4 Ways B2B Marketers Can Spring Forward And Grow Content Marketing Success

Woman Looking Upward Optimistically

Woman Looking Upward Optimistically

We’re more than a year into the pandemic, and things are looking up. Vaccines are rapidly rolling out, states are dialing back restrictions, and a massive government stimulus is about to be distributed across the country. There is a hope, if not an expectation, that the economy will get on a roll this summer.

Nothing can be taken for granted, but the outlook is bright. Numerous industries may experience rises in demand during the months ahead. This is a good time for companies serving those industries to be positioning themselves with smart growth strategies and ambitious marketing plans.

With that in mind, here are some ideas and recommendations to springboard your B2B marketing into the summer months:

Spring Ahead: 4 Tips to Drive Fast Marketing Growth

#1. Let your raving fans guide you forward

During the economic slowdown of the past year, it was common for organizations to look inward, immersing themselves in customer research and refocusing on relationships.

Taking a curious approach to understanding your best customers, and what they value most in your product, can really pay off.

In a recent writeup at The Next Web on surprising growth strategies for 2021, one suggestion from Andrea Hak is to tap into engaged and loyal users. She points to the example of SYLVAIN, a strategy and design consultancy hired by Spotify to help fend off an advance from Apple’s streaming music platform.

Hak shares this insight from SYLVAIN’s Managing Director, Sherry (Sherzad) Rahmatian, who argues that a narrow focus on acquiring new users and expanding to new audience segments is misguided:

“Power users and super fans often hold the secret sauce for a brand’s future growth. What we see is that smaller brands actually have an advantage in that they don’t have to dilute their marketing for the masses.

Instead, they can focus on decoding what exactly makes people obsess over them, and use that to continuously iterate a better and better experience. This will naturally filter out to a wider audience, without losing what made it special.”

Hak later notes that, “By the end of 2020, Spotify increased its number of premium subscribers by 29%, bringing it to a whopping 124 million.”

The size of your company and its customer base will dictate the extent you’re able to lean into this strategy. But most marketing departments today have some method of gauging the loyalty and strength of their customer relationships. Identify and study those most avid fans. Center your marketing on that which drives their affinity.

[bctt tweet=”“Identify and study those most avid fans. Center your marketing on that which drives their affinity.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

#2. Strategize around trust, purpose and empathy

It might be time to rethink your marketing messages of the past. More than ever, brands in the new era need to ensure they are aligning and resonating with their most valuable audiences, and developing connections that move beyond the traditional problem-solution framework.

In a recent study from Iterable, 87% of brand marketers “said their company felt the need to change its marketing strategies to better build consumer trust” amidst the turmoil of 2020. Ninety-one percent indicated that they plan to stick with this altered approach in 2021.

Trust is built, first and foremost, by demonstrating a keen understanding of your audience: circumstances, aspirations, pain points. It’s also strengthened by demonstrating that you share their values and priorities. This is where communicating a deeper purpose comes into play.

“Even before the pandemic, 74% of B2B companies considered purpose to be relevant in business growth,” writes Norman Guadagno in an article at MarketingProfs. “In 2021, leading with purpose is even more important … Show customers what your brand’s values are and how your company is living up to those values through its actions, whether by implementing institutional change within the company, supporting a social cause, or demonstrating an environmental commitment.”

I’ve written here in the past about why and how today’s B2B brands should take bold stands while avoiding costly missteps. More recently, our Lane Ellis provided a look at the desired end result of these efforts, sharing 10 ways trust creates standout B2B marketing experiences.

#3. Merge personalization and relevancy

On the Customer Think blog, Uberflip CMO Randy Frisch recently argued that in B2B marketing, personalization and relevancy must be the same. He did a nice job of articulating a problematic disconnect in content marketing today: Too often, “personalization” is treated as plugging in a custom name via merge fields, or mentioning someone’s company or industry in a subject line. As Frisch writes, these things are fine but essentially the bare minimum. It’s all about connecting through acute relevancy.

There are ways to do this at scale. I especially like the comparison Frisch draws here, given that large-scale live marketing events probably still won’t be a thing for a while:

“Remember at events how marketers strove to offer specific content tracks from curated speakers in order to attract their audience and engage them? Think about mirroring that level of personalization (relevance) in the digital mix of content you’re now using. The variety of blogs, ebooks and videos being sent online should feel every bit as tailored to your audience as the breakout sessions and VIP talk tracks you would invite them to at an event.”

