. Your goal is not to plagiarize, but to see if you can find related ideas or approach the same topic from a different angle.
4) Write Non Stop for 25 Minutes. No pausing to reread or edit any of the text. At the end of the time period, print it out and review. (I came up with today’s blog post by using this technique.)
5) Ask Your Brain for Content Ideas. This may seem too simple and obvious, but you’re not asking your conscious mind. You want assistance from the deep well of your unconscious. I usually post the question before I go to sleep. I never get an immediate reply when I put this method into action. But almost always within 48 hours, some good ideas jump to the front of my brain.
6) Create a Mind Map. Although I haven’t found it as effective as other techniques, mind mapping is extremely popular for storming ideas. You start with a keyword or phrase in the center of a page and then jot down ideas around the topic. My mind prefers a more linear approach, such as typing out ideas on a blank page. But everybody’s mind is different. No harm in testing it out.
If you’d rather skip the pen and paper, there are plenty of online tools. Here are some of the most recommended brainstorming software programs:
Storm Board (for team collaboration)
Need some brainstorming help for video marketing? Get my free Video Content Planning guide.