In 2014, your content marketing program is an integral part of your overall sales process. If your content is unsuccessful, that ultimately spells trouble for sales and the company overall.
To help you implement an effective B2B content marketing program, here are the five most common things we see that cause content marketing programs to fail:
1. Lack of strategy
While the majority of B2B companies are now engaged in content marketing (93%), it seems that many are doing so without any type of documented strategy in place. A October 2013 study from the Content Marketing Institute found that only 44% of B2B companies had a documented content strategy in place. The study also found:
“A documented strategy makes a difference, as 84 percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing said they have no documented strategy. B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).”
So, if you don’t have a clear strategy currently backing your content marketing efforts, that is the best place to start. A content strategy should include elements like high-level objectives and goals (e.g. increase awareness, generate leads) as well as the specific tactics (e.g. get followers on social, execute email marketing campaigns) that will be used to achieve those goals.
2. Lack of production process
The next place a content marketing strategy can fail is in the actual production of the content itself. A lot of companies can generate great content ideas, but then don’t have the processes in place to make sure the content is created, edited and shared.
There are a number of different ways companies can manage content production, and the best way will likely be determined by the size of the company and the amount of content being produced. Solutions range from Excel spreadsheets to track production stages to highly sophisticated project management softwares that can manage content production across different brands or channels.
Video, especially digital video, has grown so prevalent; it is likely to be the defining media format of our time. Over 100 hours of video now are uploaded to YouTube each minute, and it would take over 1,000 years to watch every video uploaded.
Here are 3 reasons you should be using B2B video in your digital marketing programs:
1. Your buyers watch them.
While we all love our cat videos, it seems we also (at least somewhat) enjoy watching business videos and commercial advertisements. Forbes recently stated that 75% of executives watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week. Forbes also found that 59% of executives would rather watch a video than read text.
2. They can influence your buyers’ subsequent web activity.
Many studies on B2B video engagement have found that videos are able to influence buyers to further engage with your company in some way. Forbes stated that 65% of executives visit the marketer’s website after viewing a video. Similarly, Zabisco found that 46% of people who viewed a video ad took some action after viewing it. Specifically, they found:
- 26% looked for more information about the subject of the video (Zabisco)
- 22% visited the website named in the ad (Zabisco)
- 15% visited the company represented in the video ad (Zabisco)
3. They can motivate a buying decision.
While impulsive decisions are much more likely to happen in the B2C space (where 65% of people are much more likely to buy a product after seeing a video), videos can motivate purchase decisions in the B2B space as well. Forbes Insight found that after watching a video, about 50% of executives went on to make a purchase for their business.
For more on the advantages of B2B video, read this quick blog on 3 Reasons You Should Leverage B2B Video in 2014.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
This is the second half of a blog series on B2B sales and freedom of choice. To read the first part, click here.
The first step in creating choice for your buyers is getting rid of the preconceived notion that all buyers follow the same path from discovery to close. Especially in B2B sales, each buyer’s journey can look very different.
One buyer might have an urgent need and want to make a purchase as soon as humanly possible. Another buyer may be a company that requires sign off from multiple decision makers, each having a different perspective on what makes a good solution. And yet another buyer may be a year or more away from buying a product like yours but want to get ahead on early-stage research.
In order to close all three of these deals, you need to set up your sales and marketing program to honor the variances in each buyer’s situation and offer content choices conducive to each.
For example, at the end of an early stage blog post, don’t assume that you know what the next step should be and force your buyer to take it. Offer options instead. From the examples given above, the buyer on the fast track might want to go straight from your blog to a custom demo sign up. For the company with multiple decision makers, each decision maker might want to take a different path forward (e.g. the IT rep wants technical specifications, the business buyer wants case studies). The very early-stage buyer isn’t ready to move forward yet and may just want to read some more educational blogs.
By offering choice, you can create a personalized and individualized buying experience for each prospect who enters your pipe.
To learn more about how the B2B sales and marketing process has changed in recent years, read/watch this quick video-blog. For more on the importance of offering many different content choices, read our blog post titled B2B Buying Cycles: Don’t Serve Breakfast for Dessert.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
This is the second half of a blog series featuring tips for creating more effective B2B content marketing. You can find part one here.
2. Create a publishing calendar.
As we’ve written about previously, B2B marketers today are increasingly expected to act like publishers. It is no longer enough to publish content once a year or once a quarter; you need a consistent stream of valuable content to remain relevant to your customers and prospects. In order to keep track of and organize the publication of all of this content over time, it is a very good idea to create a publishing calendar.
