Named #1 content marketing blog 3 times by Content Marketing Institute, TopRank Marketing is dedicated to helping marketers understand content marketing. TopRank Marketing helps companies grow brand visibility, reach and revenue online.
Is your content audience-centric?
“Of course it is!” Says the hypothetical person I just made up. “We do intensive research for all our content. We look at questions our audience is asking, we hit up SEMrush and BuzzSumo...our content is all about our audience!”
Here’s the big question:
Beyond learning about your brand, which will enrich their lives in many exciting ways, what is your consumer getting out of your content?
Creating or deepening a brand relationship can’t be the only reason your content exists. Raising brand awareness can’t be the only reason your content exists. That’s not audience-centric content. People will quickly realize that and move on.
Most marketers want to offer a genuine value exchange to our consumers. We’re not shriveled-hearted gargoyles trying to trick people into paying attention to us.
But it’s easy to think you’re putting the audience first, when it’s really the brand in the spotlight.
What follows are four questions that marketers commonly ask when creating content. These questions are crucial to content strategy — I’m not saying to throw them out. But let’s follow each one up with a question designed to center the content on the consumer.
Four New Questions to Ask for Audience-Centric Content
Make these new questions part of your content planning process, before you blog a single word or create a single promotional tweet. The answers will vary depending on your industry, your audience and their goals. It’s the asking that will help keep the balance between customer and brand-centered content.
1. Earning Attention
We Ask: “How can we get people’s attention?”
One of the fundamental challenges of modern content marketing is simply getting anyone to look at the content. People are distracted; every brand is creating content, and most of it is pretty good. Amplification is at least half of the battle for any content marketing.
We Should ALSO Ask: “How can we reward people’s attention?”
Note this is not the same as “what message about our brand should people take away from this content.” This is the promise your content makes to the consumer. What new skill, new idea, or more efficient way of polishing billiard balls are you giving them?
And yes, I know, this is content marketing 101 stuff. But it’s something that’s easy to lose sight of — the fundamental value exchange at the heart of content marketing. Make it part of your content planning. Add it to your template: “What promise are we making, and how are we fulfilling it?”
2. The Next Step
We Ask: “What action do we want people to take?”
Content marketing should inspire action. If we don’t know what next step we want people to take, we’re not marketing — we’re just publishing content for funsies. So this is a central question to content marketing that meets KPIs.
We Should ALSO Ask: “What action can we help people take?”
So a customer comes to your website, reads your latest asset, fills out a form, and gets on your mailing list. That’s a win for the brand. What constitutes a win for the customer? What is the next step in their personal development, professional development, or career path? How can your brand and your content help them take that next step?
For example: Our client Prophix, a finance software company, wanted to get the word out about their new PowerPoint integration functionality (brand goal). Together we helped address a bigger issue: Finance leaders need to give better presentations to have more influence in the company. We created a page where people can learn how to be better presenters. Instead of devoting the page to promoting Prophix’s new feature, we devoted it to making finance folks better at their jobs.
And here’s the kicker: All that audience-focused content led to stellar results for the brand goal, too.
3. The Purpose
We Ask: “How can we raise brand awareness?”
Familiarity with a brand is a big part of making a purchase decision. That’s especially true in B2B. Your family might take a chance on a new brand of soda, but your business likely wants a well-known, trusted name for a multi-million dollar purchase. For many of our clients, just getting their name in front of people, building awareness and credibility, is a big goal.
We Should ALSO Ask: “Why would people want to be aware of our brand?”
If you’re looking to establish a relationship with your customers, what are you bringing to that relationship? We can’t be the one who sits on the couch playing video games while the other person does all the cooking and cleaning.
What higher purpose makes your brand inspiring, uplifting, worthy of being aware of? Here’s your challenge: Write a secondary mission statement for the brand that doesn’t mention your product or service area at all. Before you try to raise awareness and build relationships, discover the values that will make your brand attractive.
4. The Long-Term GoalsWe Ask, “How do we define success for our marketing efforts?”
Measurement and optimization are the building blocks of exceptional marketing. We should always have a clear idea of what success looks like to measure against and optimize toward. That means establishing KPIs, the metrics to measure them, and benchmarks to compare progress. We use a combination of industry benchmark results from campaigns with similar clients for comparison purposes.
We Should ALSO ask: “How do we define success for our audience?”
This question ties in with the purpose question. It requires your brand to have values beyond your product offering, values that reach out to customers even outside of their brand interactions. If your company truly prizes your customers and is dedicated to helping them succeed, what does that success look like?
Think about what your marketing would look like if you had as strategic a plan for your audience as you do for your business. “This content will help them look great in front of their boss. This campaign will help build the confidence they need to get promoted. This content will put them on the executive track.”
Imagine measuring your audience success along with your content’s KPIs. Of course, we may not go as far as to stalk people on LinkedIn to see if our content is helping them… but plan your content as though you were.
Audience-Centered Content Gets Results
You don’t have to choose whether your content will serve your marketing goals or the customer’s needs. Best-answer content that puts the customer first will do more for your marketing goals than the most aggressively promotional content you can imagine.
Most marketers start off with an audience-focused mindset. But it’s easy to get caught up in promotion, in moving people through the funnel, and lose sight of what value you’re offering consumers in return.
Before you start the next content planning session, take a step back, ask these new questions, and confirm that you’re focused on your audience, rather than asking your audience to focus on you.
Learn how audience-focused content helped the SAP App Center boost engagement by 116%.
