If you’re like me and love getting your hands on the latest research into B2B content marketing, you should check out these three reports:
- B2B Content Marketing Trends 2012 – produced by Holger Schulze and sponsored by IDG Enterprise
- B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs
- Customer Engagement: The Role of Content in the IT Purchase Process by IDG Enterprise
While each of them provides terrific insights on their own, I find the real value in comparing how B2B marketers are approaching content marketing and how prospective buyers are consuming and using it.
What it takes to keep prospects engaged
You may have heard recent surveys showing that the enterprise B2B sales cycle has shortened. This is likely because prospects are holding vendors at arm’s length until later in the cycle (making the cycle look compressed from the vendor’s viewpoint).
Regardless of how you measure the sales (or buying) cycle, buyers need to conduct their due diligence before making a purchase decision. And that means they want to find the information that addresses their questions throughout the process. To address the needs of an often large number of participants in the purchase decision – representing different areas and interests across a company – marketers need to produce content tailored for different roles and satisfying a range of questions.
In fact, the IDG report shows that an average of 9 information assets are downloaded during the purchase process. And the average IT decision maker consumes 5 pieces of content before being ready to speak to a sales rep.
It’s no surprise that the CMI report showed the biggest challenge for B2B marketers is producing enough content. At the same time, it makes sense that the B2B marketers who feel their content marketing efforts are most effective are the ones who produce more content types and assets, and tailor their content to the decision-maker profile.
Yet according to the B2B Content Marketing Trends 2012 report, a majority of companies still segment mainly by product or service.
Want to follow in the footsteps of those who are pleased with the effectiveness of their content? Start by developing buyer personas.
Aligning goals with strategy
While the ultimate goal of content is to drive a purchase, each content asset should be tied to an incremental goal based on where it falls in the buying cycle. Interestingly, the B2B Content Marketing Trends 2012 survey found that thought leadership/market education is the second highest goal after lead generation.
Thought leadership means different things depending on whom you ask. Too often, I see companies defining thought leadership as a white paper or other piece of content that simply summarizes the latest industry research, or that shows they’re up to speed on their customers' industries and understand their pain points, goals, etc. That's not thought leadership -- that's table stakes. If a company didn't have that understanding, it wouldn't be in business.
Thought leadership isn’t just a goal you assign to a set piece of content. It’s a program and initiative that involves a dedicated focus, process, framework, and research that leads to innovative or visionary ideas or insights. So if your company has set this as a goal, make sure it has everything in place to truly deliver on it.
For additional insights on the IDG Enterprise Customer Engagement report, check out Ardath Albee’s post.
What’s your take on these latest research findings?
Pie chart image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net