[bctt tweet=”“Remember at events how marketers strove to offer specific content tracks from curated speakers? Think about mirroring that level of personalization (relevance) in the digital mix of content.” — Randy Frisch @RandyFrisch” username=”toprank”]

#4. Engage through new video and audio channels 

“Video and audio in recorded or live formats have emerged as a top preference for customer engagement,” wrote TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden in a blog post earlier this month. “Whether live-streaming on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook or publishing podcasts and hosting rooms on breakout audio social network, Clubhouse, content marketers have a significant opportunity to create more engaging experiences to meet the evolving expectations of their customers in 2021.”

You’ll find no bigger advocate than me for the enduring value and staying power of text-based content, but the rise of these immersive mediums is undeniable. Forced indoors, people started consuming more digital content than ever in 2020, and these newly formed habits will surely stick to some extent.

Brands should seek to experiment with live-streaming, innovative audio platforms, virtual events, and interactive experiences. Clubhouse, which has been valued at a staggering $1 billion in its nascent startup state, represents an opportunity to get ahead of the curve. If you can get an invite.

More Resources and Guidance to Drive You Forward

Generally speaking, an empathetic content marketing approach that dabbles with emerging channels, leads with purpose, and is shaped by customer insight will put B2B brands in excellent position to score big in 2021. The time is now to invest and lean in.

For more tips and advice on leveling up your marketing efforts this summer, here’s some addition reading to carry you forward:

The post 4 Ways B2B Marketers Can Spring Forward And Grow Content Marketing Success appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

5 B2C Content Marketing Techniques that B2B Marketers Should Steal (And 5 They Shouldn’t Touch)

Pickpocket taking money from oblivious man on phone image.

Pickpocket taking money from oblivious man on phone image.B2B marketers, are we over the B2C envy yet?

We used to have a legitimate reason to be envious. B2C marketers got to be more creative, personal, emotional, and interactive. We were stuck with dry, logical appeals with no-frills presentation.

These days, though, B2B marketers can be just as dynamic and creative as our B2C counterparts. And we not only can, we should.

Yet we still hear that drumbeat: “B2B marketing needs to be more like B2C.” 

Does it really?

I would argue yes, but only to a certain point. B2B is its own discipline with its own best practices. There are a few recent developments in B2C that we should borrow, but there are just as many strategies and tactics that don’t translate as well.

In the interest of continually evolving B2B marketing to be more sophisticated, more useful, and more effective: Here are five B2C trends to steal, and five to leave to our esteemed peers on the other side.

5 B2C Content Marketing Techniques to Steal — And 5 to Leave Alone

The central thesis for using B2C techniques in B2B is the realization that there’s no such thing as a “B2B buyer.” They’re not a distinct species. People are people, whether they’re at work or at home. As the lines between home life and work life continue to blur, that distinction gets even fuzzier. However, that doesn’t mean we need to take on B2C techniques that don’t work, or don’t work as well as what we’re already doing.

Steal These:

1 — Take a Stand

Historically, B2B brands have stayed out of broader societal discussions. This is a holdover from the idea that B2B marketing should be exclusively logical, dealing with facts rather than emotion, delivered in a neutral tone. After all, why should B2B buyers care if their cloud server provider supports Black Lives Matter? Why not focus on your solution’s speed, bandwidth and low latency?

Here’s why taking a stand matters: A recent study found that 77% of consumers buy from brands who share the same values as they do.  Another global study found consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase, protect and advocate for brands who have a larger purpose. In this climate, a neutral stance is more risky than taking a principled stand.

We should point out that it’s not enough to talk about your brand’s values or put them in a mission statement. Consumers will be looking for consistent, meaningful action that expresses your values.

2 — Embrace Diversity

I’m old enough to remember the first TV ad with a gay couple, way back in 1994. The controversy was enormous. But Ikea weathered the storm and continued to push for diversity of representation in their advertising. Over time, the rest of media gradually caught up with them.

As a whole, B2B marketing hasn’t been as aware of diversity. How many old eBooks and white papers feature pictures that are overwhelmingly white and male? As the executive audience grows more diverse, we can’t afford the ongoing mental stereotype of a B2B buyer as a heterosexual, middle-aged white man. 