It’s time for B2B content marketers to stand out. You know it. I know it. We all know it.
But capturing attention in a crowded content room is hard to do, especially when content creation has seen the biggest uptick in spending among your fellow B2B content marketers. You can’t be subtle. You can’t be boring. But you also can’t be obnoxious; relevance and resonance are paramount. You have to accept and adapt to what your audience needs and wants at any given moment. It takes speed, flexibility, bold ideas, fearlessness, and more.
Where do you start? How about starting with a little inspiration and insight from industry leaders?
Below we have insights and advice from 12 marketing and customer experience leaders on how to stand out from the crowd and create content your audience can’t ignore.
12 Attention-Grabbing Tips from B2B Marketing Experts
1. Eliminate Gobbledygook
“Always remember that you are communicating to people. Eliminate innovative, cutting-edge, mission-critical, best-of-breed gobbledygook from your writing. Using the same inane language as everybody else ensures you are lost in the crowd.”
- David Meerman Scott, Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author, Freshspot Marketing
Follow David on Twitter or LinkedIn.
2. Show How You’re Different
“Show don’t tell. In order to create an engaging user experience on social platforms, you need to be able to show users something from their perspective not yours. You need to be able to reach into their heart, put your fingers around it, and feel the pulse beat. And video, when done right, can do just that.”
- Beverly Jackson, Vice President Social Portfolio Strategy, MGM Resorts International
Follow Beverly on Twitter or LinkedIn. For more insight from Beverly, read our complete interview with her.
3. Take a Stand
“Great content isn’t about platitudes. It’s about provocation. Incitement. Taking a stand and making your audience think in a new way. Giving the counter-argument to conventional wisdom. When we do that, we advance the dialogue, rather than diminish it.”
- Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer, Demandbase
Follow Peter on Twitter or LinkedIn.
4. Ignore Your Competitors
“Marketers need to stop placing so much emphasis on catching up or edging out their direct competitors. Customers don’t compare you to your competitors anymore—they compare you to other positive experiences they’ve had. If you keep chasing what your competitors are doing, you’re always a step behind. That’s a good way to go out of business because you’re just doing what someone else is already doing.”
- Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
Follow Shep on Twitter or LinkedIn. To hear more advice from Shep on how to wow your audience, read our full conversation with him on convenience and the customer experience.
5. Empower Others
“Celebrating success and championing internal entrepreneurship is key: Great ideas can come from anywhere. We are limited only by the constraints we inflict on our vision. So I try to make sure everybody with an idea they think has potential feels they can bring it to my doorstep. That doesn’t mean every idea gets the green light, but it does mean that every idea is heard.”
- Kirsten Allegri Williams, Chief Marketing Officer, SAP SuccessFactors
Follow Kirsten on Twitter or LinkedIn. And don’t forget to read our full interview with her to learn about her background and tricks to success.
6. Be Human
“Comedy is the most powerful way to humanize a brand because it demonstrates empathy. Let’s face it, a lot of true comedy comes from pain. So, when we can come out and touch on a customer pain point, we show them that we understand their point of view. When we do something that is self-deprecating, when we look vulnerable, and when we let our guard down a little bit that’s when we make a connection.”
- Tim Washer, Emcee and Keynote Speaker, Ridiculous Media
Hear the rest of Tim’s comedy plus marketing tips by reading our full conversation. And while you’re at it, follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
7. Partner with Influencers
“Year over year, we’ve seen consumer trust of brands decreasing, and people turning to seemingly more objective sources when making buying decisions: peers, 3rd party review sites, analysts, etc. Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know.”
- Whitney Magnuson, Senior Director of Enterprise Social Media, Hilton
Follow Whitney on LinkedIn and don’t forget to read the rest of her B2B influencer marketing tips with our complete interview.
8. Put the Story First
“Create a structure for creating content that always begins with a story your reader can identify with and uses this moment to bridge their point of view with your brand’s unique selling point. Many marketers still talk about their products and services in terms of what they can do for their audience rather than what the audience cares about, why that’s important and how their solution can help solve the problem. Stories have the power to engage prospects with an emotional hook that endears them to a brand more successfully than standard marketing copy.”
- Heather Pemberton Levy, Vice President of Content Marketing, Gartner
For more content marketing advice from Heather, follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn or read our conversation with her.
9. Slow It Down
“It’s important to slow down our marketing to get the basics right. Like developing a documented content strategy. Like doing the required research. Like developing robust, non-one-dimensional Flat Stanley buyer personas. Like articulating your bigger story. Like investing in quality: excellent writing (and editing) and storytelling.”
- Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs
Want more genius advice from Ann? Read our interview with her or give her a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.
10. Do Your Research
“We have the people, the data, and the tools to create engaging content at scale, yet we often jumpstart the process of creating content without the required thoughtfulness on the initial critical steps. It is essential to be clear which audiences we are targeting and subsequently to define clear goals for the message we are creating. To this day, most brands need to improve at this stage, otherwise the best content marketer in the world cannot create an effective piece of engaging content.”
- Peter Krmpotic, Director of Product for Einstein, Salesforce
Hear more from Peter by following him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or by reading (you guessed it) our interview with him on creating a steady content supply chain.
11. Don’t Be a People Pleaser
“We want customers to feel a part of the brand. We want them to feel like the brand belongs to them. But then too often we send out ‘one size fits most’ messages… and wonder why we don’t get that sense of belonging that’s a hallmark of great brands. Your brand is not for everyone. It isn’t. It’s for the people who want something you can help them get, who value the same things you do, and who see the world the same way you do. And that’s not everyone. Full stop.”
