Just 30% of B2B marketers rated themselves as "effective" at content marketing in 2015. That's down from 38% the previous year, according to Content Marketing Institute's and MarketingProfs' joint Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.
And the content output for brands increased 35% from its highest to lowest points in 2015, but engagement with that content fell, on average, 17%, TrackMaven found.
So what gives? Why do you hear everyone trumpeting content as "king," but just a few companies experience great results?
It doesn't happen for the reasons you think. For example, you hear arguments about inconsistent publishing, inability to measure, overproduction, hyping features and benefits, or following "build it and they will come" as a strategy.
Those reasons do contribute to B2B content marketing ineffectiveness. But there are other reasons that harm your B2B marketing's lead generation power.
Check out the following tactics to try—or to avoid.
1. Do buyers act to avoid pain—or to get a benefit?
Buyers act in both situations. But does one approach work better than the other? According to Dan Kennedy, perhaps the most legendary copywriter of all time, prospects act more often to avoid pain.
Describing his "PAS" (problem—agitation—solution) copywriting formula, he writes in his The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost your Sales.: "When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you'll understand how powerful this first formula is. It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented."
2. Don't limit your marketing exclusively to discussion of business benefits
As a B2B marketer, you know how much buyers love to hear about the business benefits your product or service delivers. You're spot-on when using that approach.
But you can turbo-boost your effectiveness even more with a simple change. According to research by Kapost, B2B buyers consider "personal value" twice as much as "business value."
3. Don't waste your time trying to look like a thought leader
Nearly every B2B company wants to be the "thought leader" when discussing its vision of content marketing. But thought leadership does little to influence B2B decision makers to buy from you. Research from CEB Global published at Harvard Business Review supports that contention.
To influence buyers' decision making, you need to teach them something new about their business. And you must give them a compelling reason to change their behavior from what they currently do.
You can work on making yourself a "thought leader," but you have to adjust your definition of what that means.
4. Gate your content at the right time
Much debate surrounds gating—whether you should or shouldn't do it. You need to "soft-gate." And you have lots of opinions to choose from.
What's the research say? Start by not gating everything: 75% of tech buyers say they're less likely to consider a vendor that gates all content, according to research by LinkedIn.
In a recent webinar that discussed the latest shifts in B2B buying behavior, Demand Gen Report's director of marketing programs, John Dering, said gating works best near the bottom of the funnel, with content like case studies. Closer to the top, with content like whitepapers, gating doesn't work as well, he advised.
5. Give your buyer content at a key time
Most B2B companies excel at delivering large quantities of content to buyers before they purchase. Though important, that doesn't take into consideration that 80% of B2B buyers "said it was important or very important to receive ongoing content after they have made a purchase," according to Eccolo Media's 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report.
What do buyers want post-sale? The following:
- Thought leadership content (36%)
- Technical support/updates (30%)
- New product information (25%)
- Customer stories (9%)
6. How much should you personalize your B2B content?
That same research by CEB Group, posted at Harvard Business Review, took a look at personalization in content and found an inverse relationship between B2B content personalization and sales: "the greater the personalization of content for each member of a purchase group that must reach consensus, the lower the likelihood of a 'quality sale.'"
It makes sense when you consider it: Focus your buyer too much on what's in it for them, and they lose sight of what's in it for the rest of the group; accordingly, consensus gets beat down and is much less likely to occur.
7. How well do you understand your buyer's process?
B2B buyers don't feel they get content relevant or aligned to their organizational objectives or buying process, according to a survey by IDG Connect. How big is the problem? 66% of surveyed buyers thought so.
Successful B2B content marketers map out each step of the buy cycle. Then they make a list of the questions buyers have at a specific step with content.
8. What content format do B2B buyers prefer?
Today, you hear all the clamor about video marketing, webinars, and podcasts. Those channels have their time and place, but do B2B buyers really want that type of content?
No, according to research by The Economist: 85% of surveyed executives actually preferred plain text to audio and video. So, no need to get fancy: Just give buyers the information they want.
* * *
Which of these approaches would most benefit your B2B audience right now?
Take the first step (it's free).
You may also like:
- Relationships, Relevance, and Content Marketing for Banks: Shondell Varcianna on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
- How 'Tangential Content' Can Elevate Your B2B Company's Link-Building
- How to Use Video for Every Stage of the Sales Funnel
- How to Make Product Videos That Actually Drive Sales (Article 1 of 3)
- Webinars vs. Podcasts: Are You Making the Right Choice? [Infographic]