Highlights from my session at Content Marketing World 2012

I had the pleasure of speaking at Content Marketing World 2012 on the topic of using content to generate leads and shorten the B2B sales cycle. One of the big issues that I wanted to address in my presentation was how B2B companies, particularly technology companies, can move from “feature-centric” marketing that reads like dry technical manuals, to “customer-centric” marketing that engages leads and helps to turn them into customers.

Here are some highlights from my presentation, along with some resources where you can learn more:

  • Stop Selling. Start Helping.

This is something that I learned during my business training with the Ontario Self Employment Benefits program. It’s also the essence of content marketing. B2B companies need to move away from a sales-driven marketing model to one that focuses on providing customers with content that helps them solve their key challenges. 

  • Create Content for Multiple Audiences

Multiple stakeholders with different needs may visit your website and interact with your content. TechTarget’s 2011 Media Consumption Report stated that “corporate IT buying is a team decision-making process with 95% of IT buying teams having more than two members. The majority of teams have two to seven members with a significant amount having 10 or more.”

This means that your content needs to appeal to the entire buying team. For example, a researcher may initially visit your website to gather information for her boss. As the buying team moves closer towards making a purchase, you will need content that is geared towards end users, the finance team, the C-suite and other stakeholders.

  •  Create Content for Multiple Stages in the Sales Cycle

The B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report – a joint study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs – revealed that effective marketers “are 50% more likely to consider the “stage in the buying cycle” when developing content, whereas less effective marketers are less likely to tailor content in any way.”

That’s why you must develop content for your early-, mid- and late-stage leads. Your early-stage leads are looking for information that will educate them about their challenges. You don’t want to push your solution at this stage, but rather to educate leads so they will see you as a trusted advisor. Great content for early-stage leads includes white papers, articles, blog posts, educational videos or podcasts.

 As customers move through the sales cycle and start developing a business case for your product or service, you can provide them with content such as brochures, comparison charts and case studies.

  • Discover Your Story

The theme for Content Marketing World 2012 was “Discover Your Story”. I’ve found that many B2B companies take all of their amazing stories for granted or they don’t know where to find stories that will resonate with customers. For more information on how to discover your story, please see “3 Easy Ways to Find Your Big Stories”.

  •  Discover Your Customers’ Story

I feel that discovering your customers’ story is more important than discovering your story, because if you don’t understand your customers, you’ll have a hard time achieving ROI from your marketing. However, discovering your customers’ story can often be difficult for marketers who spend most of their time in meetings and don’t get many opportunities to interact with customers. That’s why I’ve put together this article that explores “15 Ways to Get to Know Your Target Audience”. I use a lot of these techniques when I’m getting up to speed on a new client’s audience.

And finally, don’t be afraid to take risks with your marketing. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, if you’ve been doing the same thing with your marketing for years and are not seeing the results that you want, it may be time to shake things up.

What about you? How do you think B2B companies can improve their content marketing? Or what questions do you have about B2B content marketing? Feel free to share your comments and questions below.