- Tamsen Webster, Founder and Chief Message Strategist, Find the Red Thread
Follow Tamsen on LinkedIn or Twitter for more poignant advice. Or, read our interview with her for tips on how to drive change in marketing.
12. Experiment More
“Most of our content fails. Like, over 90% of it. And that’s not at all uncommon in the content marketing world. If everyone knew the exact ingredients to a “viral” content piece, that’s all anyone would produce. But we don’t know. Pieces I think will do really well, more-often-than-not sink without a trace, and pieces that seem like throwaways can take off because they’ve tapped into some pent-up need in the marketplace of ideas.”
- J.P. Medved, Content Strategist and Novelist
Learn about the different experimenting J.P. has done by reading our interview with him. Give him a follow on LinkedIn for more insight and updates on his next novel.
Not the Norm, and Proud Of It
Rarely does anyone want the same old, same old. So, don’t give your audience more of the same. Use the advice above to your advantage and break the norm, separate yourself from the pack, try something new, or reiterate on a great idea. The more you can break the mold, the more you’ll stand out amongst the crowd.
For more advice on how to stand out, read our guide on how to Break Free of Boring B2B featuring more expert insight and best practices.
Not all forms of content creation will make you famous, but some come with built-in amplification boosts that can put you well on your way to star-quality promotion.
Working with industry experts and influencers to co-create content is a proven tactic for adding more inherent promotion right from the start of your campaign.
Harnessing the power of industry events, keeping abreast of trend forecast data, and incorporating interactive elements are also tactics that can significantly up your content promotion game.
Let’s take a look at all of these methods and more, and see how to best utilize each, including examples showing how each tactic has driven star-quality success.
Tactic #1 — Co-Creation With Industry Experts & Influencers
Whether you call them industry experts or influencers, when you work with noted figures in your profession and include their insight along with your own, you'll both reap rewards on several levels by joining together.
Co-created content will by nature provide promotion potential that is greater than the sum of its individual parts, as the value and relevance industry experts add to your content makes it something that not only your target audience will want to learn from and share, but which also benefits from the additional sharing and social amplification influencers can provide.
[bctt tweet="For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say. @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]
A recent poll on our Twitter channel asked B2B marketers what their biggest influencer marketing hurdles were:
In this informal poll measuring, impact was seen as the top hurdle, which highlights the importance of having an accurate data analytics strategy. I’ve written about this in “New Year, New View: 3 Ways to Approach Analytics in 2019,” including specific tips for dealing with influencer marketing.
Finding the right influencers for your industry has also been a top concern, and a key element in strong influencer partnerships is the ability to share in mutual benefits, as Luciana Moran of Dun & Bradstreet has pointed out.
[bctt tweet="In order to be successful, the work has to be mutually beneficial to both parties. @lucymoran on #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
She shared some of the challenges and rewards of working with influencers in an interview with Lee that is a helpful resource if you're looking to develop or improve your own influencer marketing program.
With multiple recent estimates predicting influencer marketing as a $10 billion industry by 2020, including 35% growth through 2025, getting influencer marketing right will be more important than ever, which is why many B2B firms turn to a professional marketing agency specializing in the practice.
TopRank Marketing was named by Forrester as the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in its latest “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report.”
[bctt tweet="“Partnering with influencers can provide a dramatic boost to your brand’s credibility and authority in the eyes of your audience.” @NickNelsonMN" username="toprank"]
Here are three additional resources we've compiled recently relating to content co-creation, to help you design and implement your own influencer marketing plan:
Tactic #2 — The Promotional Power of Events
Industry events bring people together, and the collective promotional potential they offer when smartly utilized is a tactic that’s sometimes overlooked, so we’ll explore some of the ways conferences, trade-shows, and other professional events can amplify your marketing campaign efforts.
[bctt tweet="Tip for creating #ContentGold around industry events: Reach out to organizers, sponsors, or speakers that represent topics and brands of interest to your community to do pre-conference interviews. @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]
There are many ways to build promotion around events, and we’ve written several recent in-depth articles on the specifics which we’ll share below, including how to take advantage of the follow event-related content promotion areas:
Speaking at Events
Event-Specific Content Creation
Hosting In-Real-Life (IRL) Gatherings at Events
Participating in Podcast Interviews
Being Social During Events
Finding Event-Related Hashtags
Connecting with Speakers, Exhibitors, and Other Attendees.
Starting Event-Related Buzz
Scheduling Event-Related Content
Joining Private and Public Event Discussion Groups
Sharing Interesting and Inspiring Speaker and Keynote Quotes
Inviting Key Industry People to Meet Up
Amplifying Event Content and Engaging with Attendees
Giving Social Shout-Outs to Those You Meet
Sharing Top Session and Keynote Take-Aways
Forming New Connections with Speakers, Exhibitors, and Attendees
Savvy Surveying of the Event Schedule
[bctt tweet="“Publishing content (in many forms) is a great way to retain and share the information you gather at these events.” @azeckman" username="toprank"]
To get you started in event-related content promotion and how to utilize the items listed above, here are three recent articles we're written:
Tactic #3 — Promotion From Relevant Trend Research
Knowing where your industry is and where it has been are important factors in creating top-quality, relevant promotional efforts, however what can set a campaign apart is having the forward-thinking insight that can only come from a thorough examination of future trend forecast and analysis information.
Our CEO Lee Odden recently shared his latest trends relating to B2B influencer marketing, published in infographic format at Social Media Today, in “The Top B2B Influencer Marketing Trends for 2020 [Infographic].”
