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B2B content marketing needs to get customer-centric

Despite the strong emphasis among B2B companies to invest in content marketing, the results have been mixed. As many as 93 percent of organizations incorporated content marketing into their overall digital strategies at the beginning of 2014, but only 42 percent of them consider themselves effective at it (1). At the same time, only 44 percent have a concrete content strategy.

This leaves a lot of room for growth heading into 2015 for companies looking to make the most of their online marketing resources to engage buyers.

Content marketing is a multichannel, adaptable strategy that B2B organizations have grown to depend on, but they haven't internalized many of the tricks of the trade that make this brand of advertising most effective: Make content relevant to buyers.

What obstacles still remain?
In many cases, B2B marketers continue to take a self-centered approach to creating content (2). Across multiple industries, including technology, software, investments and manufacturing, there are few organizations that have used content in an innovative manner that engages buyers as they discover issues and search for the right solution.

"The biggest problem is that the majority of content talks about the company, what its products and services do and how many awards they've won, but doesn't speak to the issues their prospective buyers are trying to solve," explained Laura Ramos, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

One glaring issue among many organizations is in the way they approach case studies. By nature, this type of content is meant to highlight the challenges the company's clients faced and how B2B businesses helped them overcome the obstacles. In reality, it should be a feel-good story that shows how the client was able to turn their problem around. Too many time, case studies become vehicles through which B2B companies are self-aggrandizing, showcasing their features ahead of the pain points that their clients struggled through.

Another concern can be seen in the way B2B marketers take on content development overall. In many cases, these companies want to play it safe using moderate tones and presenting themselves as a sensible voice among many solutions, which adds up to one thing: boring content (3).

Signs of progress
In November 2013, Jean-Claude Van Damme made quite an entrance, albeit to the small screen, and helped to demonstrate the shift in content marketing that B2B organizations can take in engaging buyers. In reality, the "Epic Split" transcended normal marketing categories in terms of reaching an audience because it felt a lot like a B2C advertisement.

The viral video showed the action star balancing precariously between two Volvo big rigs driving backwards, helping to demonstrate the reliability and precision of the automaker's vehicles. As of May 2014, it had been viewed more than 70 million times on YouTube (4). The genius behind this piece of content is that it was entertaining – connecting with buyers on a human level through a sense of wonder – and showcased the strengths of Volvo's brand.

Meanwhile, the human resources and back office service provider ADP has also been able to shed some of the mantle commonly held by B2B marketers by created a multichannel content marketing strategy that engages buyers in a number of ways (5). For instance, The company used infographics, e-books and even a cook book to deliver a branded message to buyers who are interested in improving their various business processes. All of the content used consistent imagery and tone.

The key to helping push B2B content marketing forward is to create campaigns that approach buyers with a sense of enthusiasm and focus on their issues.

1. "2014 B2B Content Marketing Research: Strategy is Key to Effectiveness"
2. "Forrester: B-to-B Content Fails to Engage Users"
3. "State of B2B Content Marketing"
4. "Van Damme's 'Epic Split' for Volvo Trucks Tops The One Show"
5. "12 B2B Content Marketing Examples and Case Studies for 2014"

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.