B2B Marketers Need to Step Up Their Content Creation Game

According to a study released last week by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, B2B marketers are doing a poor job when it comes to content creation.

First, let’s back up and define what we mean by content creation.

Content creation (marketing) is the art of communicating with targets and customers without selling or being overly promotional. Defined by SocialMediaToday, “Content marketing is non-interruptive — instead of directly advertising your products or services, you are communicating with your target audience by sharing valuable, free information. The core of this content strategy is the belief that buyers will be driven to do business with you if you provide valuable information to them on an ongoing basis.”

From the CMO study, Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field:

“BtoB marketing organizations need to dramatically improve their capacity to generate and deliver trusted, customer-relevant and strategically unified content across a multiplicity of digital channels, formats and device types. Unfortunately, vendor content too frequently lacks value and trustworthiness in the eyes of BtoB buyers, who are increasingly turning to more trusted, peer-driven sources of content along their path to purchase.”

Referenced in the report, B2B companies are spending roughly 25 percent of their marketing budgets on content creation for their digital spaces, but they are falling short in the ROI department. More directly, according to the CMO, “very few have content performance measures and metrics in place to scorecard effectiveness and calculate ROI.”

According to Direct Marketing News, this means that “despite spending a quarter of their budgets on content marketing,  B2B marketers are still focused on giving sales pitches instead of imparting thought leadership.”

Ouch.

Some Key Findings from the CMO Study

  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents say online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection.
  • Some 28 percent say they share content with more than 100 colleagues while another 31 percent share it with 25 to 100 people.
  • Peer-powered organizations are the most trusted and valued sources of online content; 67 percent of respondents named research and white papers from professional organizations among their most trusted content sources compared to just 9 percent who named vendor white papers.
  • Other trusted and valued types of content include papers from industry organizations (50 percent); customer case studies (48 percent); analyst reports (44 percent); and independent product reviews (41 percent).

“Improving content relevance and performance is a strategic imperative for B2B marketing organizations,” said Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. “B2B buyers are looking for content that’s original, consultative and highly pertinent to where they are in their decision-making process. Too many vendors are failing these buyers with overly promotional and overly technical content that doesn’t adequately address market challenges and customer needs.”

The truth can be brutal, but as B2B marketers, we need to hear it:

  • Buyers are “migrating to peer-based communities and new sources of trusted, relevant and credible content and conversation.”
  •  “BtoB buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”
  •  “BtoB vendor websites are inadequate and hard to navigate”
  • “These sites lack the depth, objectivity and strategic context that buyers are seeking to inform and lead them through complex evaluation and purchasing processes.”
  • B2B Marketers “rely on poorly conceived content that doesn’t connect with customer needs and concerns.”
  •  “..blatantly self-serving and promotional content is a major turn-off cited by 43 percent of respondents, and exceeded only by content that comes with too many requirements for downloading (50 percent).”

Double ouch.

According to the study, content most valued by those making purchasing decisions is as follows:

  1. Association research
  2. Reports from industry group
  3. Customer case studies
  4. Analyst reports
  5. Product reviews

“Buyers want content from their peers, but if you can’t provide them that, at least don’t do a heavy sell,” counsels Bob Alvin, chairman and CEO of NetLine, a content syndicator that partnered with the CMO Council on the study.

What Should B2B Marketers Do?

Simply, understand your customers and purchasers. Don’t talk AT them, engage with them. Give them the information they need, not the sales pitch or information you THINK they need.

Here are seven strategies for creating content from Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute:

1. Watch “Content 2020″ from Coca-Cola

Content 2020 is Coke’s “Jerry McGuire” mission statement on moving the organization from creative excellence to content excellence.

2. Develop your content marketing mission statement

Every person that touches the content marketing program should know, by heart, what the mission of the content strategy is.

3. A new mindset: Become the leading informational provider for your niche

Look, our customers and prospects can get their information from anywhere to make buying decisions. Why shouldn’t that information come from us? Shouldn’t that at least be the goal?

4. Utility is key

Take a hard look at your content and see if what you are producing is actually useful for your customers. Is it making their lives better or jobs easier in some way?

5. Define and answer your customers’ questions

This is so easy to do, yet most of us don’t do it. Do you have a system in place to compile the questions your customers are asking and post your answers to those questions on the web?

6. Employee involvement in content marketing

These are two great examples of successful content initiatives that have helped to grow business, were developed from the ground up with a limited budget, and were driven almost entirely by employee content.

7. Co-creation

It’s true that many brands struggle with finding the funding for content marketing projects. Why not work with non-competitive partners to develop amazing and compelling content for a similar customer?

The bottom line: Forget the fluff and the packaging, content should be useful and relevant- and driven by your marketing strategy’s objectives.

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