[bctt tweet="“Not only is influencer marketing one of the fastest growing areas in marketing, it's also one of the disciplines where B2B brands are seeing trend-setting marketing performance.” @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]
Finding relevant trend and forecast report data can be a daunting challenge, but it's well worth the effort for the added insight you’ll gain and be able to include in your marketing efforts.
We’ve made it easier than ever to locate some of the top recent reports, with our recently-published “15 Reports Charting the Future of Content Marketing,” featuring new trend data from the Pew Research Center, Edelman, Edison Research, Cision, Shutterstock, Mary Meeker, Buffer, LinkedIn, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Chief Marketer, Vidyard, Triton Digital, Sprout Social, Social Media Examiner, Hootsuite, and We Are Social.
[bctt tweet="“Finding trends in what your current customers need can help you answer questions that your prospective customers might be asking, too.” — Jessica Best @bestofjess" username="toprank"]
Below you’ll also find three addition resources for not only locating existing trend publications, but for digging in and doing your own research using audience intent and question research tools.
[bctt tweet="“Find out what questions your customers are asking and answer them with your content.” @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]
Tactic #4 — Inclusive Use of Your Digital Archives ; Re-Purposing
The longest journeys in life, and indeed the adventures of life itself, aren’t taken in one fell swoop, but in a continual series of steps that each build on previous steps.
The information in the content we create is similar, and if we wish to build inspiring and life-changing content, we shouldn’t ignore the wisdom that has come from our prior work, which is where content re-purposing comes in ready to shine.
Some information that you’ve previously published will be the type of always-relevant evergreen content that can add to the usefulness of new campaigns, and smart marketers will re-use it, oftentimes adding slight modifications or improvements.
[bctt tweet="We don’t need more content. We need better content! @annhandley of @MarketingProfs" username="toprank"]
Re-purposing can help create a more authentic type of content as well, and provide the kind of best-answer content that audiences are seeking.
[bctt tweet="“Using a modular approach will make the repurposing process easier, keyword relevant and meaningful for the audience because topics are driven by an understanding of customer interests, questions and triggers.” — Lee Odden @leeodden" username="toprank"]
Here are three recent articles we've written to help you successfully re-purposing content:
Tactic #5 — Promotion Using Interactive Elements
With our fascination in two-way online experiences instead of traditional passive one-way content, it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that elements of interactive content have some of the highest engagement rates of all.
Since 2016 93% of marketers have viewed interactive content as effective in educating buyers versus just 70% for static content, according to survey data by Inc. and others, with similar figures continuing through today.
As the technical capabilities of the Web have grown significantly since its inception, more than ever before audiences are seeking out and expecting the type of content they can engage and interact with beyond merely clicking links.
Whether it’s live-chat — either automated or with an actual person — real-time virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), in-content playable moments, or any number of the new methods for two-way online communication, adding interactive elements to your content is a fantastic way to build a stronger connection with your customers and target audience.
[bctt tweet="“Creating compelling experiences with interactive content is one way to stand out, differentiate, and optimize for effectiveness.” @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]
For its recent “Reshaping Customer Experience Management: The Future of #CXM” campaign, *Adobe worked with TopRank Marketing to create a unique interactive online story featuring a wealth of helpful B2B influencer content to increase awareness of Adobe’s Customer Experience Management solutions.
The campaign combined expert insight from top industry experts including Jay Baer of Convince & Convert, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, Scott Monty of Scott Monty Strategies, Rachel Richter of Dun & Bradstreet and others, with enticing and useful interactive elements to bring Adobe’s CXM to life.
[bctt tweet="“Interactivity boosts content effectiveness no matter what your goals might be. Creating awareness, educating customers, driving leads, or attracting talent, content is more engaging when it invites the reader to play along.” @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]
Another recent poll on our Twitter channel asked B2B marketers which element offered the biggest performance increase potential in a blog post:
Interactive elements was the top choice in this informal poll, highlighting their power to drive engagement.
YouTube recently announced new augmented reality (AR) advertising options, which will be available later this summer through its influencer marketing platform, FameBit — an example of how the world’s largest video platform is expanding its use of interactive content elements.
Finally, here are three helpful interactive experience resources for marketers looking to begin or start utilizing the power of interactivity:
Be Your Own Best Content Promotion Shining Star
Content promotion fame isn’t in the stars for every campaign, however by using influencer co-creation, harnessing the power of events and trends, and incorporating smart re-purposing with engaging interactive elements, you’ll be that much closer to the red carpets of Cannes.
*Adobe is a TopRank Marketing client.
It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Video across the digital landscape is what buyers and consumers alike crave.
The average U.S. adult spends 5 hours and 57 minutes a day watching video. Compare that number to the average amount of time someone reads each day (16.8 minutes), and you’ll find that people watch videos over 21-times longer than reading text. Video informs, engages, and entices audiences, which means video can and should have a place within your B2B content marketing strategy.
But when and how should you leverage video? It’s not just a top-of-funnel tactic reserved for B2C brands. And here are the *stats that showcase it’s potential.
15 Video Marketing Statistics for Every Stage of the Buyer Journey
84% of marketers credit video with increasing traffic to their website. (3)
87% of people would like to see more video from brands. (3)
82% of all internet traffic will be video by 2021. (4)
As we covered earlier, more and more people are spending an increasing amount of time watching video online. And that includes your buyers. For your marketing messages to capture and pull in your target audience, it needs to be in a place and in a format they prefer. Today, one of those important formats is video.
