October 5, 2021

B2B content marketing efforts falling flat? Ask your team these 5 questions

treetree

B2B content marketing’s success has no limits

If you aren’t investing in content marketing, you may be missing out on valuable leads⁠—and cost savings. Dollar for dollar, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional advertising but generates three times as many leads.

Why is this?

We were curious, too. So, we partnered with PATH, a third-party market researcher, to learn about today’s B2B customers. Ahead of the full release of our Curiosity Report Vol. 4, we are unveiling a few key findings from the extensive qualitative and quantitative market analysis.

(Spoiler alert, we found more evidence to support that B2B marketing customers are now autonomous, independently seeking out information before they are ever on your sales team’s radar.)

How the pandemic has shifted the digital marketing landscape

The B2B sales pipeline has been moving toward an increasingly digital landscape for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic expedited that, creating a sudden, greater need for sales and marketing teams to leverage technology to connect with the customer. The shift puts marketing efforts front and center, as customers continue their journey from analog sales touchpoints to hyper-automated, digital-first content engagements.

B2B marketing teams must earn the customer’s trust through customized content that meets them where they are and provides real value. If your content can effectively do those things, then it has no limits—but your marketing team’s capacity might.

According to the 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report: “Many [respondents] reported having more work for the same sized team or trying to do more with less due to layoffs and spending freezes. As one respondent said, ‘Bandwidth is a challenge, as is trying to continue to grow the content marketing function when hiring has slowed.’” We understand the challenges in-house marketing teams are facing right now, and we’re on deck to help.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a “strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action” (source). It differs from traditional or outbound marketing in that it is even highly tailored to specific audience personas, and it is built on storytelling. Traditional marketing tells a customer about a product or service, while content marketing invites the customer to experience your brand in unique ways.

Examples of B2B content marketing tactics include:

  • Blog posts (obviously effective since you’re reading this one)
  • White papers
  • Social media
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Online articles

You might have noticed that everything we listed is digital content. That isn’t to say that great content can’t be print. There’s certainly still a place for materials that the customer can hold in their hands. But with business increasingly happening in digital spaces, customers are consuming digital content now more than ever.

Five questions to ask yourself and your team if your current B2B content marketing efforts aren’t bringing the results you want

If you’re one of the 68% of B2B marketers who would rate their recent content marketing as only moderately or minimally successful, ask yourself and your team these questions.

1.  Do we have a maximum of one to two clear content marketing goals?

Our research illuminated a disconnect between the goals of sales and marketing in many organizations. It’s easy to see how sales efforts directly impact the bottom line. For marketing teams, however, it can be a bit more complex.

If you provide content and then can measure it against the content’s efficacy, marketing can illustrate their team’s revenue distribution as clearly as sales can. To successfully create the most effective content, marketing and sales teams must be aligned on their top goals.

Lost on what a good marketing goal looks like? Here are a few examples:

  • Create brand awareness
  • Build credibility and trust
  • Educate audience(s)
  • Generate demand and leads
  • Build loyalty with existing clients and customers

2. Is our content valuable?

B2B marketers who reported high levels of content marketing success (extremely/very successful) said the top factor contributing to that success was the value their content provides. In order to create valuable content, it must be customized to the audience.

3. Is our content customized?

Demand generation (traditional marketing) is the past, and account-based marketing (ABM) is the future. Content is essential, but the customer is inundated with content daily—especially now. Customizing content for different audience segments requires partnering with sales to draw upon their intimate knowledge of your customers.

Top content performers create messages based on the customer’s needs. However, two-thirds of B2B marketers reported prioritizing their company’s sales/promotional message over the touchpoints of the customer journey.

(source)

Prioritizing the company’s sales message is sales-led marketing instead of customer-led. Customized marketing equips sales to successfully woo your most valuable prospects and customers. It’s what your customer will respond to best. The goal is to deploy the right message in the right channel to the right people.

Sales should identify who and where the right people are and trust marketing to scale the right message. It makes an impact. More than 80% of customers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content, and 78% of customers perceive a closer relationship between themselves and a company using custom content.

As both sales and marketing know, relationships are still king in B2B. But to effectively reach the customer at all, B2B giants must move from a seller-centric approach to a more buyer- or customer-centric ideology.

4. Is our content consistent?

If not, where are we stuck? Is it a strategy issue or a content creation issue? Or both? According to Hubspot, B2B marketers who reported low levels of content marketing success (minimally/not at all successful) said it was mostly due to content creation challenges (63%) and strategy issues (51%). At the end of the day, you can’t acquire leads if you aren’t creating consistent and valuable content.

If you’re struggling with content, marketing and sales might not be aligned on what constitutes an inbound lead. Start by aligning on how both sales and marketing define an inbound lead, as well as setting the goals and processes that will eventually roll up to operational KPIs. Successfully aligning sales and marketing can lead to 36% customer retention, 108% lead acceptance, and a 67% greater probability that marketing-generated leads will close.

On average, companies with blogs produce 67% more leads per month.

(source)

5. Are we taking advantage of the compounding returns of the content marketing funnel?

Customers are owning their own customer journey and leading the charge. They need both marketing and sales to unite to support one seamless experience. Marketing and sales should align on customers’ pain points as well as the company’s long-term goals to create evergreen content that provides real value and solves a problem for your audiences.

As Contently writes, “There’s never been a better time to build your audience. Engagement with branded content is up 16% right now, and people are eager for insights and thought leadership that will help them overcome new challenges and do their jobs better.”

If you’re having content creation challenges, you’re not alone

Don’t let your marketing team’s bandwidth hold you back from great content if your headcount isn’t growing as fast as the work is. Email secker@treetreeagency.com to talk to us about how we can bring extra creative firepower to your content strategy or creation. And don’t forget to stay tuned for our upcoming quarterly Curiosity Report to learn even more about what customers need from B2B companies today.