What Are B2B Consumers Really Thinking?

B2B marketing communication

It’s no secret that at the center of any great B2B marketing communication strategy stands quality content.

According to recent data from Spiralytics, 91 percent of B2B businesses use content marketing today. (A big “yikes” if you are part of that 9 percent who has not caught on yet.)

But, to be clear, that does not mean 91 percent of companies are creating good content. As you surely know, there is a huge difference between creating content...and creating high-quality, valuable content for your audience. 

The latter is data-driven, guided by insights that inform you about exactly what subjects matter most to your customers and the best formats to deliver it to them. The latter has no strategy behind it. Keeping a company blog simply because you know you need one is a waste of time. Yes, you should be putting out content on a regular basis. But if that content does not resonate with the audience you are working to convert into customers, then you are missing the point. 

Admittedly, tapping into the mindset of your target customer to understand what kinds of content they want from you is not easy. Which is why the ReachForce team put together this post detailing the ins and outs of creating best-in-class content for your B2B customers. 

To start, let’s first answer an important question:

Why is Content Such an Important Aspect of B2B Marketing Communication?

Based on that Spiralytics data from earlier, almost everyone knows that creating content is important. But, if you were to ask a room full of marketers, “Why?”, chances are good that quite a few would not have a straight answer for you. 

So, to clarify, here is what quality, data-driven content does for your company in the eyes of B2B consumers:

#1. Boosts Brand Awareness

Whether you are promoting a revolutionary new product or going head-to-head against a sea of competitors in an age-old industry, the same basic truth holds:

You need customers. 

In the past, that meant expensive ad campaigns with your name plastered on billboards and TV commercials. In today’s modern, digital marketing environment, B2B marketing communication now focuses on adding value online through useful, interesting content. Publishing blogs, posting videos, and hosting webinars are ways for you to prove to your customers that you understand their business and can add value. The more of that high-quality content you create, the more potential customers become aware of your brand.

#2. Engages Your Sales Pipeline

Here is another fact from the Spiralytics report that you will find interesting:

47 percent of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson at your company. 

So, not only has content taken the place of traditional marketing platforms like billboards and TV ads; it has also started replacing your sales team. Both B2B and B2C consumers want the opportunity to conduct their own research on your company and competitors before taking the next step and speaking with a representative. It is in this way that content marketing serves both you and your audience: customers benefit from getting the information they need to make informed decisions on vendors while you benefit from being the one controlling that information.

B2B marketing communication

But, it is not just new customers that content serves...

#3. Helps Retain Customers

Great content can be an incredible tool for client retention, too. Most marketers today recognize that retaining and upselling existing customers is significantly more affordable than generating new ones. By catering content towards the needs of your existing customers, you are creating a valuable churn prevention tool that sales and customer success teams can leverage to help protect your company’s baseline. 

Of course, creating all of this content takes quite a bit of work. Gathering data for insights, generating content ideas, and actually producing quality content often requires the attention of a few full-time marketers. But, the good news is that the more good content you create, the easier it becomes to create even better content. Why?

Because each piece of content you publish helps gather new insights into your audience that you can use to inform future content decisions. 97 percent of B2B consumers prefer prescriptive content — blogs, videos, and other types of content tailored to them based on demographic or behavioral data. By collecting and collating data through a good data management platform, marketers like you can better understand what your audience wants to see from your B2B marketing communications. 

What Types of Content Resonate with B2B Consumers?

While the subjects of your content will obviously vary based on your industry and target customer, it is important to understand on a broader level the types of content audiences want to see. 

As mentioned above, prescriptive content is absolutely critical. Consumers want content that helps them solve a specific problem they face in their business. And if you are collecting customer data in your data management solution, understanding those problems comes from analyzing insights from that data. 

(In a previous post on the ReachForce blog, we took a deep dive into how to use your marketing data to choose content topics.) 

But, it is not just the subject matter of your content that matters; the format is important, too. In today’s digital marketing environment where consumers are increasingly consuming content on the go, creating fast, easily digestible content can be a huge differentiator in whether anyone consumes it or not. Videos and short, scannable blog posts generally do well. But you will also want some long-form content to align with customers who are further down in your sales cycle and therefore more invested in researching your business. 

Depending on where you see content fitting into your customer journey, you may try using any of the following content types:

  • Blog posts
  • Video tutorials/demos
  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Industry studies

Now that you know why it's important to determine the types of content that work best for audiences, let’s look at what you can do to boost the quality of your content today:

How to Improve the Quality of Your Content

According to the 2018 data from Spiralytics, the following tips can help improve your content quality and establish your company as a thought leader in your industry.

#1. Be data-driven.

Prescriptive content is by nature data-driven. Choosing topics and formats should not be a guessing game — you should be looking at historical data on customer behavior and activity to inform future content decisions. If your webinars have a notoriously low ROI, don’t continue conducting webinars (well, before you abandon them, maybe check out this blog post to breathe some life into your online courses). 

Being data-driven within your content also makes a big difference in establishing your authority as a thought leader. Making broad generalizations and offering anecdotal advice is a hard sell for B2B consumers — especially if you are still in the early stages of establishing your B2B marketing communications strategy. Do your research and add interesting, relevant data points to your content whenever possible.

#2. Skip the sales speak.

It is so tempting as a content marketer to want to guide customers toward your product or service through your content. And it makes complete sense why: you are investing all this time and effort into generating high-quality content and want to ensure you will see some ROI. It is natural to think putting a sales pitch into your content is the way to make that happen, but unfortunately, that is not the case. 

B2B consumers can smell a sales pitch from miles away and if your content comes across as overtly “salesy,” you are going to end up steering people further away from your brand — not bringing them closer. While it is certainly okay to mention your solution in a blog post, the content should be truly educational and a value-add for your audience at its core. Trust us: doing so pays dividends in the long-term.

#3. Be consistent in publishing.

Creating one piece of viral content might get you 15 minutes of internet fame. But, if you are not putting out high-quality content on a consistent basis, then your audience will go elsewhere for the information they need. And more than likely, that means your competitors. 

Establishing a cadence through a content marketing calendar is a smart idea for any team looking to get the ball rolling. Start out small and don’t overcommit — it is better to do a podcast once a month than say you are going to do it every week and consistently miss deadlines. And keep in mind, all of the content does not need to come from you. In fact, according to Spiralytics, a good chunk should come from influencers and industry leaders...

#4. Leverage your community for quality thought leadership.

If you are starting a brand new blog, it will inevitably take some time to generate awareness and build a reputation as a thought leader. But one of the easiest ways to expedite that process is to get an already-established industry leader creating content for you. Sure, you will probably need to pay people in the beginning, but as your blog gains a following and solidifies its reputation, you can institute guest blogging exchanges with other influencers. 

#5. Promote, promote, promote. 

You cannot just publish content and then sit back and wait for the views to come in. You need to actively promote your work through as many channels as possible. Social media is an important platform for content promotion, but even within those tools, it is important to get creative. Customer data can play a key role in your social media strategy (check out this blog post to learn more). 

Which is why making sure you have a platform that helps you maintain high-quality customer data is so important.

ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems. We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization, and predictive marketing better. Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.

To learn more about how ReachForce can help you optimize demand generation and your impact on revenue, get your free trial today.

B2B Marketing

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