A good content marketing strategy, both for B2B and B2C markets, responds to the needs of your audience. Although the communication style may differ, there’s always a human, right there in the centre of your efforts.
Content marketing is all about attracting potential customers by creating content which solves problems or delivers entertainment. It’s about building communication which brings value to your audience. Yes, the audience. But who is that exactly? B2B, meaning business to business, is a very impersonal term and approach to communication which actually contradicts the content marketing philosophy. That’s why more and more often we move away from differentiating between B2B and B2C and towards creating H2H (human to human) communication, also known as P2P (people to people).
B2B – does it even exist?
When writing content for B2B purposes, the most important question one should ask is: how to understand and define B2B communication today? Is the differentiation between B2C and B2B justified? Increasingly, when creating content marketing strategies, we speak about H2H communication. This approach allows you to direct your communication precisely to those people who belong to your audience, and respond to their particular needs.
We often come across the dilemma, of whether we should create a persona, an archetype of a potential customer, in B2B communication. We should indeed! In B2B, the persona allows you to understand that we’re not communicating with just an institution because we can’t speak to buildings and offices. In fact, we’re communicating with another human. Constructing the persona is the essence of H2H approach to communication and it makes our efforts much more effective.
What’s important is that the business itself or the products it creates, they don’t have emotions. But there are always people behind them. People are full of emotions. Even though we communicate between companies, we should always remember that there are people behind those institutions.
Just like in case of social media campaigns. Understanding that the recipients of your message expect emotions and empathy, and that they want to be a part of something bigger (they want to feel that they are backed by company values), allows you to create content marketing strategies which actually reach your audience, instead of, quite literally, disappearing into thin air.
Constructing a persona in B2B communication
Building a persona in B2B communication is mostly about defining particular roles in the process of making a purchase, and then about including people in those roles in the buyer’s journey. The buyer journey includes the following roles:
- Initiator – the person who sparks the thought of buying the product;
- Advisor – the person whose opinion or advice influences the purchase decision;
- Decision maker – the person who influences all elements of the purchase decision;
- Buyer – the person who makes the actual purchase;
- User – the person who is the actual consumer of the purchased product/service.
Where to find data to create your persona?
The persona is an archetype of a potential customer, a representative of the target audience. It combines demographic and psychographic details. In order to construct a good persona, you should answer several questions which will allow you to define precise expectations and problems of our audience. Sources of data may include research, but also different departments of your company which have knowledge about your customer. In B2B such professional communities as LinkedIn are a great source of inspiration.
Professional profiles of our customers and forum conversations, the content which they publish, it’s all a great source of insights.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself when building a B2B persona:
- Who are our clients? Whom do salespeople actually speak to?
- What are the most frequent questions customers ask?
- How can you define the problems of your customers?
- What words do the customers use to describe their problems?
- What are the problems of your customers? What do they want to achieve?
- What influences the intention to make the purchase?
- At what stage of the purchase does the customer encounter problems?
- What worries your potential customers?
- What barriers do you have to overcome (in terms of education, organization etc.)?
- What is the true, most significant value to the customer?
- Who is the point of contact?
- What to the customers most often say?
- What do they love, and what do they hate?
- Where can you provide more information?
- What area is most crucial and requires improvement?
The efficiency of B2B communication – most recent trends
According to a Right Source Marketing study (Novermber 2014) in which they asked marketing leaders in B2B companies about their plans for 2015, most of them haven’t completed their strategies for the previous year, some haven’t even started carrying them out. If your approach is similar to that of the participants of that study you can forget about your communication efforts being effective altogether. In the world of content marketing planning is the key.
Below is the list of the five most important B2B communication content marketing trends:
- Content marketing strategy. It’s difficult to call a strategy a trend, but lack of a strategy turns out to be the most significant issue. If you don’t have a strategy you can’t expect results. Within the strategy you define your communication, indicate the exact subject of your conversation with the target audience, the purpose of your efforts and key performance indicators, you construct personas, select the most adequate content marketing tools and distribution tools for your content. Without a strategy, there’s no point in pushing forward.
- Paid distribution. Publication of content is just the beginning. in order to achieve the best possible results, you should bet on a synergy between different types of activities and include paid distribution in the mix as well. This may mean working with content publishers, search engine marketing or advertising on social media.
