B2B Marketing Challenges
August’s Digital Breakfast took a well-established format into largely uncharted territory. For the first time, it focused exclusively on B2B content – a move that clearly struck a chord with a large and engaged audience.
Four speakers were lined up to explore the role of content in B2B business, each bringing a distinctive and insightful view.
A B2B content primer
First up was Kobi Omenaka, a Google Certified Digital Marketing Consultant, Teacher and Speaker.
Kobi kicked the breakfast off with a primer looking at exactly what B2B content marketing is, and the types of problems it is solving. He stressed from the off that, contrary to myth, that B2B content is not boring, it is just as interesting as B2C content.
Kobi said there was a requirement for B2B content because “interruptive marketing is less effective, people are now wise to the carpet bomb approach of so many channels. They are barraged by a lot more content from lots of different sources.”
He then gave the attendees a little history pointing to the creation of The Furrow, a magazine that was published by agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere as long ago as the 1890s. He stressed how it was unique at the time as it was an “independent, unbiased source of information, not necessarily talking about the product.”
Kobi then suggested that B2B content marketing wasn’t as difficult as some in the industry portray it to be.
“With B2B you at least have a fixed audience – unlike B2C which can be for everyone,” he explained. “With B2B you are selling to a person within the company. Your B2B people still have pain points, passions etc. They want to get promoted, want longer relationships with you and so on.”
He also pointed out that typically B2B content targets fewer people. For example, some content might only need to be read by a handful of people for it to have achieved its goals.
Kobi then took the attendees on a tour of the different types of content in the B2 sphere.
1. Infographics – These are engaging and shareable. Yet on the negative side, difficult to make, difficult to measure ROI and easy to copy
2. Email and blogs – These can be highly effective and have clear SEO benefits. They are also supported by accurate and advanced analytics. However there is a low barrier to entry, and there’s evidence in terms of emails that some people have Inbox fatigue.
3. Video – There is a strong channel in YouTube, great analytics and SEO benefits. However there is a high barrier to entry and videos require full attention from viewers. Crucially, to be engaging, the presenter needs to be ‘a bit of a character.’
4. Podcasts – Big opportunity for the B2B space that is generally unexplored in the UK. Large growth of podcast audience, also listeners don’t have to give their full attention, like video. Great analytics and podcasts don’t require ‘a character’ to be engaging.
B2B content strategy
Mike explained that he has worked since 2001 on content for B2B companies. His background is in psychology and his specialism is looking at customer experience, which, he argues, is as important in B2B content as it is in B2C.
He started by asking the question – “why are we doing B2B content marketing?” To which he replied it was largely about changing the perceptions of the audience we are trying to reach.
Mike said that in order to do this we need to understand psychology and referenced ‘Social Identity theory’ as being central in the way that we classify people.
He said that the core purpose of B2B content is to get the prospect to think we are ‘one of them’ and that there is a synergy between the companies/individuals. The way to do this is by offering information that’s useful, valuable and trustworthy. They then go on the journey from being ‘one of them’ to ‘one of us.’ And the development of this type of relationship means that they will value us and will potentially have an ongoing relationship with us.
Mike then went on to talk about content’s role in the sales funnel, saying that sometimes not everyone in the company agrees what the sales funnel is and how it should be handled. For example, sales and marketing may have different views on this.
He added too that we need to recognise that the sales funnel is moving from a population of many, to a population of few as people progress down it – and that different content plays different roles in this journey.
His key takeaways are that we need to be systematic about how content is both measured and optimised.
Mike then went on to discuss the importance of the nature of the content that is created. He cited content that he had created for Econsultancy about digital transformation. He mentioned how it had become number one on Google initially, but now notes that it is down to number five and thinks that this might be because the content was too ‘sales focused.’
He said that the lesson here is that companies need to be clear about whether they are selling or informing.
To illustrate this point he cited the Rubik’s Cube as being complicated, adding that it was manageable as it was possible to achieve results if one found the right route. Whereas, as Mike continued, the Taliban in Afghanistan are complex as there are so many factors which influence the way that they behave and their approach. He underlined that the key thing for content marketers in the B2B sector was to move their perception of their approach from an art to a science.
His four points to help people achieve this are:
1. Find the existing patterns in your content-related data – Undertake inventory audit and competitor analysts.
2. Clarify and connect business and communications strategy – In some instances these are not properly aligned.
3. Pinpoint key tactical objectives – Enhance digital asset management for cross channel deployment. This will enable marketers to publish new hubpages.
