What role does B2B content marketing play in the buyers’ journey?
With B2B buyers being increasingly self-serving – i.e. doing their own product or service research and due diligence online before engaging directly with a vendor – content is more important than ever.
Michael McClaren, CEO of agency Merkle B2B – in the recent B2B visionaries series webinar – described how buyers are now researching online and consuming much more content: “grazing sources to put recommendations together” and “taking themselves deeper into the purchase process without engaging with companies”.
And this means the content that sellers are creating online needs to be even more discoverable, consumable, convenient and easy to share.
Sudeshna Sen, VP Marketing Strategy and Analytics at Merkle, added that self-serving buyers treat content as the “core means of value exchange”, which can lead to purchasing decisions valued as high as $50k (according to McKinsey research she quoted).
Getting B2B content marketing right
According to McClaren and Sen, how should B2B companies get the best out of their investment in content marketing?
- Think customer journey
It’s not enough to treat your online content as a static resource without taking the customer journey into account.
- Think mobile
As buying journeys are increasingly mobile first, it’s vital that the content you create is easy to extract and consumer in the mobile environment.
- Think video
The younger professionals who are now beginning to occupy influential roles in B2B buying decisions are highly familiar with video as a format; however, this is something that remains “under-leveraged” in B2B marketing approaches. However, companies doing it well are “seeing tremendous advantages” according to McClaren and Sen.
- Think hybrid world
There is an opportunity to extend event experiences by using digital platforms to open things up to a wider audience. As an example, Adobe recently ran “its most successful conference ever” as a digital experience.
- Think strategy
Having an overarching content strategy is essential – and that includes a content centre of excellence – to create joined-up experiences, reduce wasteful activity and spend and capture data to understand the customer journey better.
- Think long-form
Long-form content is “extremely powerful, providing critical rationale that a recommender will be relying on to advise the rest of the buying unit”.
- Think analytics
Fix the foundation you have to capture data when moving from analogue to digital activities.
- Test and scale
Test your content activity in a few channels, prove ROI and scale what’s working.
What’s driving B2B buyer expectations?
The new expectations of B2B buyers have, McClaren said, been “informed by their experiences as consumers”.
The convenience and relevance of customer experience created by consumer companies such as Uber, Netflix and Amazon have raised the expectations of people working in B2B (who are, after all, consumers too).
As a result, B2B customers’ level of tolerance of being treated anonymously is dropping and, especially among Millennials and Gen Z, they’re more likely to “bounce to a competitive offer”.
McClaren added: “The table stakes are very high and it’s important to understand customer expectations of engagement, or risk losing them over time.”
The “next frontier” of this, he suggested, will be “a million personalised journeys”; applying technology to create an “individualised customer journey based on the ‘digital body language’ of the buyer.”
Essentially, what that means is delivering the right content to the right person at the right time and in the right place.
Want to get your content marketing right? Contact B2B PR and content marketing agency Metamorphic PR