From teaser videos to trailers, these video types are great for generating excitement and holding your audience’s attention, making them perfect for the awareness stage of the buyer journey.
Here’s a little something from the TopRank Marketing vault, introducing a new interactive experience featuring insights from several marketing industry experts.
Top-Performing Video Types: Trailers, Teasers & Brand Video
People watch videos with subtitles 40% longer than videos without subtitles. (1)
52% of viewers watch a video all the way through. (2)
68% of people would rather watch a video to learn about a product or service rather than read about it. (3)
80% of marketers credit video with increasing the average time on page for their website. (3)
B2B videos can range from mere seconds in length to a full hour. Buyers in the engagement stage are likely considering their options, weighing potential solutions to their problem. Videos that explain how your products or services can solve problems are great for this stage. In addition, video reviews also help give your target audience the information they’re looking for, increasing engagement rates with your brand and videos.
Here’s an example from **Dell Outlet, teasing the insights they’ve gathered from an array of small business experts and entrepreneurs on making smart tech purchases.
Top-Performing Video Types: Explainers, Reviews
83% of marketers say video results in a good ROI. (3)
79% of people say a brand’s video convinced them to make a purchase. (3)
81% of marketers say video has helped them generate leads. (3)
Including a video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%. (6)
Video is a great learning tool. In fact, approximately 65% of the global population are visual learners. And the more your audience understands and is knowledgeable about your solution, the more likely they are to purchase it. Together, this makes video an excellent way to convince your audience of the value of your product or service.
What types of video are best for the conversion stage of the funnel? Live or on-demand webinars are an excellent way to give your target buyers an in-depth, detailed look at your solution and the benefits you offer. In addition, video testimonials from actual customers are an authentic way to communicate your brand’s value and why you’re a crucial partner across company types and industries.
Top-Performing Video Types: Webinars, Testimonials
41% of marketers say video has reduced their number of support calls. (3)
86% of viewers say they regularly turn to YouTube to learn something new. (5)
The buyer journey doesn’t stop with a sale. Retention is just as important, if not more so considering the fact that it costs 5-times more to acquire a customer versus retain one. To help you hold on to your customer base, video is a great tool for continuing education and problem solving for your audience. Whether it’s a tutorial video or a video essay, videos are excellent education tools that keep your customers around longer.
For example, Salesforce provides several how-to and troubleshooting videos on its Salesforce Support YouTube channel to make it easy for its customers to find solutions and guidance.
Top-Performing Video Types: Tutorials & Video Essays
74% of consumers share video content from brands on social media. (7)
Videos receive 21.2% more interactions on Instagram compared to images and 18.6% more interactions compared to carousels. (7)
Yes, marketers want to win new business and encourage return customers. However, another common item on a marketer’s wishlist is to transform buyers (and even employees) into raving fans that advocate for their company to fellow colleagues, peers, and partners. Given the virality of video content, especially on social networks, video marketing is a great opportunity for promoting advocacy within your audience.
To encourage greater advocacy through video, create videos that have the sole purpose of being watched and shared over social networks. These could be short, exciting videos that tease a new product launch or a video that highlights your company culture. Regardless of the topic, it’s important that the video contains something worth sharing and advocating about to others.
Top-Performing Video Types: Teasers, Trailers & Cultural Highlights
In the Director’s Chair
There’s a reason why 64% of B2B marketers increased the amount of video content they produced in 2019—it’s effective. And it’s effective across the buyer journey.
From attraction to conversion and beyond, video marketing brings B2B brands closer to their buyers. As the person in the director’s chair, now is the time to expand your video marketing (if you haven’t already).
What kind of videos should you be making? Check out our breakdown of four different types of B2B videos to learn which ones are best for your brand and marketing goals.*Sources:
In the world of consumer goods, purchase decisions are often made instantaneously and on a whim.
“This blouse is exactly my style! I’ve gotta have it!”“I’ve been wanting a PlayStation 4 forever. Finally it’s mine!”“This tent is just what we were looking for. I don’t even need to ask the wife, I’m buying it now.”
Even large, life-changing purchases can sometimes be triggered in a snap.
“This car is perfect for me. I was going to check out a few other dealerships but no need; I’ll take it!”
Of course, in B2B, this is rarely the case. Recently, we discussed the expanding nature of today’s buying committee, which is part of the reason business purchase journeys are only growing longer.
Recent data suggests that 75% of sales cycles for new customers run at least four months, with almost half (46%) taking seven months or more. And since this is based on overall aggregated data, it’s safe to say that larger organizations and enterprises are more likely to fall on the top end of that range and beyond.
Of course, such high-value prospective customers are generally the most coveted for providers of B2B solutions, so being able to engage and persuade these buyers (and committees) over time — not to mention accelerate this process — is of the essence for B2B content marketers.
So, let’s examine some content planning steps you can take to do so effectively in the current B2B marketing landscape.
Why Is the Sales Cycle Getting Longer?
Indecision appears to be the most common driver. New research from Aberdeen, featured in the report Why Do B2B Buyers Struggle? The Answer is in the Data, shows 53% of buyers saying they halt or postpone decisions on at least half of their B2B purchases.
When asked why they’ve cancelled or postponed purchases, two-thirds of buyers called out lack of differentiation between solutions as the most typical cause. Another 57% say they decided no vendor meets their needs.
How can content marketing play a role in overcoming these gridlocks, and the power of corporate inertia? When delays and stalling are unavoidable, how can you we make sure your brands stay top-of-mind rather than slipping by the wayside?