4. Connect it all together – Companies need to use goal mapping to ensure that everyone is clear about roles, strategy and objectives.
Mike finished with four key conclusions for B2B companies who want to maximise their content-driven approach.
1. Manage the sales funnel in a standardised way.
2. Manage customer journeys – Ensuring content covers generic issues (product-category and solution-type) as well as your own specific product and brand proposition.
3. Manage the B2B content marketing process making it complicated not complex.
4. Transform the way that prospects perceive you – From one-of-them
The complexities of B2B content
The third presenter was Sam Gallagher – client services director Progressive Content, who began by acknowledging some of the complexities in creating content for B2B enterprises.
He suggested that some in the industry have a inferiority complex compared with creators of B2C content, However he argued that while there is complexity in B2B content that it is as multifaceted as B2C.
He then ran though his ten lessons for understanding some of the complex challenges in B2B content.
1. There’s no such thing as boring in B2B – Sam said that there is only “good content and bad content and that is measured in its usefulness to its intended audience.”
2. Customers don’t think in campaigns – He argued that an abstract rarely resonates at campaign level. B2B content needs to meet needs on a day to day basis.
3. Vanity metrics don’t translate in B2B – Sam said that was especially true of video where, for example, a successful campaign might only be 100 views etc.
4. The best marketing is a mix of relevancy and relationships – With content working to unlock inherent trust and relationships within a business. Content supports relationships.
5. To be relevant you have to be agile – B2B content needs to respond to ideas and changes in the media landscape, eg an accountant in the business might need to have a view on the budget etc. B2B content marketers need to be agile and think about publishing frequently.
6. Understanding the rules but knowing when to break them – For example some topics require longer content than the 600 word industry standard.
7. Mix specialisms with creative craft – Sam talked of the importance of unlocking intellectual capital in large companies and communicating it.
8. Central marketing does not have a monopoly on good ideas – Sam suggested that, for example, customer enquiries often inspire new content ideas
9. Listen and learn – For example Sam said that B2B is getting to grips with social and how to use it as a distribution channel. It needs to be part of a content planning strategy.
10. Close the loop – B2B content creators need to learn to harness data and learn from analytics.
Is B2B still boring to boring?
The last person to present was Giuseppe Caltabiano, Head of Content Marketing Advisory Services, NewsCred
He began his presentation by asking ‘Is B2B still boring to Boring?’ He said that when it comes to data Vs emotions the perception is that B2B is more boring. This however doesn’t have to be the case with Giuseppe citing LinkedIn’s Dinner for Five series.
Giuseppe added that historically B2B requires a more rational approach, but that new technologies, new communications channels (social media) are changing the way B2B companies approach clients. And in some ways the new methods of communication, which includes content marketing, have been adopted by B2B companies at faster speed than B2C.
In terms of messaging Giuseppe pointed out that was a real difference between the content marketing approaches. He said that B2B content should inform and educate, while B2C content should inspire.
Another important point that Guiseppe made was that multiple influencers are involved in a B2B decision – something that is not always the case in B2C. There maybe as many four different departments involved in a decision making process and one of the complexities of B2B marketing is that content needs to address all these individuals and sectors effectively.
Yet one advantage B2B has over B2C is that there is a more limited number of platforms to use. As Giuseppe explained, the distribution channels are not endless. In reality there is really only three or four that are efficient.
Giuseppe then unpacked the B2B content distribution plan citing the importance of, and difference between, owned, paid and earned media.
He also advised caution in companies selecting the right KPIs as these are different along the different points of the sales process.
He also discussed how companies shouldn’t write off different platforms – perceiving them as being just B2B or B2C. For example, there is now a number of B2B companies that use tactics like Facebook Live to illustrate the human side of their business.
Finally Giuseppe went onto nail what he sees as the two most prevalent myths about B2B content.
Firstly that the ‘humans have lesser attention span than that a goldish,’ he argued that this isn’t the case and anyhow should not be used as an argument to dumb down content.
Secondly “buyers are 67% (or 57%, or 90%) of the way through the purchase journey before they want to talk to a supplier (or to sales)”
If you work in B2B marketing, you’ll have been told that buyers are either 57%, 67% or (more recently) 90% of the way through the purchase
journey before they want to talk to a supplier. Giuseppe argued that the basis for at least two of these stats is actually very thin and has been so widely misrepresented.
Commissioned by The CMA