Without a calendar to execute to, it is easy for a great strategy to fall apart halfway through. Conversely, if everyone on the marketing team has clearly defined tasks with deadlines attached, there are no excuses for not getting things done. Try to create publishing calendars or schedules a few months in advance, or quarterly. Scheduling out any further than that may prevent you from staying agile and optimizing for improvement. To ensure the process goes smoothly, it is a good idea to have daily or weekly meetings to assess progress and address any issues that prevent work from being completed on time.
3. Put production and approval processes in place.
Every time a piece of marketing content is developed, there are a number of steps the content has to go through from creation to publication. Many times, content needs to go through various stages of editing before it is approved—grammatical, formatting/HTML, etc. In terms of both efficiency and quality assurance, companies should document these processes for content production and approval.
When production and approval processes are in place, there is no ambiguity about what needs to get done before a piece of content is completed and ready for use. One thing to remember is to factor in the time it takes to complete the production and approval processes when creating your publishing calendar. For example, if an email vendor requires email creative two days before an email blast is sent, that needs to be documented in your production process and reflected in the deadlines of your calendar.
For more tips on creating more effective B2B marketing content, read 7 B2B Content Ideas that Help Move the Deal Forward.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
The world of content marketing and how it should impact your b2b strategy
MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute recently put out a report on B2B Content Marketing 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. The report looked at B2B companies overall marketing effectiveness and found that 42% of B2B marketers say they are effective at content marketing.
When you take a deeper dive into the report, it seems there are identifiable factors that contribute to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of companies’ content marketing programs. The report shows that whether you have someone overseeing strategy, the number of tactics used, the number of social media tactics used and the amount of budget allocated all may impact a companies’ content marketing effectiveness.
However, it seems the factor most closely tied to whether or not a B2B company feels effective at content marketing is the existence of a ready-to-implement strategy. Taking this into consideration, here are three tips for more effective B2B content marketing:
- Create a content strategy.
If you have no strategy behind the content you produce, it is like trying to do archery in the dark; and blindly shooting arrows without a clear target is never going to be effective. In order for your marketing content to get people to take the actions you want (e.g. fill out a form, send an email, make a purchase, etc.), you need to think about who the audience is and how they will be able to use it. For every piece of content you create, there should be a clear intention and goal behind it, whether that goal is brand awareness or lead gen.
Part of creating a B2B content marketing strategy involves mapping out the stages of your sales cycle and developing content each stage. This entails early-stage, educational content (e.g. blogs, videos) to help with discovery as well as late-stage content that verifies the value prop (e.g. case studies, use cases)—and everything in between. By setting up your content marketing strategy like this beforehand, your prospects can find content that is relevant and valuable regardless of where they are in their buying process.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
The 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report done by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that 93% of B2B companies currently engage in content marketing.
These companies have realized that today, buyers begin to interact with B2B companies digitally before engaging with sales directly. They know that in order for buyers to interact with their company digitally, they need to have digital content for buyers to interact with.
While it is great that so many companies are engaged in creating content, many B2B companies are failing to understand the true function and goal of marketing content in relation to the overall sales process.
Many companies are treating their content—blogs, white papers, webcasts, nurturing emails, etc.—like an extension of their sales pitch. They see every blog post as another chance to push their product or sell their service. They see every email as the perfect place to try to close the deal. The main issue with marketing content like this is that the focus is on the company, not the customer. The emphasis is put on the company’s goal (selling) rather than the customer’s goal (solving a problem).
There is always going to be a time and place to sell. However, many of the prospects that interact with your marketing content are nowhere near ready to buy. In fact, only about 5% of B2B prospects are ready to buy at any given time. The other 95% are at various stages of their buying cycle—discovery, education, verification, etc.
This means that if all of your marketing content is simply an ongoing sales pitch, only 5% of your audience is going to be receptive to it at any given time. The other 95% still want to be educated or compare their options, and your sales pitch is going to seem pushy or annoying.
While talking about your product or service is okay, try to keep the hard sales messaging on your product and service related pages only. In your marketing content like blogs, white papers and webcasts, your focus should be providing valuable information that your prospect can use in some way. By providing value prior to purchase, you help to build trust with your prospect, which is a prerequisite for most–if not all–B2B deals.
To make sure your marketing content is focused on helping the buyer solve problems (rather than selling the buyer a product/service), you should first work to clearly understand what those problems are. Then, create content that answers any and all questions your typical buyer may have in trying to solve those problems.
A simple rule for determining whether your content is company/selling-oriented or customer-oriented is to ask, “What does this piece of content do for the prospect?”
If your only answer is, “It convinces them that my product is the best” or, “It explains why they should buy my service,” you probably should go back to the drawing board. ”If your answer is something like, “It gives them information on the pros and cons of SaaS solutions” or, “It explains the five most important aspects of energy efficiency,” you are probably on the right track.
To learn more about creating compelling and engaging B2B marketing content, read The New Rules for B2B Customer Engagement. Feel free to contact us with any questions.