For many B2B brands, producing compelling content for a specific target audience is challenging. According to a study on thought leadership by Edelman, however, 88% of business decision-makers say thought leadership increased their respect and admiration for the organization.
Should B2B content cater to these few decision-makers, and if so, how can brands craft this content? We’ve turned to marketing leaders to understand what the primary purpose of B2B content should be, and how brands can balance clicks and visits with content that appeals to key buyers.
“The goal of B2B content is making sure it leaves a lasting impression with the right people,” stated Latané Conant, Chief Market Officer at San Francisco, CA-based 6sense. The problem is that many brands try to appeal to everyone in an effort to garner the most traffic, likes, and other engagement metrics. “You can’t please everyone with your content,” she continued, “but it will be successful if it hits home with your target audience.” Ultimately, buyers are in control of the buying journey, and presenting them with the right information at the right time could persuade them to take action.
“The primary goal of B2B content is to create a positive predisposition and consideration for your brand that will help accelerate the prospect along the path to purchase,” added Isabelle Papoulias, CMO at Chicago, IL-based Mediafly. That way, when decision-makers are ready to buy, they’re aware of your brand because they’ve already read compelling content about its products or services. But the content that works best will be different for every brand because potential buyers that are in the c-suite have entirely different expectations than a buyer that’s a team lead or mid-level manager. B2B brands need to know who the decision-makers are for their particular product or service.
While content marketing is crucial for driving traffic to a company website, B2B brands should also be using content as a tool to move potential customers along the sales funnel. “You balance content that gets traffic with content that speaks to key decision-makers,” Papoulias said, “by crafting different types of content by audience and selecting the right channels to share it.” During most buyer journeys, decision-makers do their own research and only seek to engage with sales representatives much later in the process.
Papoulias believes it’s important to deliver a shopping experience during those early stages that meets the buyer’s expectations in terms of relevant topics and the ability to consume and engage with the content conveniently.
“Adding value never goes out of style,” argued Conant. B2B buyers are hit with so much information on a daily basis, and brands that produce enormous amounts of content to garner traffic may be creating confusion throughout the buying process. “Our opportunity in content,” continued Conant, “is to understand the entire buying team and their key motivations, the overall buying team and where they are in the journey, and what they are consuming from industry publications, customers, and our competition.” Then, brands can add value by helping buyers make sense of all this information.
For B2B content to be successful, it not only needs to appeal to the right audience but reach them at the right time. “Ideally,” Papoulias suggested, “content creation should map to the different stages of the funnel.” But it’s not always easy to get right because it’s hard to know what content will push prospects to the next stage. That’s why Papoulias recommends integrating sales enablement and content management platforms to gain in-depth analytics and insights into what content works and what doesn't.
“Different content headlines play to different stages in the sales funnel,” stated Sharon Melamed, Managing Director at Sydney, Australia-based Matchboard. That means content with "pricing" in the title would likely appeal to decision-makers that are much later in the buying process and already comparing several solutions. Thought leadership content, on the other hand, may appeal to prospects that weren’t aware they even had a need for the brand’s solution yet. “It’s good to have a mix of content online,” Melamed continued, “appealing to different stages of the sales funnel.”
“Rather than bombard them with irrelevant content,” Conant concluded, “your team has to understand what your audience cares about and know exactly where they are in the buying journey.” That’s the best way to engage with buyers in a personalized manner that reflects positively on the brand.