Counteracting Prolonged Sales Cycles with Content Planning
Selling to enterprise customers is a marathon, not a sprint. Becoming pushy or trying to force a decision will get you nowhere. However, the right strategic content planning can be pivotal in gently nudging a prospect toward your solution, as well as accelerating the process of making the call. Here are a few smart techniques to incorporate.
Use an Always-On Approach
We need to keep buyers engaged throughout this extended cycle, and always-on marketing programs are the ticket. Rather than being encased in ephemeral campaigns, your marketing cadence is perpetually ongoing. You want prospects to be able to find and engage with your brand at any time throughout their lengthy consideration.
As our Vice President of Client Accounts Alexis Hall wrote last year: “Campaigns can absolutely drive valuable spikes in traffic, engagement, or conversions, as well as help you target specific audiences or verticals. But you need to be able to nurture the audience you’ve built beyond the confines of the campaign—otherwise you’re not only wasting your budget, but also leaving longer-term value and opportunity on the table.”
Longer buying cycles necessitate spreading out our content for maximum exposure and impact over time; always-on is designed for this purpose.
Align Content with Buyer Stages
The customer journey is no longer a predictable linear path, but the old pillars — awareness, consideration, decision — remain viable as overarching guides. Is your content mapped to address each phase properly under the Attract, Engage, Convert framework? For instance:
Get your brand on the radar with easily discovered digital assets and insights
Build trust with credible information, consistent output, and thought leadership
Answer questions that tend to arise as customers are first recognizing their need
Collaborate with a range of relevant influencers around important, trending topics or pain points within your niche to gain targeted visibility
Use paid promotional tactics and remarketing to ensure key messaging connects with qualified prospects
Generate content across various channels and formats to meet your customers where they’re at during self-driven research
Analyze your competitors’ content strategies, and identify white space or opportunities to establish distinction
Collaborate with prominent influencers around more specific topics relating to purchase decisions and solution differentiation
Deploy your most compelling lower-funnel content (testimonials, case studies, ROI grids, etc.) to alleviate concerns or reservations
Provide detailed pricing information and implementation specifics
Collaborate with influencers such as current customers who are acutely familiar with your brand and solutions, and can speak to them authentically
Free trials or demos can help an indecisive buyer take action
Of course, the sales cycle doesn’t end after a purchase is made. Here, the objectives become retention and advocacy. And the good news is that, when renewing clients or acquiring new customers via referral, the sales cycle tends to be much shorter.
Gain Full Visibility within the Buying Committee
We’ve covered the key elements of a committee-centric approach, which requires researching the structure of an account, aligning with sales, and developing personas based on influencer roles within a buying committee.
One of the biggest factors in slow or circular sales cycles is a group of decision makers who can’t get on the same page. Your content is instrumental in fostering a unified front.
Plans Change: Stay Flexible and Nimble
Taking the right steps with content planning will help ensure you’re optimizing your strategy for long sales cycles (and, ideally, speeding them up). But the nature of enterprise organizations is that they are cumbersome and complex. Be ready for changes and make sure your plan is built to adapt when necessary.
As a final note, I’ll point out that Abderdeen’s B2B buyer research indicates the best way to expedite decision-making is by showing prospects a new way to solve their problem.
With this in mind, how can you continually work toward providing this unique and enlightening perspective through an always-on content marketing approach that accounts for numerous channels and formats, while also permeating the breadth of extended buying committees?
It goes without saying that there’s tremendous value in shortening the sales cycle. While B2B purchase decisions — particularly at the enterprise level — will never be as snappy as choosing a pair of slacks, a robust content marketing plan will help buyers make their decision more quickly and confidently.
Does your content marketing strategy account for the entire buying committee? Learn the difference between buyers and buying committees, as well as get steps for expanding your strategy to account for multiple purchasing influencers.
How can you be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible for the complex and challenging future ahead for content marketing?
Here are 15 insightful reports loaded with B2B data to help you define and chart your optimal content marketing future, and provide the best-answer and trust-building solutions clients expect today.
The reports here, presented in random order, are all excellent sources of information to help you gain a clearer understanding of B2B content marketing, while keeping more than an eye open towards the future as marketers push onward to 2020.
1 — Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study
The 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn* B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study examines the theme that thought leadership digital content is in high demand, and that it remains hard to find, presenting an opportunity gap.
“Senior decision-makers are willing to pay a premium. B2B buyers are likely to pay more to work with companies who have clearly articulated their vision through thought leadership,” the study notes, pointing to a rising leadership vision trend, as our own CEO Lee Odden has examined in detail in his recent “7 Top B2B Influencer Marketing Trends for 2020.”
[bctt tweet="“The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come.” @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]
MarketingProfs’ Ayaz Nanji also digs into some of the Edelman-LinkedIn study’s findings in “What B2B Firms Get Wrong About Thought-Leadership Content.”
Also worth exploring is another fine new report from Edelman, the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust?, which Ethan Jakob Craft recently explored for AdAge.
2 — Content Marketing Institute / MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends
Agency content marketing statistics and budgeting trends for 2019 are examined in the fascinating and detailed “B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends - North America” report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which is explored in Lisa Murton Beets’ “2019 B2B Content Marketing Research: It Pays to Put Audience First.”
3 — Chief Marketer 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey
The Chief Marketer 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey offers a wealth of B2B marketing data to learn from and apply to your own campaign strategies. Whether it’s which marketing channels are performing the best for B2B lead generation and nurturing, the increasing demand for higher-quality B2B content, or data to help increase support from the corporate suite, this report offers helpful insight.
