How can marketers create the kind of inspired B2B content and customer experiences that will overcome today’s challenges and surpass tomorrow’s higher expectations?
With the right planning, careful creation, and strategic promotion, there isn’t any need for a secret formula for successful B2B content, as our chief executive and co-founder Lee Odden recently shared with top B2B marketers at the 2022 Content Marketing Conference.
2023 is set to see more content than ever come into existence, as the 4.6 billion pieces of content that are produced every day in 2022 expands, through ever-increasing output from human hands as well as artificial intelligence-augmented or generated content.
With so much competition for limited attention, how can B2B marketers build content that stands out?
Let’s take the wraps off the craft of creating inspired B2B content and look at some of the top insights that Lee shared in his newest presentation.
1 — Meeting Today’s Challenges Head On
Even as 2022 has dealt B2B marketers a new array of economic challenges that have gone beyond those of the pandemic, customers have higher expectations for meaningful content experiences.
When we come across them, meaningful digital experiences stand out from the crowd, triggering an entirely different response than the same old content, and activating areas in the brain that tell us to remember the emotions that inspiring B2B content creates.
While some B2B brands have reacted to economic uncertainty by placing more emphasis on sales and less on marketing and customer experiences, research has shown that B2B buyers want to be more informed, with 62 percent engaging with between three and seven pieces of content before reaching a decision-making point, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2022 Content Preferences Report.
When economic challenges arise, cutting marketing spending can often be a misplaced strategy.
“A knee-jerk reaction to simply cut marketing spend may be misplaced, particularly if the crisis is short-lived,” Janet Balis, partner and marketing practice leader – business transformation at EY, recently urged in The Harvard Business Review.
“Today’s uncertainty presents yet another opportunity to demonstrate that marketers are not only leaders closest to the zeitgeist of the customer, which is critical during crisis, but also to show they have the strategic and quantitative precision to maneuver as conditions continue to change,” Janet added.
There’s a vital difference between sales and marketing that will hold true for B2B brands in 2023 just as the following classic diptych ad from Crispin Porter pointed out decades ago — an image Lee has helped revive due to its enduring message.
When it comes to the most valuable content types that B2B buyers use for research, the same report showed that the top formats included:
- 43% Research Reports
- 40% Webinars
- 40% Case Studies
More than format types alone, survey data has shown that B2B buyers also want to be inspired.
41 percent of B2B buyers seek content to share that tells a strong story and which will resonate with the buying committee.
Lee has often returned to the classic marketing adage that facts tell, while stories sell, and for good reason, as Stanford University research has shown that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts.
How can B2B marketers inspire today’s customers?
“To inspire customers with stories, our stories must be inspired by customers, and told by people they trust,” Lee has observed.“To inspire customers with stories, our stories must be inspired by customers, and told by people they trust.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden Click To Tweet
Just who is your ideal customer, and what are their top centers of influence? Let’s take a look.
2 — Find Your Ideal B2B Customer Profile
B2B brands have plenty of good sources influence when it comes to finding an ideal customer profile (ICP), Lee revealed, with just a handful of centers of influence including:
- Industry experts
- Industry media
- Social media
- Industry events
- Search topics
- Technology reviews
- Internal subject matter experts (SMEs)
- Professional associations
When we inspire our ICP using what Lee likes to call other people’s content (OPC), B2B marketers can find better solutions to customer challenges — moving into the realm of best-answer content, a topic that Lee explored alongside B2B thought leadership in “Three Steps to Elevated B2B Marketing in 2022: Innovate, Collaborate, Accelerate.”
“Improved thought leadership can help B2B brands connect as a ‘best answer’ solution for buyers across the customer lifecycle from awareness to purchase to advocacy,” Lee explained.“Improved thought leadership can help B2B brands connect as a 'best answer' solution for buyers across the customer lifecycle from awareness to purchase to advocacy.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden Click To Tweet
Some examples of creating best-answer solutions to inspire our ICP include using a tool like Semrush to find the brand topics that customers care about, uncovering the questions that customers want answered using a tool such as Storybase, or identifying leading industry experts on those topics, which can be done through the tools offered by Traackr.
Additionally, B2B marketers can partner with experts to answer buyer questions using tools such as Nimble, while combining expert and brand content in immersive experiences with tools such as those offered by Ceros, and inspire experts to share stories in the specific places where buyers are influenced by using tools such as SparkToro.
