Content marketing was long considered a strategy for communication in the B2C setting. Purely B2B firms saw fewer benefits in content marketing, as they traditionally relied on sales-oriented marketing. Still a useful thing in the past, today strict separation between B2C and B2B is increasingly being softened in the wake of the digital transformation. Across almost all industries and sectors today, we are dealing with global markets that are no longer subject to spatial barriers, thanks to digitalization. In the digital world, even companies on distant continents can become neighbors. A B2B provider that once had nearly no competitors in its national market must now face international competition.
B2B content marketing pays
More and more B2B companies are rising to this challenge with a new strategy – a strategy in which content marketing plays an important role. Each year, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) publishes exciting figures on the latest developments in this area. The most important finding in what is now the ninth edition of the B2B Content Marketing Research is probably this: 90 percent of the most successful marketers of B2B content rank customers’ need for information higher than their own advertising needs. The same can be said of just 56 percent of the least successful B2B companies.
- Insight 1: In content marketing, the focus is on the customer, with all his or her needs, requirements and interests. Content must therefore be planned and implemented with the customer’s point of view in mind.
Content marketing is not an end in itself, however, but is instead used to help achieve concrete goals. In the survey, for instance, 96 percent of the most successful content marketers reported that they had built credibility and trust within their target group through their content. The figure for all survey was still a full 68 percent.
- Insight 2: B2B companies can draw on useful content to build trust and strengthen their credibility. The more attention is paid to the customer perspective, the sooner these goals are achieved. According to CMI, key factors also include the constant delivery of reliable content, personalization and a continual link among the individual content modules.
Communication with customers
Marketing and sales share a common goal of increasing company sales, and yet the strategies they employ to achieve this goal are often very different. Over the years, this often leads to a parallel existence, possibly even an antagonistic relationship, even though a positive coexistence is what would be urgently needed. The customer’s desire for personalization in particular calls for a seamless view of the customer, but achieving this requires extensive interaction between marketing and sales.
This is obviously happening in B2B, as a very encouraging result of the CMI survey shows. Roughly three-quarters of marketers seek direct feedback from their colleagues in sales. By contrast, only 42 percent use the direct customer survey in their analyses.
- Insight 3: The more sales-oriented structures in B2B ensure better communication between marketing and sales. There is room for improvement, however, in the degree of inclusion of potential customers not reached by the sales team. The only way to create a holistic picture that can be tapped to broaden the customer base in the long term is to merge feedback from existing and prospective customers.
The most important communication method is still the e-mail, with use of this form reported by 87 percent of respondents. This is followed by learning content, such as how-to content, which 77 percent use on a regular basis. By contrast, just 23 percent involve their target group in communication.
- Insight 4: Community-building is still neglected in the year 2018. This is the case even though an active community brings a host of benefits, such as greater customer loyalty or early recognition of new customer expectations.
What B2B marketers are planning for the future
When asked about the area in which they intend to increase investment in the next 12 months, 56 percent of marketing managers replied that they want to expand content creation. On the other hand, just 36% and 29%, respectively, replied that they intended to invest in distribution and the use of technology.
Topping their wish list at 64 percent was audiovisual content, including live streaming and webinars. But 61 percent also predicted an increase in text-based content.
- Insight 5: The number of available and established content formats continues to increase and drive investment. Still, every B2B company should carefully weigh which format it uses, and the purpose and goals it has in mind. This is why a portion of investments should always be devoted to analysis of the various formats.
The bottom line: B2C and B2B are converging
Content marketing in B2B still lags somewhat behind B2C, but the gap is narrowing. And B2B marketers now have a big advantage: They can learn from findings in the B2C sector. This extends to the strategy itself, among other things, which in the early days of content marketing was often not recorded. If you want to adjust your strategy now, you should document it right away, too. Because that is it often becomes a key factor for success: 65 percent of the most successful B2B marketers have documented their strategy.
Incidentally, you can find inspiration through the latest trends here: