Will 2017 be the year that B2B marketers finally move beyond the lead-gated PDF as their primary lead-generation tool? Pretty please? 

If you’re a B2B marketer relying on the same old traditional campaign tactics that were successful in years past, you are falling short of your customer’s expectations. B2B buyers not only expect compelling content relevant to their specific needs, but are also increasingly turned off by campaigns that fail to speak to their unique areas of interest. 

This should come as no surprise. 

As consumers, we demand more engagement as well as more conversational and authentic experiences. And at the core of every B2B buyer is a regular consumer living in a highly digital, connected world, who expects engaging and dynamic marketing specifically targeted to them.

Rather than bombarding buyers with poorly targeted content, savvy B2B marketers are focusing their efforts on creating more buyer-centric, interesting, engaging experiences.

Below, we explore three strategies which are helping B2B marketers break through the noise and reach their prospects more efficiently.

1. Better Persona Mapping

Each type of buyer is unique in what they need throughout the buyer’s journey. Depending on how complex your buying cycle is, many people are likely involved in the purchase of your product. 

Marketers have long focused on mapping content to buyer personas, and separately mapping content and campaigns against stages in the buyer journey. While this has worked in the past, to create the kind of message resonance our buyers expect we need to push further.  

We need to create a three dimensional map that plots content type against funnel stage and buyer persona. For example: In a complex sale involving the CFO, you might discover the CFO's only gets involved at the end of the purchase process and likely will not engage before then.

As a result, the content you deliver needs to reflect the late stage of the purchase process and account for the possibility the CFO hasn't consumed your other materials.

Matching the right content type with the right buyer requires pulling out each buyer persona and mapping the messages they need and the formats that best suit each stage — awareness, consideration and decision. Then you can plot out what content you have against each persona at different points in the funnel, giving you a map for what gaps you have in your content. 

To ensure a positive buying outcome, fulfill every need throughout the lifecycle stages. By identifying and mapping your different buyer personas, you can create clear and concise content that reaches your target audience directly.

2. Targeting and Personalization

Targeting and personalization help to create a mutually-beneficial dialogue with your audience. A recent study by EverString and Ascend2 (pdf) reported personalizing the customer experience and targeting individual market segments were top priorities for the companies surveyed.

Learning Opportunities

One way to personalize your buyers' experiences is by incorporating interactive content into campaigns, ditching the one-size-fits-all approach and guiding potential customers through a targeted journey based on their unique preferences and interests. 

A good example of this are interactive infographics, which create a visual story to help engage, educate and inform your audience. By asking questions as the user navigates through the infographic, you can turn an information consumption experience into one in which the user is also providing information about themselves.

Connecting this experience into your marketing automation platform means you learn more about your buyer as they engage with the content. In return, they receive content better suited to their needs based on what you learn about them. 

3. Expand Beyond the White Paper 

Most B2B marketers still struggle to land enough qualified leads. 

Developing relevant, engaging content to help guide the user throughout the buyer’s journey is more important than ever. But marketers remain trapped in the “white paper, ebook, success story, repeat” cycle. 

If your 2017 content plan only includes these static content deliverables, you need to expand your horizons. The era of the lead-gated PDF as a driver of scale leads is coming to an end. Forward thinking marketers are launching new approaches, such as using the product trial to qualify leads, updates to freemium strategies and creating “owned” communities of interest, among others.  

An increasing number of marketers are turning to interactive content to create more dynamic experiences with buyers. Leveraging content that is visually interesting, delivers value to the reader, and creates engagement is allowing marketers to better qualify leads faster, deliver only the right leads to sales at the right time, and accelerate pipeline development. 

Experiences with Results 

Through effective persona mapping, better targeting, and expanding your content types, B2B marketers deliver more personalized, engaging experiences to their targeted buyers — and they've seen the results. 

Integrating the above recommendations into your marketing strategy will help you achieve more impactful relationships with your buyers and reach your overall marketing goals more effectively in the year ahead.

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