3 — The Power of Planning & Audience Needs
Despite the fact that according to data from Content Marketing Institute some 87 percent of the most successful B2B marketers say they prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their organization’s sales and promotional messaging, many marketers are still leading with self interest instead of addressing audience needs.
Understanding the who, what, and why of your audience comes through comprehensive planning, and — as David Meerman Scott, entrepreneur, advisor, speaker, and author has pointed out — asking the right questions.
“To be successful you must understand: Who are my readers? How do I reach them? What are their motivations? What are the problems I can help them solve? How can I entertain them and inform them at the same time? What content will compel them to purchase what I have to offer?,” David explained.
By asking these questions, giving buyers what they want becomes clearer, and allows us to move on to creating the best content possible to inspire and offer truly best-answer solutions.“To be successful you must understand: Who are my readers? How do I reach them? What are their motivations? What are the problems I can help them solve? How can I entertain them and inform them at the same time?” — @dmscott Click To Tweet
4 — Informed Creation Builds Inspiring B2B Content
B2B content creation that connects in a way that stands out from competitors nearly always features a unique spark of emotion.
50 percent of B2B buyers have said that they are more likely to make a purchase if they connect to a brand on an emotional level, according to data from Think with Google and CEB.
Tyrona Heath, director of market engagement at LinkedIn’s The B2B Institute*, has found storytelling to be an important ingredient when it comes to creating inspiring B2B content.
“Use emotion, storytelling, and soundtrack to grab attention in a way that will resonate with all category buyers and make the most of that earned attention by conveying a message that will link your brand to a specific buying situation,” Ty observed.
In 2023 delivering these types of emotionally memorable content experiences will likely be more important than ever, yet they can’t do the job entirely by themselves without a third crucial element of inspiring B2B efforts — promotion.“Use emotion, storytelling, and soundtrack to grab attention in a way that will resonate with all category buyers.” — Tyrona Heath @Tyrona of @b2binstitute Click To Tweet
5 — Prioritizing Promotion For Inspired B2B Experiences
Content amplification is key for creating inspired B2B experiences, and when done well it has a direct positive effect on overall marketing strategy.
While 93 percent of B2B marketers have said that content amplification has a positive impact on their content marketing strategy, according to Converge’s B2B Content Amplification Report, a whopping 75 percent have said that they don’t spend enough time on content amplification.
Jenn VandeZande, head of digital engagement strategy at SAP Customer Experience, knows the importance of implementing the full spectrum of B2B content sharing.
“The greatest content in the world won’t get clicks unless you consider all aspects of that content when it comes to organic sharing: The image, metadata and social copy, and of course, SEO for long-term views,” Jenn shared. “Assuming you’ve already made sure your content offers value and drives to a helpful next step for the reader,” she added.
When it comes time to put those inspiring content pieces together, more B2B brands are turning to B2B influencer marketing, which offers an ideal framework for successful planning, creation, and of course promotion.
Six of the primary steps that comprise a B2B influencer marketing strategy include:
- Discovery: Intake from the client team examining business priorities, audience pain points, and being cognizant of what’s trending
- Research: Finding out what the demand is, and using organic search, social listening, and influencer conversations to make it all happen
- Architect: Mapping the content plan to pinpoint the purpose and high-level topics of every piece of content
- Theme: Crafting a creative overlay, with a theme that differentiates and stands out
- Identification of Influencers: Target influencers need to be selected, including those already speaking on your key topics in your priority channels
- Outline: Flush out complete concepts and content deliverable outlines, using nuanced alignment with brand positioning to get buy-in before influencer outreach and drafting
Rising Emotions Fuel Inspired B2B Content
With proper planning, considered creation, and potent promotion each in play, B2B marketers can feel more confident heading into 2023, during which more B2B brands than ever are expected to turn to B2B influencer marketing.
To learn much more about B2B influencer marketing, a good starting point is the 2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report, a comprehensive free 59-page study rich with survey insights, case studies from B2B brands, predictions from top B2B marketing experts, a list of 20 top influencer marketing practitioners from major B2B brands, and more.
More than ever before, creating award-winning B2B marketing that elevates, gives voice to talent, and humanizes with authenticity takes considerable time and effort, which is why more brands are choosing to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Reach out to learn how we can help, as we’ve done for over 20 years for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and many others.
*LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.