POSTED : May 11, 2015
BY : Liam O'Connor

Three building blocks for B2B marketers

B2B marketers are learning from B2C and incorporating content marketing as a strategic lever in their marketing approach.  This trend is moving fast – according to The Content Council, content marketing represented 13% of total marketing budgets two years ago, but will account for 33% by 2017.  “Content science” is helping to drive this.  In future blogs, we’ll dig deep into 3 P’s of “content science:”

  • Platforms: The explosion of platforms and best of breed point solutions for the development, management, distribution and measurement of marketing content – there is an entire industry ecosystem around this, as evidenced by Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.
  • Personalization: We have seen some type of strategic enterprise “personalization” initiative underway for the vast majority of our clients. What that means for each company varies, but basically involves using customer data and insights to contextualize and deliver valuable content at the right time in the customer’s buying journey or brand relationship.
  • Predictive: B2B intent data is “the next big thing” with a number of highly innovative companies using advanced predictive analytics and data science to drive step change improvements in customer targeting, pipeline conversion, sales productivity and customer retention.

While these trends in “content science” will absolutely usher in major improvements in the efficiency, effectiveness and measurability of content strategy efforts, companies that win in this space must still cut through the noise with a few “back to the basics” building blocks.

First, companies must actually document their content strategy.  According to Marketing Profs 2015 Content Marketing Benchmarks, only 35% of content marketers have a documented strategy.  Compared to content marketers with no content strategy, those with a documented strategy are 8x more likely to rate themselves as effective content marketers and 7x more successful at tracking ROI.  Interestingly, those with no strategy report significantly more major content initiatives (10 vs. 6) planned for launch in the next 12 months.  A key element of any good strategy is clearly defining what you won’t do.

Once you have a documented strategy, you can be clear which business results you are driving (those without a strategy are about 2x more likely to be challenged with measuring content effectiveness).  We have seen different approaches work to build a compelling case for ROI of content marketing – no single approach applies to all objectives and business contexts.  One framework from Ryan Skinner of Forrester categorizes four major areas of measurable business impact:

  1. More efficient planning, production and publishing of content (people spend) – Unilever credits this with saving $10 million annually;
  2. More efficiency in media spend – Kraft Food stated it gets 4x better ROI on content marketing than targeted advertising;
  3. Improved value and conversions at each stage of buyer journey, and
  4. Stronger brand differentiation, resulting in improved preference and consideration.

Second, brands must have a clear narrative.  The trend toward “story-telling” is big in B2B Marketing with some firms going as far as having a Chief Storyteller position (for example, Julie Roehm at SAP) and many hiring former senior journalists as strategic editors as the business model shifts toward that of a publisher (see Ann Handley’s article on brand journalism). Laura Ramos of Forrester cited storytelling as one of the most critical gaps for B2B marketers today.  A skill literally as old as time, storytelling and clear narrative become a rudder to help firms navigate the content storms for their sector.

Lastly, firms should look for innovative ways to differentiate their content in a way that fits their brand and audience. Here are two examples. Marketo, the marketing automation vendor, knew their audience: marketers who love to have fun and play.  So, they created The Big Marketing Coloring Activity Book.  It was published in 2011 to critical acclaim, and still drives thousands of views per week.  This type of large form, bold anchor content pieces average about $500k in ROI for Marketo.

Taulia, a cloud-based provider of invoice and payment management solutions, launched a series of low budget, humorous videos (with cheeky campaign title) which appealed to the human side of their audience: accountants, finance professionals and payments managers.  These videos touched 45% of all close-won deals and influenced more than $100 million in revenue, and have driven up site traffic by 28%.

Companies will be increasingly looking to drive personalization through advanced platforms and cutting edge analytics, but those that do so with a sound content strategy, clear narrative and differentiated content will accelerate their results.

If you have specific questions related to your business and modern marketing, contact PK.

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