Is Your B2B Content a Killer Experience, or an Experience-Killer?

May 8, 2017

This guest post was contributed by Brody Dorland, the co-founder of Kansas City-based DivvyHQ, a cloud-based content planning and production workflow tool built to help businesses with all their content initiatives.

When you hear the word experience, what comes to mind? Beach vacation? Virtual reality gaming? Rollercoasters? Lady GaGa diving into a halftime show?

What about B2B content marketing? Sadly, it’s probably not top of mind.

It’s true, B2B content marketing has had some dull moments in its history. But in the past few years, we’ve witnessed a renaissance of sorts, with B2C and B2B content tactics rapidly converging.

B2B marketers are quickly catching on to the fact that when they offer a rich content experience, they better get engagement, and more customers too.

Here’s why.

According to research firm dscout, the average smartphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day. That’s a whopping 145 average daily minutes locked in a finger marathon of addictive tapping, swiping, liking, emailing, and texting. My fingers ache just thinking about it.

In addition, the average B2B target customer is highly distracted, and stressed. According to a Hackernoon survey, A full 58% of high-performing employees report their workplace is too distracting, while CareerCast reports a whopping 82% of workers say their jobs fall on the more stressful end of the spectrum.

Which means the success or failure of your B2B content marketing all boils down to one question: is the experience rich enough to attract AND engage a distracted, stressed, and busy audience?

It’s certainly easier said than done. But it’s also what every B2B marketer should strive for. Hence, the generous team at LinkedIn openly shares their marketing secret sauce with the world. They want you to have the recipe for success.

Speaking of secret sauce, we’ll turn now to advice from top B2B content marketers on how to deliver incredible content experiences. Here are 7 tips on how to improve your B2B content marketing experiences:

1. Re-org Your Priorities

Content marketers must turn their world upside down when it comes to content creation. Most content departments currently spend roughly 60% of their time fulfilling the ad-hoc demands of sales, brand, and demand-gen for content-oriented assets, 30% on timely newsjacking, and 10% on more strategic content initiatives. You have to flip that. Instead, the 60% should really be spent on strategic initiatives. — Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute

A few weeks back, I was chatting with Robert Rose, who has joined the DivvyHQ Board of Directors by the way, and he brought up an unfortunate reality for B2B marketing teams. Most, if not all, operate as content production arms for sales and leadership within their organizations. They churn out whatever is relevant and asked of them, which results in a lack of long-term content success, and oftentimes a failure to delight an audience.

If we wish to create killer content experiences, we must make a case to leadership that strategic content initiatives and long-term vision in content are must-haves.

2. Embrace Constraints

Outrageous constraints can ignite creativity – don’t be intimidated that you aren’t Lego or Red Bull, and value brains over budget. What works for Lego isn’t going to work for 90% of us. — Jason Miller, Group Manager - Global Content & Social Media Marketing, LinkedIn 

Far too many B2B content professionals stare up the corporate mountain of incredible case studies, wondering how they’ll ever achieve the amazing feats of Red Bull, Nike, Lego, or Google. News flash, you don’t have to. B2B content can be amazing, constrained, or smaller in scale, all at the same time.

Strive for relevancy, and provide value to your customers beyond what your competitors are offering. Develop deep insights within your niche that no one can match. Even the Google’s of the world won’t be able to compete with that.

3. Know Your Audience

Many transactions, in fact most in B2B, don’t have a single buyer. For that reason, one piece of content might do a great job of reaching one person, while not performing well with other decision makers. This is why we need an overlapping persona analysis when building out content. — Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz, Moz

In B2B content marketing there’s no avoiding the need for a deep understanding of your audience. The first step is to recognize that the majority of decisions now happen by committee. Which means you’ll have to create different pieces, and styles of content, for different members of that committee.

4. Map Content to a Buying Process

Once you have your questions and stories, map them to the buying process — just as your prospect will experience them. — Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions 

Understanding your audience is just the first step to creating killer B2B content. Next, seek to understand their buying process. What fears, anxieties, frustrations, joys do they experience in their work lives? What keeps them up at night? How much education do they need, versus nurturing? Where else are they going for information?

Mapping content to each phase of their journey is how you’ll turn an audience into customers and ultimately brand advocates.

5. Empathize with Your Audience

Great marketers have immense empathy for their audience. They can put themselves in their shoes, live their lives, feel what they feel, go where they go, and respond how they'd respond. That empathy comes out in content that resonates with your audience. — Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing 

Knowing your audience as a list of attributes, and actually putting yourself in their shoes are two very different exercises. Empathizing with your audience will get you closer to the tone of voice you should use in your content, and help you speak directly to your buyers on an emotional level. What makes them laugh, cry, scream, and sigh? Bake some of that infotainment into your content, and you’ll certainly get their attention.

6. Recognize that Content is The Starting Line

There are enough books out there touting the need for amazing content. That’s a given. But epic content simply earns a seat at the table today. The real power only comes to those who can create content that connects, engages, and moves through the network through social sharing. Creating great content is not the finish line. It’s the starting line. — Mark Schaefer, Executive Director, Schaefer Marketing Solutions

As B2B content marketers, many of us feel a weight lifted when we send an article, post content on social media, or complete a milestone piece of content, like an ebook or whitepaper. For your audience, that’s the tip of the iceberg, and beginning of their interaction with your brand. Delivering killer content is table stakes. The longer-term goal is turning content into relationships, and customers. That takes time, dedication, and much greater ambition.

7. Embrace Long-form Storytelling

We’ve seen how successful the binge-watching model has been in the film and TV world. The same opportunity exists today for content marketers. Go deep to learn more about your audience up front. Create a series that can deliver anticipation and excitement for what’s coming next. Take the time upfront to develop comprehensive long-form stories, and content strategies that span multiple content types and channels. — Content Marketing Institute's Rose

This is especially relevant to B2B content marketing, where buying cycles are often much longer than B2C. Episodic, on-demand content has been fully embraced in the consumer world, and B2B most certainly has some catching up to do in this area.

Start thinking long-term. Instead of creating a one-off blog post, ebook, whitepaper, or video, build a series across each of these mediums that weave together the same narrative and story. Creating killer content requires media sophistication, and diversification. Remember, you don’t need Hollywood-level video, or award-winning infographics. Rich media just needs to be relevant, and targeted to the specific needs of your buyers.

Conclusion: It all boils down to process and planning

Creating killer content experiences isn’t just about content. It’s about your team, process, planning, and gaining buy-in from leadership to change the game.

Thriving in today’s media landscape means creating content that satisfies our audiences, instead of our enterprises. Ultimately, this starts with better content planning

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