“Can you use ONE WORD to describe the biggest challenge facing B2B marketing today?”

This is the question that Holger Schulze, Marketing Director for Safenet, asked LinkedIn’s B2B Technology Marketers group.

The thread currently contains over 1,000 responses. As you can see from this word cloud (designed by Adele Revella, Founder of the Buyer Persona Institute), one of the biggest B2B technology marketing challenges is content.

This isn’t surprising, as content marketing is a fairly new concept that many marketers are struggling to figure out. To achieve benefits from content marketing – such as increased brand awareness, web traffic, leads and sales – many technology marketers have to rethink most of what they were taught about marketing.

Here are 3 shifts in thinking that will help you compete with your content-marketing savvy competitors and increase your ROI:

1. Overcome the Desire to Sell

Overcoming the desire to sell can seem as unnatural as turning down chocolate on Valentine’s Day. However, it’s a key part of connecting with your super busy customers and succeeding with content marketing.

The Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing states, “The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

This means that you need to create content that isn’t focused on your products or services. Instead, you can develop videos, white papers, blog posts or other materials that help your target audience overcome one of their key challenges or reach one of their goals. Once you’ve gained your audience’s trust and they grow to see you as a helpful advisor, they will take the next step in your sales cycle. That’s when they may be interested in your specific offers.

2. Redefine “Marketing Collateral”

Many technology marketers rely on basics such as white papers, product demos and other documentation. However, these pieces can often come across as dry and boring – not something you’d want to share with your Twitter followers.

Since social media is a huge part of content marketing, you should think of ways to make all your content more social. You can start by writing in a conversational tone. You can also experiment with social-friendly formats such as blogs, videos and webinars. White papers can also deliver a strong ROI if they address one of your customers’ biggest concerns and are not simply a 10-page sales pitch.

You may also want to read 3 Ways to Break Out of a Content Marketing Rut for ideas on how to take your marketing off autopilot and make it fresh and engaging.

3. Remember that Your Audience is More than Just Techies

Technology companies have a tendency to gear their materials towards one audience – the technical user. However, the B2B buying process includes many stages and stakeholders. 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 work in teams of two to seven with a significant amount of teams having ten or more members.”

The first person who interacts with your content may be a researcher, mid-level manager or assistant who needs information to pass along. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, they won’t know how to refer you to the person with the buying power.

You should create content for all your audiences and speak to their business, technical and even personal needs. The more you can align your content with your audience, the greater your chances of success.

Content marketing is about thinking like a publisher who delivers educational and entertaining content. Once you’ve shifted your thinking to that of a publisher – rather than a traditional marketer – you will be ready to take the next steps with your marketing and achieve greater ROI.

What about you? Has the popularity of content marketing caused you to change the way you think about marketing? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

2 Responses

  1. Buyers are just overwhelmed with too much information that doesn’t provide much value given the wealth of online marketing options.  With today’s search engines and options for individuals and organizations to self-publish high-quality and timely information, yes I think the game is changing.  The ability to provide relevant and current, high value-add content is crucial. 

    If you’re not, I’d be scratching my head as a potential customer.  And I’d be wary.   So in addition to all of the above words, I’d toss out “relationship” as another key item.  It’s not just about the sale, it’s about everything around it too…

    1. Hi Ron,

      Thank you for the comment. Yes, content marketing covers the entire relationship – from your first interaction with a prospect through the sale to keeping them coming back. Good point!