August 13, 2018

Getting Uncomfortable in B2B Marketing

By Celena Friday

Marketing has long been an exciting discipline. Marketing is a buzzword that immediately conjures up feelings of excitement and potentially distrust depending on what side of the aisle in a business you are sitting on (Communications, Sales depts, etc.). One doesn’t just go to school for Marketing, get good grades and graduate ready for action. The best marketers I know have listened and learned from all they interact with – prospects, customers, sales, marketing and communications experts, friends and family. Why? Because this is not a discipline where you can learn it all and apply a formula for immediate results.

It requires a true marketer to have humility, get uncomfortable and flex. By that I mean, test and learn constantly, fail fast and get better, always absorbing new trends and strategies and seeing what works for your unique audience.

Marketing is understanding the marketing mix concept of the 4 P’s inside and out (Price, Product, Promotion, and Place). Then, expanding this knowledge to know your audience better than anyone else by carefully listening, learning and collaborating with them. Once you succeed at this, you can establish a content strategy. Yes, content strategy is another popular buzzword these days. So, how do you begin? Understand YOUR customer.

Content Marketing is huge. According to a 2017 CMI survey presented at the ICC (Intelligent Content Conference), 92% of marketers said their organization sees content as a critical asset. But, interestingly enough, only 30% of B2B companies see their content marketing as effective.

So, get ahead of the curve. Here is your punch list:

  • Strategy: Develop a strategy for managing your company’s content and how you use it. Try to start simply and build upon it. Define your top three to five wins.
  • Know Your Audience: Know your audience’s pain points and triggers. This will aid you in developing relevant content that resonates with your audience. You wouldn’t share the same content with a c-suite exec that you would share with an operations manager at the same company, would you?
  • Content Plan: Once you’ve developed your content plan and key topics, it’s time to apply your strategy.  Understand who is most likely to help your company grow…Is it an influencer or advocate in a company that can help open doors but does not hold the budget? Is it a decision maker responsible for their own budget or potentially an executive that can help you get into the consideration set from the top down? Don’t spend all of your time creating a strategy for your entire prospect universe. Narrow your focus on buyer personas most likely to convert.
  • Content Atomization:  Now that you’ve identified all of the key topics of interest for your specific audience, take inventory of all of the content your company has that exists and develop content for the areas where you have gaps in those key content topics. But, wait, you aren’t done yet…The content that exists is likely a bit outdated, not in the right format, etc. So, it isn’t fit for purpose for your audience. So, take this content and based on your targeting, atomize and version this existing content out into simple and digestible content types. For example, at the top of the sales funnel, in an effort to drive awareness and excite your audience, you could create an interactive infographic with lots of engaging stats to grab their attention. Next, you’ve gotten their attention, so you want to expand on this and educate your audience with quality content. This could be taking that teaser awareness content and expanding it into a short 1:30 explainer video. Finally, you’ve successfully nurtured that prospect through the sales funnel and want to get them to convert. You can take the same content theme and develop a digital case study and/or detailed executive brief that allows you to provide them targeted messaging while providing solid ‘air cover’ and will aid your sales organization in the conversion effort.
  • Get Personal with your Audience: In B2B marketing, don’t lose sight of the fact that this is still all about people. What we know about our audience allows us to connect with them and apply our basic filter – the 3R’s: Reach, Relevance, and Resonance. The more we know about our audience, (location, work information, personal data, decision-making behaviors) the greater success we will experience in developing quality content at every stage of the buyer’s journey. We then use the data we collect to continuously inform our content strategy and improve our communication on landing pages, across social media, and even in Account-based marketing and lead-nurturing drip campaigns. Finally, know who your audience trusts. It often is their peers, not your brand. So, explore the opportunity to incorporate user-generated content into your strategy.
  • The Win: What is your Win?  How will you measure success? When you built out your strategy in step 1, you focus on the top three to five wins. How do you measure the success of your content strategy? If you develop 30 new pieces of content this year, is that a win? Likely not. It is certainly progress. But, the win is in knowing how that content created is deployed and if you are influencing your audience’s behavior to push them through the sales funnel.

Possible metrics could include:

  • Brand Awareness: Website traffic, page views, video views, document views, social comments, downloads
  • Engagement: Shares, forwards, likes, tweets, blog comments, (add share widgets to your content so it can be shared)
  • Lead Generation: Form completions, downloads, email subscriptions, click to call campaigns
  • Sales: Sales team feedback on marketing’s contribution to sale
  • Customer Retention/Loyalty: Retention and renewal rates, percentage of content used and shared by existing customers
  • Upsell/Cross-sell: Sales for new products and services

In closing, B2B marketers need to get uncomfortable to grow. Are you in? If you want to influence your audience’s behavior, try new things, have fun with it and learn and refine as you go. Your content isn’t to be consumed. It should be developed for action and should have intent. But, most importantly, the content should be valuable to your audience. Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is Intelligence having fun.” So, go forth, have some fun and get uncomfortable.