As you select images for your marketing materials, look for the audiences you might be missing. We want people to see themselves in our content, recognize themselves as the target audience and be moved to action. If we fail at diverse representation, we’re locking out potential buyers.

3 — Be Visually Stunning

It says a lot to me that one common unit of B2B marketing is the “white paper.” What a bland and utilitarian thing — it brings to mind a list of features and benefits in black text on a plain white page. 

There’s no reason B2B marketing shouldn’t be beautiful to look at. General Electric’s Instagram proves that you can find gorgeous imagery in the most industrial settings. Communication company (and client) Mitel draws you into their latest interactive guide with a fanciful futuristic home office.

In a quick-scrolling online world, brands need to have visually arresting content that grabs attention.

4 — Embrace Multimedia

Friends, Romans, B2B marketers, I come here not to praise the static PDF but to bury it. There may still be a place for old-school gated eBooks, but their role should be a lot less prominent in a modern marketing environment. We have the ability to create video cheaply and easily. We have live-streams and podcasts, countless platforms with a quick click-to-publish.

Our agency is seeing great success for clients with interactive assets like the Mitel one I linked above. Tools like Ceros make it easy for a designer to create something dynamic and engaging. What might have been just another PDF becomes an experience that unfolds, comes to life, and looks great on mobile and desktop alike. 

At the very least, multimedia can serve to augment more traditional content. For example, our client Prophix turned a report into a long-scrolling, influencer-activated, bright and engaging power page. But they also provide a static download of the report in PDF form to cover all the bases.

5 — Get Personal

I can bring to mind a dozen B2C ads that have made me either laugh or cry. The same can’t be said for B2B. Tim Washer’s Fast Innovation and the Slow Waiter ads are funny, but I can’t think of many more examples of ads that moved me on a personal level. 

We can’t afford to hold people at arm’s length anymore, focusing on just the intersection of our solution and their workplace. The thing is, work is personal. What we do for a living is tied up in our identity, our sense of self, our security, our families, and our future. B2B marketers should feel empowered to address all of those entanglements, a whole person rather than a “B2B buyer.”

Let B2C Keep These:

1 — Transactional Influence 

Influencer marketing in B2C tends to be more of an endorsement model. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian hawking beauty cream, or a micro-influencer holding an energy drink, the focus is bringing an audience’s attention to a product.

For B2B, influence is more about providing value and building relationships. Influencer content shouldn’t be product-focused. It should be designed to highlight the influencer’s expertise, provide real utility, and strengthen the brand by association with credible and thoughtful content.

2 — Snarky Social Media

Look, I love the ferocious sarcasm of the Wendy’s Twitter account as much as the next guy. Ditto the absurd and frequently bleak Moon Pie account. But that type of attention-grabbing, potentially off-putting weirdness only makes sense when your product costs less than $10. 

B2B content should be emotional, human, and even humorous, but it should always aim to provide value. Leave the roasts, call-outs and memes to our B2C counterparts.

3 — Vanity Virality

B2B marketing isn’t a numbers game anymore. It’s a relevance game. Would you rather have a million views on a video, but no conversions, or 500 views that lead to 100 closed sales? I don’t know many marketers who would pick the former.

Yet we still tend to measure effectiveness in terms of numbers rather than relevance. We know that hitting the right audience is better than hitting the biggest possible audience — it’s high time we quit chasing vanity metrics.

4 — Every Channel Advertising

Is your brand on TikTok? Instagram? Snapchat? LinkedIn? Facebook? Should you be?

Better question: Where is your audience? If you find that your most valuable decision makers are on TikTok, fire away. If you never get any engagement on Facebook, let it fade away. B2B marketers should feel free to focus their efforts where they’re getting the most results.

5 — Top of Funnel Focus

For many B2C brands, awareness is everything. Like the Moon Pie and Wendy’s examples above, it’s about keeping the brand top-of-mind for the next checkout-line impulse buy or fast-food lunch. You don’t see a lot of, say, 1500-word blog posts on why Wendy’s hamburgers are better than McDonald’s.

Even as B2B content gets more creative, emotional, and personal, we can’t let lower-funnel content slide. B2B solutions are rarely impulse purchases; we need conversion content as well as awareness-building content.

Let B2B Be

I’ll admit it: Every time I see an awesome B2C ad, I do feel a little twinge of envy. There’s a degree of creative freedom in B2C that will never fly with a big B2B brand. At the same time, I’ve come to appreciate how B2B content can be deeper, more meaningful, and more useful than a lot of B2C can aspire to.

