Tuesday, October 05, 2010

B2B Companies are Really Content Companies, But is Content Publishing Enough?

With the Internet, B2B buyers have access to more information than ever. As a result, most buyers have taken charge of the buying cycle, engaging with sales representatives later and later. Buyers are clearly in control, and marketers are scrambling to address this power shift.

As a result, Internet fueled buying cycles have required B2B marketers to deliver more content and tools over more and more channels to actively engage ever more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyers.

"Publish or perish" is the defining tag-line driving many new B2B marketing strategies. How important is content marketing becoming to B2B marketers? Research by Junta42 & MarketingProfs indicates that:
  • 9 of 10 B2B marketers leverage content marketing as part of their marketing programs, with marketers using eight content tactics on average. The most popular tactics are social media (excluding blogs) (79%), articles (78%), in-person events (62%) and eNewsletters (61%).
  • 51% of B2B marketers are increasing their spending in content marketing over the next 12 months
  • Over a quarter of the total marketing and communications budget now goes toward content marketing
Content Marketing Driving Results?
However, although content is required, the increased spending and content marketing efforts are not driving desired results.

The good news is that today's buyer wants to be engaged, with 9 out of 10 actively relying on vendor provided information on their way to making a purchase decision. Using this content, buyers are taking control of the buying cycle from direct / channel sales, making the content that marketing delivers more important than ever in driving shorter sales cycles and increasing the number and value of transactions.

Unfortunately, most of today's buyers suffer from Information Overload as a result of current "carpet bombing" marketing strategies. Today's buyers have more sources of information than ever including traditional, on-line and social media sources. For example, the typical buyer receives over 20 e-mail marketing messages a week, up 32% over the past 4 years. Worse, the information is often not customized for the buyer, and is viewed as irrelevant "noise". Instead of being engaged, buyers are now inundated with more meaningless product information and offers than ever before, creating "marketing fatigue".

Content Marketing Challenges
As a result, many of the survey participants indicated their number one challenge is producing enough engaging content (36%), content which enables marketers to break through the clutter to make a meaningful connection and have a compelling dialogue with a prospect.
 
As a result of investing significantly more on content marketing year over year, but struggling to overcome overloaded, skeptical and frugal buyers, the study indicated a large “confidence gap” in which marketers use tactics but are unsure of how effective they are. Return on investment in content marketing is not assured.
 
The Bottom-Line
With so much being invested in content marketing, the question any B2B marketer needs to ask - Are your content marketing efforts adding to the clutter, or engaging with prospects to advance the buying cycle?
 
The current tactic of producing more and more content is unsustainable. Marketers cannot keep up, and buyers are overloaded and not being engaged effectively.
 
Interactive Smart Content(tm) is one of the keys in helping to overcome marketing fatigue and produce engaging content. This intelligent content customizes presentations for each individual user. Using an interactive profile, the buyer indicates key information that differentiates their needs. Simple profile information such as industry, location and size can be used to promote relevant case studies.
 
Research from MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm, proves that targeted / personalized content is more effective, viewed by buyers as more valuable in the decision making process when customized for Industry (82% more effective), Role/job function (67%), Company size (49%), and Geography (29%).
 
However, today's more skeptical / frugal buyer is harder to engage, and more interactive and advanced profiling is needed:, for example:
  • A survey of pain points can help determine which solutions and features to highlight;
  • A survey of current solutions can drive content to make the case for change and quantify the cost of doing nothing;
  • Understanding current issues can help tune and quantify the value proposition;
  • The role and stage in the buying cycle can help determine what call to action / next steps are recommended.
Creating content that is dynamic, adaptive and personalized in real time, fundamentally changes the way content attracts and engages buyers. Delivering interactive white papers, executive assessment tools, and calculators can deliver the customized content that buyers demand. With this interactive smart content, buyers know they will receive personalized advice and are more likely to engage, while marketers know customized content will be more effective at generating qualified leads, and educating buyers to accelerate the buying cycle.
 
Source:
http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2010/09/b2b-content-marketing/
2010 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, American Business Media, Business Marketing AssociationJunta42 and MarketingProfs surveyed over 1,100 North American B2B marketers from diverse industries and a wide range of company sizes. Published: September 15, 2010

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