Content Marketing: The Engine that Drives B2B Marketing

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Why Content Marketing?

Every few years there are ideas that significantly dominate the “internet marketing” discussion. Mobile Marketing and Social Media Marketing are examples, and today the topic at the forefront of nearly every B2B (business to business) marketing discussion is Content Marketing.

David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter at MarketingSherpa recently wrote, “According to research from the 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report, content marketing was one of the top four channels for lead generation budgets for this year (2012). And, as a less quantitative measure of the importance of content marketing, it was featured in almost every presentation at the recent B2B Summit 2012, whether the main focus was lead gen, email, social media or event marketing.”

At the core of this trend is the fundamental desire for most B2B Buyers to conduct online research before we know they are interested in making a purchase decision.

According to SiriusDecisions 2012 – 70% of B2B buyers’ journey is complete before they ever become a sales lead. Which leads us to the fundamental question: “How do we influence a buyer before we even know who they are? Or if they are interested in our product or service?” For a growing majority of B2B marketers, the answer is Content Marketing.

Content Marketing Overview

 

Despite all the discussion and focus, there can be a lot of confusion around what Content Marketing is, and isn’t.

Content Marketing is not a direct sales tactic. It’s not fast, cheap or easy. Content Marketing is about understanding your target audience, systematically learning what pain they experience, what information they are likely to need at each stage in the buying cycle and then providing it to them, even if that information does not directly relate to your specific product and or service.

Content Marketing is about building a reputation within your market as a thought leader, as an information aggregator and as an industry collaborator. It’s about establishing a connection with buyers by providing information across multiple channels without the expectation of immediate gain or short term sales. Because in the process of helping your market, you are given the opportunity to build trust and respect with potential buyers in the first 70% of the buyers journey.

Content Needs Identification, Acquisition and Repurposing

So let’s say you’re interested in getting started and you’re wondering “What’s the next step? In answer to that question we put together a 4 point list.

· Create a Content Needs Assessment: Reach out to your current clients and ask them a few questions about what information they found helpful or what information they wished they could have found during their purchasing journey. Try to gather information that corresponds to the stages in the buying cycle. You may also want to creatively envision an improved buying journey to provide information or help your current clients may not have considered.

· Audit your existing resources for content: Your website, blog, sales presentations, research and sales collateral materials are good places to look for existing content.

· Use User Generated Content (UGC): Social media networks are a good place to look for unsolicited testimonials and customer experiences.

· Repurpose The Content You Have: Consider ways to repurpose the existing content to make it more useful; more easily understood or simply more interesting. Using information you have to create a SlideShow, or a Video or Podcast are examples of repurposing content.

Content Creation

At some point you will have exhausted your existing content resources and the focus will turn to content creation, which is neither easy nor free.

Daniel Burstein, of MECLABS recently shared this three point strategy for content creation:

“Identify your audience and understand their needs. Everyone, everyone, everyone has pain points.”

“Invest aggressively. Social media, especially blogs, aren’t free, and they’re not even cheap. This may be as simple as investing your time in writing rich blog posts that address those pain points in step 1. It may be investing your Subject Matter Experts’ time on the blog. Or it may go so far as a monetary investment in a brand journalist or social media manager.”

“Focus on helping your customers, not selling. And for this reason…I do not recommend sticking a copywriter on your blog. But if you do, make it clear to that copywriter that the point of the blog is not to sell.”

Unfortunately, as Daniel points out, new content creation isn’t easy and it’s certainly not inexpensive. There is no magic bullet and it will take both time and investment. Because of this we recommend you make plan that identifies your most important content needs, and sets a realistic goal for steady / ongoing new content creation.

Long Term Steady Gains

Remember Content Marketing is a long term effort and it’s focused on long term gains. Steady consistent progress is best. The goal is to develop trust and name recognition during that crucial first 70% of the buying journey, so that when they are ready to take the next step, they have been nurtured and guided to consider your solution set.

Content Marketing In a Nutshell

· 70% of B2B buyers’ journey is complete before they ever become a sales lead.

· Content Marketing is how we influence a buyer before we know who they are.

· Content Marketing is about understanding your target audience, systematically learning what pain they experience, what information they are likely to need at each stage in the buying cycle and then providing it to them, even if that information does not directly relate to your specific product and or service.

· Ask current clients what information they found helpful or would have liked during their purchasing journey to identify currently available resources and opportunities for new content creation.

· Mine your website, blog, social media, sales presentations and collateral materials for existing content.

· Repurpose existing content to make it more useful; more easily understood or simply more interesting.

· Invest aggressively in content creation.

· Focus on helping your customers, not selling.

· Make a plan for the consistent production of new content.

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