Are you planning another blog series around your product’s latest bug fix? You might want to read this first... According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 B2B Content Marketing Study, only two-thirds of content marketing programs prioritize their audience’s informational needs over sales and promotional messaging. Yet, 88% of top-performing content marketing teams do prioritize those informational needs.
The message — while ironic — is clear; content marketers that put generating leads and conversions before the wants and needs of their users aren't seeing the results they want. With this in mind, we’ve turned to content marketing experts to learn what the focus of content marketing should be for B2B brands.
What’s the Primary Goal of Content Marketing?
While each organization may have slightly different opinions on what the primary goal of B2B content marketing is exactly, they all agree that it’s essential to focus on the customer rather than the company’s products or services. The thread that ties brand building, customer engagement, education, thought leadership and trust is an outward focus.
Olga Mykhoparkina, CMO at Chanty, suggests the “main purpose with content marketing is brand awareness.” She says their company began by trying to generate leads, but eventually found success by switching tactics and telling their brand story. The result was more attention from customers, getting noticed by news outlets, and interest from other companies to partner with them.
“In other words,” Mykhoparkina continued, “we didn’t bother trying to persuade anyone into trying out our product, we simply told a story about what happened to us.“ That’s why she believes the point of content marketing is for brand building and that storytelling plays a major role.
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“Content marketing is the heartbeat of customer engagement,” stated Dan Mahoney, CMO at Communications Strategy Group (CSG). He believes it’s more crucial now than ever before that content facilitates the customer journey and aligns with your sales strategy at the same time. It’s not enough to keep churning out content and hoping it sticks.
That’s why Mahoney suggests B2B brands ask themselves, “is [our content] driving engagement, and if so, what’s the effectiveness of that engagement?” Engagement is the key to producing better content that works harder and gets tangible results.
“B2B content marketing is all about making it easier for buyers to learn,” suggested Adrian Cohn, director of brand strategy and communications at Smartling. The challenge for B2B brands, however, is convincing all stakeholders involved in the decision-making process from business executives to managers across departments. “When you educate others through content,” Cohn continued, “you are making a statement about the brand and its promise to the marketplace.” That means content marketing is an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s unique perspective to new and existing customers in a scalable way.
Zev Brodsky, content marketing manager of Perimeter 81, believes content marketing is crucial for thought leadership. “Thought leadership can provide the opportunity to present your organization's leaders as industry experts in your field,” he suggested. In the long run, this may be more valuable than “quick wins” like PPC and other outbound strategies. “My advice is that you educate your manager with the long-game strategy and how content and thought leadership pieces are an investment that concludes with great rewards,” said Brodsky. That’s the best way to gather buy-in for producing thought leadership content that your audience can connect with.
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Natalia Chrzanowska, senior content marketing specialist at Netguru, thinks trust should be at the core of any content marketing strategy. “Trust plays an important role in bringing in new business, but also keeping existing clients,” she added. Along with engaging in your brand’s industry and community, there are many strategies to build trust through content. “However,” Chrzanowska continued, “building trust is an ongoing and complex process, which requires much effort in a number of areas.” One area is building social proof through case studies, references and testimonials from existing customers. Another is providing real expertise through content. “Prospects seek advice from professionals, not marketers,” she explained.
Revamp Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy in 2020
Generating leads is important. Maybe even the most important thing a marketer can do. But the experts we've spoken to, and the studies we've cited, indicate that lead generation should not guide your content marketing strategy, the wants and needs of your audience should be doing that. “The strategic objectives of a content marketing strategy can range from establishing industry expertise and remaining top-of-mind to cross-selling,” said Mahoney. But each year B2B content marketing becomes more saturated as customers have less and less time to consume all the content and media being produced. That’s why it’s more crucial than ever to understand the primary objective of content marketing going forward.
“Now that content marketing programs have been in place for many companies for several years,” Mahoney warned, “2020 is going to be all about asking ‘will anyone miss our content if it were to go away tomorrow?’” If your content has been focused inward towards your products and services, it may be time to revamp your B2B content marketing strategy.