We're pleased to present this guest post by Michael Brenner, Sr. Director of Marketing for SAP. Read on for his suggestions on how marketers can produce content that engages prospects and customers.
Why is content marketing so important? I started my career in B2B sales and quickly grew frustrated with the content being produced by my marketing colleagues. I then took a field-marketing role because I knew it was crucial to have the right content for each customer situation. How hard can that be, right?
Turns out, it is pretty darn hard. With our longer sales cycles and larger buying teams, B2B organizations need to be able to create and deploy the right content at the right time to meet each customer organization’s unique buying process. Thus, content marketing is a critical component of any successful B2B Marketing strategy.
In this post, I will explain how to address the four main challenges in B2B Content Marketing:
1. Is B2B marketing content being used?
2. What is the biggest challenge to producing effective content
3. How can B2B marketers consistently produce engaging content?
4. What are best practices for deploying content marketing in B2B organizations?
Is B2B Marketing Content Being Used?
According to a report on Content Marketing from IDC up to 80% of marketing-generated content is never used! And much of our content is developed specifically for sales teams to use in the customer buying process. Now think about all the money spent by B2B firms on content.
The report also states that as much of 20% of the total sales and marketing budget can be saved by implementing more effective content marketing techniques. Marketers can help deliver higher profitability and lower the cost of sales by focusing on producing better content and making sure it is deployed and used by sales teams.
What Is The Biggest Challenge To Producing Effective Content?
In Using Content Marketing to Understand Your B2B Audience, author Adam Q. Holden-Bache provides a clear answer: in order to meet the needs of our buyers, we need to map our content to their buying stage or sales funnel.
- In the awareness stage we need to help our customers understand and name their problem.
- In the consideration stage we need to help them understand that there are solutions to their problem and subtly let them know that our company can help.
- In the evaluation stage we need to help them compare us to the competition. Sooo many companies make this hard on the customer but the company that makes it easy will win more business. Visible pricing and a clear comparison of features is cited most often as the biggest B2B content gaps.
- In the purchase phase, it is all about selling points and trust: customer references, case studies and other proof points, special promotions, security and support details will all help the customer realize that they can trust you with their hard-earned cash to solve their problem
How Can B2B Marketers Consistently Produce Engaging Content?
According to David Meerman Scott, we need to stop talking about ourselves and start delivering value to our customers. He suggests we focus on the audience we are trying to reach and segment them into "buyer personas."
Add in the buying stage component and I couldn’t agree more.
So what’s the magic formula? I suggest:
- Speak to all the different types of customers you are targeting.
- Define their needs based on their unique buying journey.
- Use their words. Keyword research and website SEO metrics are great ways to see what actual words and terms customers use.
- Deliver content to each type of customer for each stage.
- Rinse and repeat!
What Are Best Practices in B2B Content Marketing Deployment?
Effective B2B content marketing programs start by understanding customer needs. The best practices I have seen work in successful content marketing programs include:
- Focusing On The Customer. I suggest marketers go on sales calls and speak to customers as often as possible. Great content meets customer needs. When content aligns to customer needs using the customer’s own words, magic happens!
- Creating An Editorial Calendar. Successful organizations have rallied around a content editorial calendar and delivery process that is approved by all stakeholders such as sales, support, partners, and the web channel team.
- Defining Process and Delivery. Once great content is created, marketing needs to go that next step to make the content easy to find and access. Sales portals and other technology like Content Management Systems (CMS), CRM, salesforce.com and marketing automation systems must map to a clearly defined delivery process so the expected content is available when and where it’s needed.
- Centralizing Content. Content “tagging” and a company-wide “information architecture” are extremely important to enable content to find its way into the hands of customers and sales teams. Only through a centralized program can this be defined, governed and implemented.
- Gathering Feedback and Results. Marketing is too often measured on deliverables and quantity such as number of pieces of content developed. Effective B2B Content Marketing doesn’t stop at production and delivery. Remember that the 80/20 rule often applies, meaning that 80% of content that does actually get used, doesn’t produce results. So marketers need to find out what worked and why and then build that into the next round of content iterations.
I’m not perfect! What have I missed? Comment below and you can help me create better content too!
*Image credit: Wordle
About the author: Michael Brenner is a Sr. Director of Marketing for SAP. He is the author of B2B Marketing Insider and co-founder of Business2Community.com. Michael has been working in marketing for over 17 years in various roles where he has used customer insights to drive sales, ROI and customer loyalty through effective sales and marketing strategies. Follow Michael on Twitter: @BrennerMichael