Content marketing in B2B markets

Not too long ago, most marketing efforts simulated the sales process. As organizations transition into a customer centric game plan, strategic marketing explores the customer journey, where relevant and impactful content is sought after.

Today, brands focus on content that:

Caters to the different ways that customers search for products or services. In B2B markets, this translates into content that engages buyers when they search for solutions.
Looks at how customers use the product or service.
Builds a community, brand loyalty and trust – which all lead to customer retention
At the SVForum Marketing and Social Media Forum last week, Kamal Alhuwalia – CMO of Apttus and Vamshi Sriperumbudur – CMO of Declara, discussed effective marketing in current B2B markets .

How to engage your B2B clients? The idea is to “Ditch the pitch!”

Focusing on great content and the right delivery are important, however, effective marketing is more than that: what companies do with the content, how effectively it tells—and, obviously, sells—your company’s story are the key.

These past few years we have all seen steady flows of bite-size information that brands have pushed out. Such content came as downloadable white-papers, ebooks, webinars, etc. – all at no charge and with the aim to engage potential customers. But how easy is it for buyers/customers to both access and understand the content?

Whether marketing pushes out white-papers, case studies, blog entries, ebooks, webinars, presentations or videos – Does your target audience actually spend the time to read your content? In B2B sectors, buyers go through over 55% of the purchasing process before ever engaging with sales. To get on buyers’ radar in a crowded and noisy digital world, B2B companies must provide valuable, highly relevant content. However, ‘heavy’ content doesn’t attract readers. Both Alhuwalia and Sriperumbudur noted that short videos, interesting content in easy formats, simple and short bits of information, etc. get more visitors, who actually stay on the web pages. Dense websites are not popular, at least at the initial engagement.

Finding the balance between engaging content creations versus dense and more serious content is a juggling act. While identifying personas and understanding how each type would use the product is an important building block – there is much more in a successful marketing tactic: strategists also need to understand the buyers’ motivation, the influencers, i.e. whom influences the buyer and who he or she influences in the operation down the line. To gauge buyers in B2B markets, experience has led the panelists to develop concepts of simple, short, flowing, and clear messaging.

So how can you simplify your marketing?
Take the approach of removing elements, words, phrases, or visuals; simplify the format; use clean and simple images or infographics, while still being able to communicate your message.

Using the concept of A/B split testing can help marketing to get a feel for what would win with customers and what will be ignored or less attractive. A/B testing is a randomized experiment with two variants, A and B, where one is the control and the second is a newly introduced treatment that might affect a user’s behavior. In testing online user experience design, the goal is to identify changes to content or navigation or flow of web pages that increase or maximize an outcome of interest, such as click-through rate or the length of time a user has spent on the content (on the page).

In the marketing domain, A/B testing can be used in Google Adwords and Google Analytics.
For example, marketing can run a test of two different keywords, phrases, copywriting texts, or ad copies. At the end of the simple measured test, you can decide which scenario (“A” or “B”) is the winning solution by evaluating which brought you most traffic or most conversions, or has the lowest conversion cost, etc. A/B testing can also be helpful when scaling.

In consumer markets, the practice of testing with a small subset of customers is common.
The panelists suggested to B2B companies to follow suit and test their offering with a few customers. This approach has many benefits: it gives you a chance to refine your product, your service, the business model, and your operations or processes. Further, you can also use the testing experience as a use-case or a story – a great way to get an unmanufactured case study; an authentic story told by a real customer. Relevant stories engage customers, build trust and lead to brand loyalty.

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