How to Overcome the Four Main Challenges in B2B Content Marketing

How to Overcome the Four Main Challenges in B2B Content Marketing
Savvy Guest - Mon Feb 21, 2011 @ 07:00AM
Comments: 24

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 Content_Marketing_Today.jpgby 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, 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 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

Comments: 24


1. Bob Scheier   |  my website   |   Mon Feb 21, 2011 @ 10:18AM

Great post -- couldn't agree more on need to focus content on various parts of buying cycle....and your figures of 80% of marketing content never being used shows how much room there is for improvement.

The elephant in the room, as I see it, is where do companies find the TIME to do this, with everyone stretched thin already? Until we devote the time and money to do it, none of this can happen and we'll stay stuck with ineffective ad-hoc efforts. As a sole proprietor, feel like I'm guilty of that myself...

Good post, thanks.


2. Michael Brenner  |  my website   |   Mon Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:28AM

Hi Bob! And thanks for the comment and support. I think you really hit the nail on the head. It's not that we don't *want* to do the right thing. We all do.

It just comes down to the time it takes and sometimes the extra efforts. As a sole proprietor, time is not something you have to give. This could be a case where outside help might be the answer because the extra time and focus will save some extra cash.

All comes down to helping meet the customer needs better and reaping the rewards in ROI. And you probably have a long list of items you would like to outsource. So then it's about priority.

No easy task for sure but could be well worth it.

3. Doug Kessler – B2B Velocity  |  my website   |   Tue Feb 22, 2011 @ 06:04AM

Great post. The Editorial Calendar is definitely critical – we find it's all to easy to go the ad hoc route. Then you look up six months later and realize you haven't hit the killer issues.

4. Michael Brenner  |  my website   |   Tue Feb 22, 2011 @ 08:47AM

Thanks Doug! And I completely agree with you on the editorial calendar once the process of speaking to a customer is complete. So once we understand what the big customer pains are, you've got to map out the plan to deliver.

5. Margaret Molloy  |  my website   |   Tue Feb 22, 2011 @ 12:14PM

Michael: Strong post and comments.

I'd add a challenge that I've seen many well intentioned marketers struggle with is the temptation to make every step too complex and nuanced. Inability to overcome this hurdle paralysis them and consumes precious time. The 80/20 rule can be an elegant solution for every step in the process outlined above.

I've also found it helpful to suggest that we "market test" a content idea and then refine. This approach gives comfort to those who strives for elusive perfection and builds momentum and action as wells as feedback data. Thanks

6. John Oliver Coffey  |  my website   |   Tue Feb 22, 2011 @ 04:15PM

Thanks for the post Michael.

To the point about 'Feedback and Results' I would suggest that goal oriented traffic analysis is an essential facet of content marketing. Not only does it tie back neatly to the SEO parts of the equation but it can give very important information about engagement and loyalty (nebulous) as well as more measurable metrics such as newsletter signups, white paper downloads, leads, transactions and customer acquisition costs.

The usual caveats about analysis paralysis apply and on this subject I row in behind @MargaretMolloy and the 80/20 club.


7. Michael Brenner  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 23, 2011 @ 05:27AM

@Margaret: you make a great point. We need to fight complexity at every step and 80/20 analysis is exactly the way I've tackled this in the past. Thanks for making this point.

@John I think you make it a quorom. Thanks!

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