4 — Vidyard: Video in Business Benchmark Report
The average length of B2B video has decreased by 33 percent to just over four minutes, while the number of viewers watching the entirety of videos has climbed to 52 percent, up from 2017’s 46 percent — just a few of the detailed statistics of interest to digital marketers contained in the newly-released 2019 Video in Business Benchmark Report from Vidyard.
The report is explored by Chief Marketer in “B2B Video Length Drops, but Engagement Increases,” and additional bonus video insight comes from a separate recent study, with MediaRadar’s “Research Insight: Video Ads Are Getting Longer.”
5 — Cision 2019 Global State of the Media Report
For 2019, the tenth-annual Cision Global State of the Media Report surveyed some 2,000 journalists to find out what matters the most in the push towards 2020, including insights into social media, trust and distrust in the media, and how big data will inform the future of content marketing.
6 — Shutterstock: State of Content Marketing
A different take on the future of content comes from the Shutterstock: State of Content Marketing report, examining the changing roles of micro-influencers, data privacy and blockchain, micro-moments, social segmentation and personalization, plus other trends to follow.
7 — Mary Meeker 2019 Internet Trends Report
Since 1995, one of the most anticipated reports containing B2B trend data is the “Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report,” and for 2019 it comes in packing a whopping 333 pages of information.
Mary Meeker is founder of venture capital firm Bond Capital and former Kleiner Perkins general partner, and I recently took a close look at many of the B2B elements contained in her new report in “Key B2B Takeaways From the 2019 Internet Trends Report.”
[bctt tweet="“Mary Meeker’s 2019 report paints a picture of a world where it’s more challenging than ever to find new growth in certain areas, but one that also shows very real opportunities in others.” @lanerellis" username="toprank"]
8 — LinkedIn: The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal
LinkedIn’s 2019 global report “The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal” includes many insights for B2B marketers, taken from a survey of over 5,200 global professionals with roles centered around adopting new technology solutions.
Our Senior Content Strategist Nick Nelson examines the report in detail in “Top Takeaways from LinkedIn’s New ‘Enlightened Tech Buyer’ Report,” a great way to quickly dig in to how B2B technology brands can market and sell more effectively.
[bctt tweet="“Effective marketing now goes beyond the scope of traditional functions. Brands need to be readily available, with the right content at the right time.” @NickNelsonMN " username="toprank"]
9 — Buffer: 2019 State of Social
Buffer’s detailed 2019 State of Social report offers an in-depth look at what digital marketers are focusing on, along with an examination of many new and ongoing trends, and how the industry is changing.
In conjunction with Social Chain, the newest Buffer report utilizes survey data gathered from over 1,800 marketers at firms of all sizes, and looks at issues such as how businesses are investing in influencer marketing and which social platforms businesses are having the most success with.
10 — Edison Research and Triton Digital: The Social Habit
The latest Edison Research and Triton Digital The Social Habit 2019 study includes many B2B marketing insights, leaning towards the social media side, showing how we’ve entered a new era now that social media usage has remained largely unchanged over the past four years, while Instagram has seen newfound success especially among young Americans.
Jay Baer, Founder of Convince and Convert, takes a look at the study in “Social Media Usage Statistics for 2019 Reveal Surprising Shifts.”
11 — Pew Research Center: Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019
How the mobile landscape is changing in 2019 will have an impact on B2B marketers, and the Pew Research Center offers up a selection of related insights in its Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019 report.
12 — Sprout Social: Sprout Social Index: Edition XV: Empower & Elevate (2019)
Sprout Social’s most recent Sprout Social Index: Edition XV: Empower & Elevate (2019) surveyed more than 1,000 social media marketers to find out where their biggest successes are coming from, and where they plan to place their focus moving ahead.
The report shows that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, and LinkedIn are the most-used social media platforms among social marketers, and includes data relevant to B2B marketers well worth researching.
Nathan Mendenhall took a look at some of the study results in “8 Social Media Marketing Stats You Shouldn't Ignore.”
Sprout Social has also recently updated its study of the optimal times for publishing content on various social media platforms.
13 — Hootsuite / We Are Social: Digital 2019 Q2 Global Digital Statshot
Hootsuite and We Are Social have produced another report filled with helpful information for B2B marketers, with their latest Digital 2019 Q2 Global Digital Statshot. The report utilized numerous sources and offers plenty of insight into where social media marketing currently stands and where it appears likely to be heading.
14 — Pew Research Center: January 2019 Core Trends Survey (2019)
The Pew Research Center has also taken a close look at how U.S. adults are using social media, in its recent “Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018,” offering additional data to help B2B marketers prepare for the social world of 2020 and beyond.
15 — Social Media Examiner: 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report
The final of our 15 reports is Social Media Examiner’s eleventh-annual social media marketing industry report, the 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. Company founder Michael Stelzner shares 46 pages of various statistical data pulled in from surveying over 4,800 marketers, and the report offers interpretation on how various aspects of social media are working for marketers today.
Fly High & Implement What You’ve Learned From 15 Reports
The 15 insightful and data-packed reports we’ve explored here from the Pew Research Center, Edelman, Edison Research, Cision, Shutterstock, Mary Meeker, Buffer, LinkedIn, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Chief Marketer, Vidyard, Triton Digital, Sprout Social, Social Media Examiner, Hootsuite, and We Are Social will help you be as prepared and up-to-date as possible for whatever the future of content marketing may hold.
