Print Posted 10/24/2017

How to Engage B2B Buyers for Content Marketing Success

By: Robert Hennessey

How to Engage B2B Buyers for Content Marketing Success

Many B2B companies recognize the importance of content marketing in B2B selling, and yet many tell us content marketing isn’t working, why? 

1.  Building Content Marketing Assets that Convert

To engage B2B Buyers, you will need to understand how to distill the purpose of an effective client-centric content asset as to its ability to engage, advance and transform prospects into customers. Does your content marketing fulfill the needs of today’s self-directed buyers? Here is how to assess your marketing content. Does it?

  • Demonstrate your understanding that Buyers are in Charge with client-centric content produced to engage with them on their terms.

  • Connect with new customers based on how you solved the pain of your best, existing clients

  • Build initial client rapport to build trust & confidence to advance a monolog into a dialogue.

  • Encourage clients to further engagement by creating comfort and motivating buyers to engage by asking more questions

  • Realize active engagement as a partnership in problem-solving not selling

  • Stimulate content sharing among colleagues and peers

Correctly done, Buyers self-qualify themselves with marketing content that converts, and they will ask you to help them solve their business problem, and no "selling" is required!

2.  Identify Your Best Sales Prospects

Amazing as it may seem a lot of business people fail to identify their B2B customers properly. There has been a lot written and talked about buyer personas as the best way to identify your best sales prospects. We think there is a better way for B2B marketers to classify customers. We like the Account-Based Marketing approach that focuses on emulating your best existing customers.

  • Rank your existing customers by both most and least according to the following criteria.
  • Profit margin dollars
  • Sales revenue 
  • Years as a customer

  • Create a profile not a persona of your existing best customers based on shared pain point attributes as follows:

    • List what problems each of these customers had at the time they became customers and what additional types of problems you have helped them overcome    

    • Segment your existing customers by vertical market, industry type, and size

    • List the products or services that you offered them and how these products or services helped solve their problem

    • What were their concerns & what questions did they have about your product or services

    • List the factors they articulated regarding the trust you built that helped motivate them to buy from you

Lastly, if you don't have all these answers call your customers and get them

3.  Identify the Pain & Challenges of Your Prospects

  • Begin by Organizing & Prioritize Buyer Pain Points to Drive Engagement

Successful customer engagement begins with creating relevant and effective content based on understanding the pain and challenges of your customers in three key aspects.

  • What is the pain for your business Buyer?

Many times the buyer does not understand the real pain they need to resolve. Helping Buyers understand their pain is the job of Demand marketing. Obviously, the easiest pain to identify is the most important and immediate to an organization. However, seemingly low importance pain points can rise quickly up the priority ladder if you can provide solutions through your client-centric messages.

The job of the Demand marketer is to help potential customers understand the scope and consequences of their pain. To do this:

  • Engage your prospects with content that focuses on their urgent pain problems by asking the right questions and answering them.

  • Assist them to gain a deeper insight into the cause of the problem and the magnitude of the implications by not addressing the problem thereby creating the urgency to resolve the problem.

  • Employ a non-self-serving communications style to demonstrate your thought leadership, and you will build confidence and trust that leads to the engagement you seek.

4.  Break Down Customer Pain Points

  • Start by knowing your target audience.

  • Segment pain points by customer function.

    • Develop client-centric content that addresses different Buyer pain profiles from the C-suite strategic issues to the VP operational levels, to the managerial level where the most immediate tactical challenges reside.

    • Associate pain points to specific types of Buyer profiles; the most critical aspect is identifying the function they perform in the buying process. The more you can define and associate the pain with the buyer's function the more effective the engagement outcome.

The takeaway here is to organize and prioritize all aspects of your content marketing around pain points.

5.  Develop Client-Centric Messaging

Before proceeding with message development, segment your potential customer profiles into three categories by:

  • the markets you serve
  • their pain points
  • the business challenges

Segmenting customer profiles is paramount because you will need to integrate client profiles, pain points and business challenges within your client-centric messages.

Developing client-centric messaging is the lynchpin in producing content that will produce Buyer engagement. Why because your customers only care about relevant, useful content. Your potential clients do not care when your message is about your company; your message must be about them and more specifically the pain points and problems they are experiencing. Successful customer engagement begins with creating appropriate customer-centric content messaging to all market segments.

Customer Focused Content = Buyer Engagement

Establish & list pain points for each market segment and the specific story they support.

  • Produce content that addresses the pain of your buyer from their perspective by using examples of others that had the same or similar pain issue.

  • Detail the pain, the questions, and concerns of these similar Buyers in your narrative.

  • Assist them to gain a deeper insight into the causes of this type of problem and the magnitude of the implications, (cost, time, efficiency, etc.) by addressing the problem through a third-party experience example.

  • Discuss various options considered for resolving the problem. Also, explain why the solution chosen was the best to solve the problem.

  • Employ a non-self-serving communications style to build initial rapport and demonstrate your thought leadership. In this way, you will build confidence and trust that leads to the engagement you seek.

I think you can glean from this description of customer-focused content the power of a narrative that speaks directly to a Buyer, who is in a same or similar industry or market with a same or similar pain issue. Then by walking them through someone else's approach to resolving a similar problem would be helpful, memorable and RELEVANT to your prospect. Creating customer focused, relevant content that creates customer engagement is the goal.

