B2B Content Marketers: Market Your Content But Focus On Value
What do decision-makers really want from your content? Columnist Jim Yu reviews the results of recent surveys to help direct the focus of your B2B content marketing efforts.
Any marketer’s goal is to reach the right decision-maker with the right message at the right time.
If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) marketer, these decision-makers are usually part of the C-suite, and they have a very specific set of needs that you’ll have to address through content, and through certain types of content.
In this post, we’ll discuss what your decision-makers want in the content your brand produces and the unique challenges that B2B marketers face when tackling content marketing.
Start Providing Content Substance
A survey by The Economist Group, which measured the opinions of 500 business executives and 500 marketers globally, uncovered a key insight: marketers are typically marketing without substance.
While marketers believe they are answering the demand for content, they may not be answering the demand for information. So, what type of information is your target audience seeking?
Survey findings showed that the most useful types of information to decision-making executives included:
- The industry outlook on a matter
- Both sides of a complicated issue
- An area of business they weren’t previously apprised of
However, marketers are focusing on their own agendas, and 75 percent include mentions of products and services as part of their content strategy, while 93 percent connect content directly to a product or service.
Unfortunately, this puts the spotlight on the brand and not on the audience where it belongs. This is the audience whose problems the brand needs to solve. And even if part of the answer is a brand’s product or service, the focus should always be to add value to the conversation.
In fact, 71 percent of executives surveyed said content does not make a positive impression when it feels like a sales pitch. On the other hand, execs said meaningful brand perceptions existed when content was timely or unique, and when it helped them to understand a complex issue in simple terms.
If you’re in the camp of people who believe that a content strategy can make or break a brand, you’re not alone.
The Hurdles B2B Marketers Face With Content
It seems the problem is clear: marketers aren’t creating content that resonates. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s latest research on B2B content marketing, the number-one challenge marketers cite today when it comes to content is creating engaging content.
So in 2015, perhaps it’s time to look at the gap between what your decision-makers want in your content and what you’re actually producing. And maybe it’s also time to take a step back from trying to feed the content beast by looking at quality versus quantity.
Another good reason for this is maintaining the longevity of your website and its ability to compete. Keep in mind that when it comes to producing content online in the form of Web content — like your blog or the main pages on your site — everything you do is not only subject to scrutiny from your target audience, but also Google.
That means when you sacrifice quality in your content — when you don’t put the user first — you could not only be alienating your target audience but also be subject to ranking penalties in search engines.
Form Matters: When Content For Content’s Sake Isn’t Good Enough
It’s not just what you say that makes an impact, but how you say it – meaning what form it takes. Going back to The Economist Group survey, data show that the content format matters to your target persona, the executive.
When executives were asked which forms of content were the most helpful for a business-related matter:
- Seventy-one percent (71%) said articles
- Fifty-one percent (51%) said research reports
- Twenty-seven percent (27%) said briefing papers
- Nineteen percent (19%) said newsletters
- Eight percent (8%) said events
In addition, 85 percent preferred text content to video or audio, and 78 percent used their laptop or desktop computer to view content most frequently.
Giving your target audience what they want, both in terms of the information provided and the format in which it’s presented, helps solve the equation of producing engaging content. To help map out your own path for creating engaging content as a B2B in 2015, take a good, hard look at:
- The executive persona — specifically, what level of knowledge they have around the issues you can help solve. This helps you decide what information you present in the content you create.
- The ways in which you can deliver the solution to that executive persona so it fits into their lifestyle. Do they read online? Via print? Do they prefer audio on-the-go or an in-depth article or research report?
The Content Measurement Imperative
You are spending time and money on content, so you want to see leads, right? Of course — in fact, that’s what 70 percent of marketers surveyed in The Economist Group’s research said.
However, those same marketers cited branding as the primary reason for creating content. Similarly, Content Marketing Institute’s research showed that 84 percent of marketers said brand awareness was the goal for content marketing, while 83 percent cited lead generation.
As marketers, can we agree that a positive perception of a company as a leader in its space can eventually lead to a sale? Can you reconcile the actions of a company making itself the best option by providing value to the target customer with the eventual close of a deal?
If so, you can begin to shift your perception of content creation in a way that puts the target audience first in your communications, knowing that the benefits will follow — whether that benefit is simply to make a positive brand impression by aiding your prospect in solving a problem, or to turn that prospect into new customer.