How do companies keep their B2B marketing communications content relevant at a time of rapid business and social upheaval?
The Covid-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the way companies do business and thinking about how and where their content fits in the current situation is critical.
A recent webinar hosted by marketing organisation, ITSMA, enterprise software company SAP and B2B marketing agency, Quarry, considered what best practice looks like – both now and beyond the present challenges:
Customer insight and centricity
The starting point should be industry/customer insights and a clear understanding of buyers’ needs and motivations.
Danny Nail, senior director – ABM at SAP, said: “Most of our content doesn’t mention a SAP solution. The focus is on what the customer wants to hear rather than the other way around.” And, it’s a given that the content will be both good quality and provide valuable recommendations.
“Help, not sell, will propel you further, faster,” Meredith Fuller – managing director, buyer engagement at Quarry, added.
Content during Covid-19
How should the current pandemic affect the way companies treat content? Fuller noted the importance of “having empathy for buyers. Understanding and being sensitive to their needs and the pressures they’re under”. Therefore, content and engagement should recognise that buyers are people first.
This can extend even to “community building” content that speaks to more personal concerns, such as music and offering calming video content.
SAP’s initial response to Covid-19 was to stop selling and start collaborating with customers to solve their needs around the pandemic. Then, it began a more scaled approach to account based marketing, for example moving away from live events while staying engaged with customers digitally.
According to Nail, SAP is now determining which marketing activities to use in the long term and particularly which events to bring back or replace. Digital tools are helping to understand the market and offer a quicker view of where content should be going.
“Search is a great way to understand what people are interested in at these times,” said Fuller, who suggested “dialling back” active, outbound marketing but having a stronger search strategy for prospects to find the solutions they want, when they’re ready.
It’s also about being smart with your audiences, Fuller said: “Who are your customers, which industries have the greatest potential and who do you pull back from until the new normal?” In other words, it’s not necessarily the right time to push healthcare products at senior decision makers in the sector.
Content assets that connect
Do companies need to think differently about the topics and formats for content?
There’s no easy answer, as ITSMA’s own research finds that people are consuming more content than ever and that covers equally long form and short form e-books, infographics, blogs, video, etc. Businesses can also benefit from being an aggregator of helpful content for buyers (much like this blog post, I hope!).
Fuller highlights the importance of creating content that matches where buyers are on their journey (and who you’re targeting – i.e. C-level and/or other influencers). This means analysing the content you have (and what you need) to fill gaps in the buying process.
The stories you tell via content will also be different based on their purpose. As Nail points out, a linear thought leadership asset will be different from something designed to convey a more emotional story.
As Rob Leavitt, SVP at ITSMA noted, B2B buyers consume (on average) 13 pieces of content before deciding on a supplier – and five of those are third party-generated, not vendor.
Metrics: reputation, relationships, revenue
The so-called “three Rs” of reputation, relationships and revenue should be high on the agenda of what organisations are measuring from their marketing communications right now.
As Fuller emphasises, the point is: “helping not selling, being empathetic and understanding your customer’s customer.”
And central to that is knowing why your business exists – and remaining true to your “why”.
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Photo: c/o Ryan McGuire