  • 5 Steps to Evaluate Your Content's Relevance

1. Do you think as your customer thinks? 

2. Does your content help prospects solve problems? 

3. Does your content narrative discuss the process to solve their pain and give them options? 

4. Is your content objective without any sales bias? 

5. Is your content compelling enough to illicit contact and engagement with you, if you had this problem?

If you can answer "yes" to all these questions, your content is good to go. If you answer "no" to any of these questions, start over.

6.  How Much Content Do You Need?

There are people in the content marketing space that are saying or recommending that you need somewhere between 750 to 5,000 pieces of content to reach your buyers based on the number of stages in your buying cycle. We think these are crazy numbers and not practical for most B2B companies to produce or buy.

Using a conservative cost estimate of $250 per content piece to produce the quality content necessary would result in spending between $187,500 and $1,250,000! Couple this with marketing automation costs to distribute all this content and you need to add another $24,000 to $180,000.

We think this all unnecessary and way too expensive to justify any reasonable cost of customer acquisition. Besides, we know that marketing automation is an antithetical linear process that B2B Buyers are not following to find solutions on the Internet. Buyers use the Internet in their disruptive nonlinear process of self-discovery in finding Sellers, who can help them.

Further, the use of more landing pages and more forms and more unwanted emails from marketing automation will not produce B2B buyer engagement. If it does, then why are so many companies not meeting their revenue goals who use automation? According to a recent study by HubSpot, only 23% of marketers are exceeding their revenue goals.

We suggest developing three to six pieces of content; that address pain points related to your best customers where you understand the narrative in detail. The content can be a new story or repurposing of existing content you have into client-centric content.

Beginning the process of producing client-centric content will help develop the discipline required to spawn additional content assets naturally. The ability to apply versioning in content development will make it easy to produce content that speaks to multiple customer functions in your target audiences.

By doing this, it will significantly grow your relevant customer-focused content without costing you an arm and a leg. Consider obtaining some help and assistance from a client-centric and account based marketer to get this off the ground quickly.

7.  Free Content No Strings Attached

Are you still gating your content behind a form? 

Why? Did some marketing automation salesperson tell you to to get emails to put into their automated email marketing system you need to gate your content? Here’s what content marketing experts say.

Neil Patel, an Internet marketing expert, says, “If You Give Away Your Best Content, Your Business Will Grow by 290%.”

Internationally acclaimed marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott says that; “…a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20 times and up to 50 times more without a gate in front of it.”

Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and one of the most respected names in content marketing says.

“Let’s say you received 1,000 leads via your white paper download. From David’s numbers, let’s even take a more conservative 10x more downloads if we remove the gate. 

This would give us 10,000 downloads with no lead data. Of all those people, let’s say that 1 percent would share this with their audiences (with a VERY conservative audience of 100 people, although most blogs get much more). 

With those numbers, the total possible content reach for gated content would be 2,000 people. Non-gated content would be 20,000 people.”

We strongly recommend that you not place your content behind a landing page and form. If your real goal is reaching more potential customers and you could reach as many as 10 times or more according to the content marketing experts why gate your content? Is it because your real goal is to generate emails to annoy your potential customers? The idea that serious B2B professionals are willing to trade their contact information anymore for the next irrelevant piece of content sent to their overstuffed inbox is not rationale today.

We suggest you find ways to distribute your content to authority websites besides your own that respect the fact that Buyers do not want to surrender their privacy, deal with registration, or receive irrelevant content. Buyers want and deserve transparency!

8.  Where to Distribute Your Marketing Content

Most B2B companies have a blog but many are not kept up to date on a regular basis, and some companies have no blog at all. And while blogs are still used to display your expertise and views on time-sensitive topics there is another communication format that does a better job to showcase your strategic and thought leadership messages. It is usually a collaborative engagement platform where buyers congregate freely.

A neutral third party Resource Hub is a great place to showcase problem/solution content your buyers are looking to find and make sure it accessible without filling out a form. Remember your buyers want transparency.

What Is a Resource Hub?

Built for B2B companies a marketing Resource Hub puts the value of your serious business content front and center for your buyers. A Resource Hub properly populated will provide buyers with a chosen handful of your best content on industry topics that are relevant and useful on how you solve business problems that matter most to your target audience. Buyers will easily access your marketing content, and convert to B.A.N.T. quality sales leads all in one place.

Consider your Resource Hub as the lobby of your marketing HQ. It provides a safe place without annoying ads or other distractions that invite buyers to come in and become immersed in the issues and solutions your company offers to their problems. By offering a variety of content types, articles, case studies, white papers, and videos you can be sure that your solutions to their business problems are available in the format that is most comfortable for them. Having several content pieces will also increase the amount of time each buyer will spend with your company becoming informed on how you can help them.

Better than a blog that often deals with a multitude of subjects; your Resource Hub is laser-focused on delivering the problem/solution content your buyers are looking to find. And, unlike a blog only requires 4 to 8 pieces of content to produce rather than having to feed the blog monster with its insatiable appetite for more and more content. No more feeling the pressure to get another blog done.

How Resource Hubs Engage Buyers Better

What makes a Resource Hub different than a blog or your website to communicate your most important marketing messages?

Blogs feature content based on time and the latest trends.

Websites rely on navigation that users must decipher to find what they are seeking. Also, any B2B websites still gate their marketing content that drives potential customers away.

Resource Hubs are customer-centric with the best content that is meant to help buyers find solutions immediately and accessible in various format choices all in one place. Best of all their sole purpose is to generate sales leads.

Bottom Line

If you follow these eight steps, your content marketing will create the engagement for new B2B customers you seek, do it at a lower customer acquisition cost and differentiate your brand as being customer-centric and transparent among the markets you serve.

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