Lee Odden

B2B Content Marketing and Optimizing the Full Cycle of Buyer Experience

Lee Odden     B2B Marketing

B2B Marketing Q and A

What is the biggest mistake B2B marketers make with content?

It’s all about us (the brand). One of the most common and significant mistakes B2B marketers make with content is to create information and media that doesn’t solve a customer information problem. Additionally, content that is presented out of context and unoptimized for customer experience can result in very poor performance.

The reason for this mistake? A brand or marketer’s ego-centric view of the world. Whether it’s writing branded content to editorialize self-promotion or sticking only to topics meant to inspire end of funnel conversions, simply creating more content isn’t the answer. And yet over 90% of B2B marketers are doing exactly that.

The solution is empathy and customer intelligence. It takes an understanding of buyers: What are their pain points? What problems do they need to solve? What informs and entertains them? (It can’t be all about business). What information experience will attract, engage and inspire them to take action?

While most B2B marketers have a certain intellectual understanding of customer segmentation and developing buyer personas, the reality is that most are not implementing.

More is better! You better not. It can be tempting to hang low on the content marketing maturity scale and focus on creating more content (often driven by SEO). However, B2B marketing success with content requires an ongoing dynamic of evolution from mastery of content and media types to the ability to tell brand stories across channels to the ability to use content to create meaningful customer experiences.

Therefore, implementing the most basic of content marketing plans that align with specific customer targets and their buying experience can become a differentiator for a B2B marketer.

Understanding the relationship between buyers and information, marketers can identify target audience preferences as they seek out solutions. Those buyer and market insights can inform a content marketing strategy that delivers timely, relevant information that inspires action.

The model we use for this is:

Discovery – Consumption – Action

Discovery – Where does the target audience seek information about solutions? What do they search Google for? What do they discuss on social networks and forums? What publications and email newsletters do the subscribe to and who influences them? (internally and in the industry)

Consumption – What are the buyers’ preferences for information and media consumption: topics, content types, media formats, platforms and even devices used?

Action – What messages will inspire buyers to take the next step? What offers will motivate them to act – share, subscribe, demo, transact, refer, and advocate?

Empathy with the buying experience, data collection about preferences, analysis for opportunities and insight about specific customer needs can inform B2B content marketing plans intelligently.

It’s not that we will come to know our customers in absolute terms – that’s unrealistic. What I’m stressing here is more aspirational – a continuous effort to understand customer goals, preferences and behaviors so content planning, creation and promotion can be optimized. It’s an ongoing effort of iterative improvement.

Marketers that can move beyond the basics of making more content to making intelligent choices about content relevant to their buyers can see shorter sales cycles, improved lead quality, increased engagement and order size, more referrals and advocacy.

Metrics that matter in B2B Content Marketing:

For effective content marketing performance measurement, there are three essential questions that need to be answered:

  1. How will our marketing attract the right audience, right time, right place?
  2. How will we engage members of that audience with the right message, right types of content, media, channels and devices as well as to interact and share?
  3. How will we convert engaged members of that audience to the next stage in the buying cycle, to a lead, a customer, an advocate?

Organizing content marketing programs to be accountable through an Attract, Engage, Convert model answers these questions and empowers content marketers to be effective at achieving and communicating program results.

Attract – Engage – Convert

Attract: Any discovery touchpoint: search ranking, search referred traffic, social mentions, topic affinity with social references (concur + expense software or just “concur”), social referred traffic, direct link traffic, mentions on blogs, mentions on media, share of voice for target topics on search and social.

Engage: Content consumption & interaction: page views, media views (image, video, audio), content of a certain type viewed, views of content segmented by topic, number of pages viewed, time on site, return visitors, comments on blog posts, social shares.

Convert: Subscriptions, Sign ups, trials, inquiries – any micro conversion or explicit conversion involving a form that captures information.

Making sure content marketing plans are accountable to the buyer experience and how they discover, consume and act on information empowers B2B marketers with the ability to make their content accountable.

That’s the essence of marketing vs. simply creating content – accountability. All content assets should be accountable for attracting a target audience, engaging them with a rich experience and converting them to the next stage of their journey: Awareness to Consideration to Purchase and Advocacy.

That’s the point of view and approach we’ve been developing at TopRank Online Marketing for the past 5 years for Fortune 1,000 companies and even a few in the Fortune 50. We’ll continue to evolve this approach as we add more collective data, experience and new tools to help us optimize our process and performance.

Photo: Shutterstock

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.