So the next time you hear, “B2B marketing needs to be more like B2C,” take it with a grain or two of salt. As much as B2C gets the glory, B2B is its own discipline, and we get to blaze our own trail.

The post 5 B2C Content Marketing Techniques that B2B Marketers Should Steal (And 5 They Shouldn’t Touch) appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

How B2B Marketers Can Get Closer to Their Customers

Professional with cellphone and laptops image.

Professional with cellphone and laptops image.Last year I finished up my fifth full year as a B2B marketer. A lot has changed in that half decade.

When I started, there was a growing movement: “B2B marketing doesn’t have to be boring.” 

Now we’ve finally moved on to, “B2B marketing can’t afford to be boring.” We’ve finally acknowledged that B2B buyers are people — they want useful information, they want to be entertained, and they’re just as bored by corporate-speak-laden white papers as everyone else.

To our credit, I think marketers already knew this. We just had to convince the rest of the organization. 

For the most part,  we marketers have more leeway to choose the best way to reach our audience. And, of course, with that freedom comes responsibility. 

How do we hit the sweet spot of what our audience wants to hear, and what our brand is trying to get across? How do we give them that value that inspires reciprocity?

Here’s how B2B marketers can get closer to their audience in 2021.

#1: Ask the Sales Team

Let’s make 2021 the year we finally ditch the sales v. marketing mentality for good. Tighter alignment between the members of the Revenue Squad can only benefit everyone. 

The sales team has a wealth of insights about your target audience. They’re the ones taking meetings, answering questions, talking one-on-one with members of the buying committee.

In short, sales can tell you where the sticking points are, where more persuasion is needed, and what type of content ultimately sways people toward a purchase. Tight alignment with sales will make your content more relevant to your audience and more useful for your sales team.

#2: Flip the Script on SEO 

Are you still thinking of SEO as, “The way to get search engines to recommend our content?” If so, it’s time to update that mentality. 

The most valuable function of keyword research right now is to determine what humans are searching for and how those queries are worded. It’s all about guiding content creation to match your audience’s demand, from the planning stages through execution.

The best SEO strategy is to create content that genuinely meets — and exceeds — your audience’s needs. If your content doesn’t meet a proven need, no amount of keyword stuffing or H1 tagging will grant it visibility.

Make your keyword research a tool for understanding your audience. What do they want? How are they trying to find it? How can you be the best answer?

#3: Broaden Your Horizons

B2B buyers don’t spend their entire waking lives thinking about work. If we want to know our audiences better, we need to think about the broader context of their lives, too. 

When we see our potential buyers more holistically, we have a much broader canvas for relevant content. We can talk about maintaining work-life balance, the challenges of remote work, even the challenges that working parents face in relating to their children.  

Any topic for content is relevant, provided that 1) Your employees or brand has expertise on it, and 2) It serves to make your audience’s life better in some meaningful way. 

If you’ve been stuck writing “X more reasons you should try our solution” style content, let this broader context inspire you to write more useful, helpful content that takes the whole person into consideration.

#4: Explore Influence

At the heart of it, marketers are trying to earn people’s attention. It makes perfect sense to take lessons from the folks who have already captured that interest — people who are already engaging and serving your target audience.

Tools like Traackr and Buzzsumo can help you determine which voices your audience is listening to. From there, you can see what type of content they’re creating, how they’re capturing interest, and let that inform your own content creation.

And, of course, you can take it to the next level: Co-creating content with these influencers and reaching their audience directly (see our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing report for more).

#5: Above All, Be Useful

When we see our target audience as people, rather than B2B buyers (or a target audience, for that matter), we can begin to practice truly radical empathy. Not just the empathy that lets us walk in someone’s shoes long enough to sell them something, either. 

I mean the type of empathy that leads us to find out how to improve their personal and professional lives, to be genuinely useful, to lift people up because we care about them. Content that sets out with this aim in mind is guaranteed to pull you and your customers closer together.

And, of course, helping people and caring about their success is a great way to earn attention, build relationships, and develop long-standing loyalty to your brand. 

In fact, it may be the only way we have left to do all of the above.

Need help creating content that gets you closer to your customers? We’ve got you covered.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Get Closer to Their Customers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.