Insanity is..."doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." - Albert Einstein
As I compared the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends North America report with the equivalent 2015 report, I was shocked to find unjustifiable regression in some no-brainer B2B content marketing best practices. It's no wonder that Einstein's timeless quote about insanity was my first gut reaction!
Here are some of the jaw-dropping findings of the two reports:
- The 2015 report revealed that 35% of B2B marketers had a documented content marketing strategy. However, this percentage diminished to 32% in the 2016 report!
- 38% of the surveyed B2B marketers in 2015 believed that they are implementing effective content marketing strategy versus only 30% in 2016
- The biggest irony of all is that the least effective B2B content marketers are the ones that plan to create more content in 2016! They still don't get that they need to STOP publishing and start planning if they wish to see significant improvement in their content marketing ROI.
After recovering from my shock, I was curious to figure out whether the same B2B marketers were interviewed in both years or not. So I raised that question as a blog comment for Content Marketing Institute article about B2B 2016 report:
I highly recommend that you take the time read the B2B 2016 report in depth because it offers invaluable B2B content marketing insights. However, if you want to make the most out of the report, you need to read it with the following questions in mind:
- What are the B2B content marketing best practices you MUST implement starting NOW?
- Which section(s) of the report may NOT make business sense to YOU?
- How to overcome the most common B2B content marketing challenge in 2016? (aka creating engaging content)
In an attempt to help save your B2B content marketing sanity in 2016, I will be answering these questions throughout this article.
B2B Content Marketing Best Practices You MUST Implement Starting NOW
The 2016 report summed up the key takeaways that top performing B2B marketers shared as shown below.
You may think of these 4 blocks as a success model or a roadmap for B2B content marketing optimal ROI.
It's important to note that these practices are highly interrelated and directly proportional. For example, marketers who document their content marketing strategy are more likely to "understand what successful content marketing looks like" and so forth.
For the first time this year, B2B marketers were asked if they have an editorial mission: A content marketing mission statement that addresses your target audience.
If you wish to join the big players, review your current content marketing practices against the ones recommended in the report and plan to add any missing component(s) in the near future.
You may wonder, why did I say you MUST follow these insights? Good question! The best practices presented in the key takeaways section of the report are so general and broad that it can be successfully applied by any B2B business.
Which Section(s) Of The Report May NOT Make Business Sense To YOU?
Contrary to the previous section, the B2B 2016 report also offered highly relative results that you shouldn't take for granted.
To clarify my point, check out the following diagram:
Smart B2B marketers know precisely their buyer personas content consumption habits and offer them what they need on a silver platter. However, personas needs and preferences vary a great deal depending on the unique business nature. That why; what works for a certain business shouldn't be a rule of thumb for other B2Bs to follow.
For example, if using Gamification (which is the least favored tactic in this report) yielded the highest ROI for your business last year, would you pay attention to these stats? I bet you wouldn't!
That's why; I noted that, unlike the broad key takeaways presented in the beginning of the report, some results are highly relative and may NOT make business sense to YOU.
The following diagram falls into the "maybe yes maybe no" category as well.
How To Overcome The Most Common B2B Content Marketing Challenge In 2016?
This section brings us to a widely shared B2B content marketing challenge: Creating engaging content.
As mentioned earlier, successful B2B marketers rap their entire content marketing strategy around buyers personas pain points, interests and expectations. The majority of marketers who find creating engaging content a challenge are probably missing out on this part. In other words, their content does not speak to the core needs of their target customers.
How Can You Overcome This Common Challenge?
The answer is shockingly simple: Leverage persona generated content (PGC.)
PGC is any content that users initiate on their own without any kind of stimulation on your behalf. It can have different forms:
- Product reviews/testimonials
- User's emails
- User's social updates about your brand (tweets, blog comments, Facebook page updates..etc.)
All these types of proactive PGC, if used intelligently, can be goldmines for creating engaging content because they're based upon personas interaction with your brand.
How Can Testimonials Enhance Your Content Marketing Strategy
Consider the following scenario:
What's your typical reaction to a happy customer who tweeted a testimonial about your product?
Probably you would
favorite like (I must adapt to Twitter's new terminology. Goodbye "favorite" and hello "like"!) their tweet and retweet it to your network. In addition, you may prominently display it on your website.
Most B2B marketers stop right there but intelligent ones use a brief testimonial as a chance to enhance their overall content marketing strategy by reaching out to their happy customers and asking them to provide more details:
- "How was your experience with our product?" This question reveals to what extent your brand is meeting (or exceeding) customers needs and expectations. The answers can be extremely helpful in tweaking your content marketing strategy as a whole
- "Are there any particular areas where you need to get more informed and educated?"The answer to this question can inspire ideas for educational content that speaks to customers needs
(You may ask more questions about new features the customers would like to see in your brand. In addition, you may use the testimonial as a chance to upsell other products... etc. However, in the bulleted points above, I focused on on questions that can help you boost your B2B content marketing strategy by encouraging customer-inspired content ideas.)
How To Turn Personas Interactions Into A Content Marketing Turbo Charger?
Personas may interact with your brand in different ways. For example, you may receive a social media update from a customer who managed to use your product in a new way. Grab the opportunity and blog about their story.
What if a prospect emailed you a really good question? Instead of taking the easy route of answering them privately, why not create a video tutorial and/or share the answer in a blog post?
In all of the above examples, do NOT forget to publicly acknowledge the user who proactively reached out to you.
For example, when you respond to a prospect who emailed you a question via blogging and/or video, make sure to start by mentioning their name and thanking them for raising such an intelligent question.
First and foremost, make sure to promptly reply to your prospect, notifying them that you will answer their question shortly. Once you publish the blog post, send them another email containing a link to your heartfelt blog post and rest assured that they will gladly share it with the world.
Sharing your post will be an instant reward you will receive for leveraging PGC.
What really counts is the long term value of sending the "your contribution is valued and appreciated" message to your entire audience. Hence, enticing them to keep pouring engaging content ideas your way.
By the simple act of answering a private question publicly, you have turned an inquiring prospect into a brand advocate in a heartbeat, while offering relevant and engaging content to your eager personas. Bingo!
Needless to say, there are countless tactics that you can use to initiate, inspire and encourage personas driven content. Today, I merely focused on how you can take advantage of every imaginable PGC to boost your content engagement rate.
Ready, Set, Grow...
You may think that a report titled "B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends" would recommend new trends for B2B marketers. However, the key takeaways offered in this report are evergreen and would apply to 2016, 2020 all the way to year plus infinity.
Perhaps having an editorial mission may seem new to some B2B marketers. Otherwise, I'm sure that most of you said: "Duh!" in reaction to the remaining takeaways.
The need to restate the obvious stems from the fact that B2B marketers are not applying the basics! In response to my comment on the report (screenshot provided above), the answerer indicated that they interviewed more or less the same B2Bs in 2015 and 2016. Still, we saw regression in some no-brainer areas and, in turn, the report had to offer "beginners level" recommendations.
I guess it's about time for B2B marketers to raise the bar NOW! What do you think? I look forward to reading your insights in the comments.
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* Lead images adapted from Rolf Brecher, Horia Varlan