Because it takes considerable time, top skills, and plenty of effort to create best-answer content marketing, it’s often wise to partner with a top-tier marketing agency, such as TopRank Marketing. We’ve had the honor of being named by Forrester as the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in its latest “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report.”
*LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.
Scene from a dinner party:
“So, Josh, what do you do?”
“I’m in marketing.”
“Oh, like Mad Men? Ad campaigns and stuff?”
“No, it’s content marketing.”
“Oh, like the Wendy’s Twitter account?”
“...Sure... like that.”
I’ve had variations on the above conversation more times than I can count. I’ll usually leave it at “Wendy’s Twitter account” in the interest of changing the subject. No one has the patience for, “I write business-to-business content designed to help people do their jobs better, which also builds affinity for a client brand, with the end goal of influencing purchase decisions.”
So most people think I just write fun stuff all day, that it’s a purely creative job. But my fellow B2B marketers know better. Content marketing requires an incredibly diverse set of skills, and “innate writing ability” isn’t even the most important one.
[bctt tweet="Most people think I just write fun stuff all day, that it’s a purely creative job. But as my fellow #B2B marketers know, #contentmarketing requires a diverse set of skills. @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]
Here’s my list of must-have B2B content marketing skills. If you’re looking to get into the career, fill out your team, or, say, hire a marketing agency, keep these in mind.
12 Must-Have B2B Content Marketing Skills
This list is divided into two categories: The "hard skills" that you learn through instruction, and the soft skills that rely more on personal development and human interaction.
Four Hard Skills#1 - Search Engine Optimization
You don’t have to be a SemRushin’, Google Analytics wizard to be a content creator and strategist. But creating great content does require a solid understanding of modern SEO practices. You should know how to understand search intent, dig into ambiguous keywords, and create best-answer content that meets search demand.
#2 - Social Media Marketing
You may have a dedicated social media person or team, but content marketers should still know how to create compelling B2B social posts that attract attention without breaking the brand voice. You should be up to date on what type of content performs best on each platform.
#3 - Influencer Marketing
Content marketers should know how to co-create content with influencers. That means writing a framework that allows for collaboration, asking the right questions to guide influencer responses, and even conducting intelligent interviews. Content marketers' expertise makes all the difference in the resulting content feeling cohesive and compelling.
#4 - Measurement
Measurement is what turns content into content marketing. Content marketers should be able to strategize, create goals and metrics that match them, track progress, and ultimately optimize over time.
Eight Soft Skills#1 - Empathy
The heart and soul of any content marketing is empathy. You have to be able to take the customer’s perspective and make a human connection. Empathy is even more important in B2B content, because it keeps the content focused on people.
It’s easy to lose the human connection when you’re writing about container-based software-as-a-service platforms. That empathy for the people, the buyer, the end user, should be what drives the content.
[bctt tweet="That empathy for the people, the buyer, the end user, should be what drives the content. @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]
#2 - Creativity
I would argue B2B content requires even more creativity than B2C. The difference is having to work within strict limitations. Big B2B brands have whole departments concerned with brand reputation, brand voice, standards and practices, approved image libraries and fonts… Content creators have to produce something eye-catching and meaningful without breaking any of these limitations. And they have to know when it makes sense to push the boundaries.
#3 - Communication
The success of B2B content depends on explaining complex concepts in simple terms. You may know all the ins and outs of your solution, but odds are your audience won’t. Clear, jargon-free, conversational writing that offers value is the only way to succeed.
#4 - Organization
This skill is important for any B2B marketer, but especially if you work at an agency. We’re working on a dozen different clients at any one time, each with multiple assets in various stages of development. Without organizational skills, it would be impossible to get everything done on time (even with a dedicated project manager on staff).
#5 - Motivation
I read recently about a man who had been on the payroll of a major corporation for over a year without ever doing any work. Seriously. Somewhere between restructuring and management turnover, he simply got separated from responsibility without losing his salary.
That won’t ever happen for a B2B content marketer. There’s nowhere to hide: We’re responsible for concrete, quantifiable, and quality deliverables. There’s no such thing as slacking off, and there’s no such thing as writer’s block. The ability to push past obstacles, buckle down and get the work done is vital.
#6 - Confidence
Part of the job description is defending and explaining your work to stakeholders. For an agency, that includes account managers and clients. For a marketing department, that might include the executive suite, too. B2B content marketers need the (justified) confidence to advocate for content and approach they know will be effective.
#7 - Humility
The flip-side of confidence is the ability to put the content ahead of one’s individual ego. B2B content is bound to go through layers of review, with each stakeholder adding their own critique and suggestions. Humility means that you can take in constructive criticism and apply it with an eye toward producing the best content possible. While confidence is key, knowing your way doesn’t have to be the only way is equally important.
#8 - Collaboration
Finally, B2B content marketing is a team sport. It’s not about making a name for yourself — you have blog posts for that. It’s about partnering across areas of specialty to create something stunning. I found that my content got even better when I involved the design team from the start, for example. Working closely with design, SEO, influencer and social specialists only makes the work better. Here's a shot of the gang I get to work with every day:
B2B Content Marketing Is a Game of Skill
I’ll admit it: Before I got into the field, I thought content marketing was just getting paid to write all day. Now I know there’s a lot more to the job than just filling buckets with prose. Content marketers are writers, strategizers, empathizers, collaborators, and so much more.
Need to level up your B2B content marketing? Our highly-skilled team is ready and waiting.