Digital channels are bursting with content. And while a consumer brand can stand out using funny Snapchat influencers or easy-to-consume short videos, B2B audiences are looking for more. An instigator of a purchase needs information that shows how the solution will improve their quality of work, the efficiency of their process, etc.
They also need information that proves value to every stakeholder who checks off the purchase and will evaluate the instigator on its success. It’s especially true for B2B technology companies. The person who begins the purchase process could have a dozen stakeholders with different specialties and interests.
The growth of content marketing has largely been thanks to the need for so much information in making business decisions. But often customers are given a blog or article that reads like a product page. They’re left to interpret the reason to buy.
A B2B company’s audience needs more valuable information before committing to a product or service. So to help them see the value and show it to others, content marketing can be there to provide useful, supported content that’s relevant to the audience and drives towards some definable goal.
That’s a lot to unpack, but two integral aspects are knowing who the audience is and supporting content. Let’s dig a little further into each, with some key learnings from the Digital Media Summit.
Keep your audience close and your detractors closer
Knowing the audience is a must for content marketing. The level of detail any B2B company has available may vary, but information like pain points and needs, barriers to purchase and content sources are all relevant. Ask sales people, check messages on a help page or take a look at the loads of information provided by Google Analytics in order to piece together the audience.
But that’s only the tip of the research iceberg. After all, not everyone in the audience feels the same way about a brand. Matt Wallaert, a behavioral scientist with Microsoft, discussed the types of consumers brands should consider. They include:
- Stable likers — deep commitment to a brand; they have detailed reasons for liking what it offers
- Unstable likers — shallow commitment to a brand; they are interested insofar as it says something about their individuality
- Stable dislikers — negative, deep commitment to a brand; they have detailed reasons for why they dislike
- Unstable dislikers — shallow, negative commitment to a brand; they are disinterested insofar as it says something about their individuality
While the stable likers might be the most fun to speak with, the most informative members of the audience for content marketers are the unstable likers and stable dislikers.
Because they are interested in self-promotion, unstable likers do a lot of it. They are very social; they comment on content. Basically, they are most likely to act as a brand’s bullhorn. Increasing the likelihood that shareholders across an organization have heard about a solution.
These people want easy-to-digest content that shows off the benefits of a brand. As the technology of B2B companies becomes more feature rich, the marketer needs to simplify and condense their message for the unstable liker to share.
Stable dislikers are interesting for two reasons: (1) they provide great feedback about themselves and the entire buying process; (2) they are convertible. These people will be more than happy to let a company know how a benefit was not delivered, or how their manager responded to the solution. They describe pain points, barriers to purchase and other stakeholders in detail.
Familiarity with and concern for features and benefits also means this group is primed to be converted. If a brand can prove it delivers on promises or recently launched a new feature, their reason for disliking is gone.
Because stable dislikers are already so in the weeds, they’ll need more robust content.
Content needs support
What is the value of a blog, a webinar or even a newsletter? As individual pieces of content, each might receive some comments, a few views or subscribers. But it’s a scattershot approach in an increasingly fragmented digital space filled with content.
Instead, take advantage of the fragmentation. A hub-and-spoke model creates pathways where all roads lead back to a goal:
- Central hub — a valuable piece of content like a webinar or ebook; should be worth submitting contact information, speaking with a sales person, or other actions that qualify as a milestone in the purchase process
- Spokes — pieces of content that tease, summarize, curate and otherwise link back or make reference to the hub; gets the audience interested in exploring further
Here’s what it looks like when designed in PowerPoint by someone with no graphic design skills and a very busy creative department:
As an added bonus, a company receives significant gains in search by optimizing all this content with key phrases.
Content marketing will continue to grow in importance for B2B technology companies. By knowing the audience and supporting content, they can better back the instigator of a purchase who needs to see the benefits of a product or service and prove its value to others.