Fact: Many B2B content efforts—despite generating an avalanche of words and ideas—do little to move the conversation forward. In fact, most B2B creative is “ineffective,” according to recent findings from the LinkedIn B2B Institute and market research agency System1–quite a sobering stat. So what’s wrong with this picture and what can be done?
Short answer: The inability to produce meaningful content may come down to how B2B and B2C organizations approach marketing. B2B companies tend to be product-centric, while B2C businesses take a customer-first approach. It’s a right brain, left brain disconnect.
According to Global Lead at the LinkedIn B2B Institute, Jon Lombardo, “Marketing in B2B in many cases isn’t taken seriously by product, engineering or sales because it isn’t seen as the money end of the business. It’s a bit of a catch-22 because you’re trying to tell very rational people that you need to run very emotional advertising, and that isn’t a very easy thing to do.”
LinkedIn B2B Institute Global Lead, Peter Weinberg, believes one of the biggest reasons B2B brands are failing to connect a lack of commitment to creativity. “B2C marketers can act more freely in the creative direction, whereas B2B marketers have to convince other people in the organization to take what may seem to them a more frivolous or unusual approach to communications.”
If your B2B organization is ready to adopt a customer-first business model, here are some steps you can take to flip the switch on low-value B2B content strategy:
Consider a customer-centric model
Unlike a product-centric “build it and they will come” approach, B2C organizations tend to put customers in the center of every business decision, starting with the product’s ideation and development. They evaluate the needs and wants of customers and base the products and campaigns around those findings.
Statistics suggest that a customer-centric approach is a better alternative. Only 23% of B2B marketers say they have a customer-centric structure. Yet, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t prioritize the customer.
Leverage the power of influencers
Why should you consider embracing influencers in your content strategy? Aside from being well-known, most are regarded as experts in their niche, giving your message more authenticity and credibility than that of your competitors—even in the B2B world. It’s a common practice among B2C marketers, but only 15% of B2B brands have an established influencer marketing program.
In general, there are four types of marketing influencers:
- Mega-influencers – social superstars with 1,000,000+ followers, often celebrities
- Macro-influencers – with between 100,000 and 1 million followers
- Micro-influencers – someone who has between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. While their following may not be huge, they rank high on the believability scale high
- Nano-influencers – somebody with fewer than 1,000 followers who have immense influence within a narrow niche
Surprisingly, influencer marketing is not as focused on celebrity endorsements, as you might think. Micro-influencers perform the bulk of successful influencer marketing. They are just ordinary people with expertise who have built up a solid social media following.
If you question the effectiveness of having the right influencer in your marketing toolkit, just a look at the numbers.
According to a Nielsen survey, 92% of customers trust an influencer more than ads or traditional celebrity endorsements. The majority of marketers believe influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing. Businesses that use influencer marketing for publicity earn up to $18 for every $1 invested.
Let Storytelling Differentiate Your Brand
A powerful brand story engages and motivates people. It makes your brand memorable even if your product or service is a commodity. Storytelling doesn’t stop at your customer case studies or your blog; the storyline is ongoing. It’s part of the personal relationship you’re building with customers and works on the human level. Bottom line: your customers feel before they think.
So why isn’t storytelling part of the typical B2B narrative? For two reasons– it’s not as easy as spewing out facts and features, and many marketers don’t see the value of emotion in the B2B world. Buyers say otherwise. When asked, half of B2B buyers say they’re more likely to purchase if they connect emotionally to brands.
In summary, storytelling is:
- Not promotional and captivates the audience on an emotional level
- Genuinely exudes your brand personality
- A proven way to build trust with your audience
- Differentiates why your brand is special
- Tells readers or viewers why your business exists
- Gives customers a reason to be loyal
Use Social Media to Encourage Interactive Conversations
Social media is not just a way to broadcast information; it can open the door to a two-way dialogue. Many customers are searching social media to find out about different brands, talk about the pros and cons of products, read reviews, and ultimately make purchasing decisions. Many marketers think social media marketing can be more valuable for a B2B company than a B2C.
Using social media can help you connect with buyers on the channels they frequent, considering:
- 94% of B2B buyers conduct research online before they make a purchase
- 55% of buyers use social media to search for information about a company and its products
- 73% of U.S. millennials are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, and about 33% of those millennials are the sole decision-maker for their department
B2B Content Doesn’t Have to Be a Sleeper
It’s hard to overstate that B2B content marketing is a huge opportunity to engage and build relationships with potential customers. By moving beyond features, feeds, and speeds and finding more creative ways to tell your story, B2B content can be a powerful conduit to cultivating loyalty, generating leads, converting prospects into customers, and showcasing your story in an interesting, relatable and authentic way.