- Measuring the effectiveness of content marketing. Your content marketing activities can’t just be heating the air. Effective content has certain goals which it has to achieve, and those goals can be measured by particular metrics. Website statistics, obtained links, gathered leads and conversion to sales or engagement of the community with the published content are all important. The performance indicators most often considered by marketers include:
- site traffic,
- lead maturity,
- amount of content shared on social media,
- the time which the user spends on the site,
- direct sales.
- Marketing automation. Context marketing, i.e. serving the right content to the right person at the right time through the proper channel, all this makes content marketing twice as effective. In order to allow yourself to precisely divide users into segments based on their interests, but also to assess their level of readiness to make the purchase, we should implement content marketing automation tools. This will allow you to automatically generate personalized e-mail or website content.
- Quality and the WOW effect. These days, when more and more companies create content, it’s very difficult to stand out. To be successful you should make sure you provide the highest quality, engaging content with the WOW effect. Average content won’t push through the noise and cannot be effective.
B2B content marketing tools
A study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) in 2014 proves that over 80% of marketers think that content marketing strategy plays a major role in their communication with business customers, but still, more than half of participants of that study didn’t have one. Nonetheless, awareness keeps growing and the role of content, which is not only to be effective but also to bring value, becomes increasingly important.
Social media channels remain an important element of B2B content marketing strategies. The role of SlideShare increased until 2014. On the other hand, LinkedIn is the key channel, which overshadows other methods of distributing marketing content. Marketers admit that it is a more efficient and effective method of reaching business customers than other channels. According to the CMI study, it is followed immediately by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. B2B content is also implemented on company websites and in newsletters. Over 70% of participants admitted that it is crucial to select the right content for blogs, conferences, for case studies or videos.
The study also asks why do companies implement content marketing strategies in B2B communications. More than 80% of participants responded that increasing awareness among the target audience is important. 74% admitted that their main purpose is lead generation and increased sales. Positioning their brands as experts in their given fields and engaging customers is also important.
Marketers’ opinions are unanimous as to one thing – content marketing generates higher profits. That’s why as much as 73% of them intend to create more valuable and useful content compared to the previous year.
It’s no surprise that content marketing budgets increase every year. What’s interesting, is that it’s mostly smaller businesses which make this kind of investment (10-99 employees), rather than large corporations (1000+ employees). Although the latter are usually already well aware and certain as to the effectiveness of content marketing efforts, both in B2B and B2C and they have been doing this for some time.
Copywriting in B2B communication
Understanding the difference between creating content for an individual customer and an institutional one is the key in case of B2B copywriting. In order for the message to be effective, you not only have to know who the recipient is but also what language do they use. In order to create professional content for professionals you should:
- become aware of the specificity of the given industry for which you are creating content. You should learn about your customers, find out who they are and why do they buy (or not) the products or services of the given company. Oh yes, in B2B copywriting the client persona is also the key.
- learn the language your audience uses. What’s crucial here is to learn (at least a bit) of the lingo which is specific for the given industry. You don’t have to use it in your content, but knowing the slang of the professionals within the given sector for which you create content is necessary;
- know your audience. In the case of B2B copywriting you can deal with managers, engineers or IT. They may all work in a common industry, but their language will differ, and so will their expectations. By precisely defining your audience you can reach the particular reader.
- be precise. Don’t try to idealize the state of things. In this case, numbers are your friends – use them wisely to convince your recipient that they should but this particular product or service. Forget about general statements such as “great”, “very much”, “huge”, “awesome”. Present your audience with meaningful arguments.
- get to the point. And do it at the very beginning! Don’t beat about the bush, don’t ask the reader to push through loads of empty phrases in search of justification for why they should buy this particular product or service. The recipient of your B2B communication is precise and demanding. Be concise;
- learn about other companies in the same industry and find out how they communicate with their audiences. Naturally, you shouldn’t just copy what they do – learn about the competition to find out what are the strengths of the company for which you are writing and to use this advantage by providing particular arguments in your content;
- remember that your recipient is a person. Although they are usually professionals and experts in their fields, they are still people, just like you are! They are also guided by their emotions and not only hard data and numbers influence their decisions, but also their attitudes towards brands. A little bit of humour goes a long way.
B2B audiences also have their needs
In B2B communication we should keep in mind that it’s not just about using the right tools and the language our audience is used to, but also that this target group has its problems and its needs.
Regardless of whether you work in the B2B sector or in B2C, our work is a constant struggle for the user’s attention. We can only get enough of it if our content solves a problem, or if it provides some entertainment. Because that’s what communication is really about: lots of positive emotions!