Insight: Content Marketing Isn’t Just About Information, It’s Part of Your Users’ Experience
By Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
It seems a single day can’t go by without a user of B2B marketing intelligence being pelted with messages about content marketing. I’ll freely admit, I read and try to digest much of what comes my way on the subject, but it’s like drinking from a fire hose. With so many theories and approaches; it’s difficult to wrestle content marketing to the ground. So, here’s my short take on the things you really need to think about in creating your content.
Thought #1: It’s all about the user . . .
Let’s be honest. Despite its rather toney title, content marketing is basically a form of advertising. As Marketo put it in a recent blog:
“Business-to-business advertising is similar to consumer advertising. In both cases you're trying to meet certain needs and overcome erroneous preconceptions. Business-to-business advertising requires you demonstrate that you understand and care about customers - just like consumer advertising . . . the purpose of advertising is to open doors, not close sales.”
While their subject was, ostensibly, broad-based B2B advertising, this also sums up the purpose of content marketing rather nicely. It’s one of the best tools to communicate customer understanding and involvement.
Thought #2: . . . and their journey
Think back to your school days. I’m willing to bet there was one subject or concept you just didn’t get . . . until the time when a teacher or fellow student explained it in a way you understood. That “aha” moment is the same thing you’re trying to achieve with your customers in your content. To do that, you need to understand their journey to a purchase decision.
The fact that they see your content at all means you already have a dog in their fight. That dog is, invariably, your brand. Whatever the nature or medium for content, consistency with your brand persona is key. Be real and understand their perception of your brand. Understand their nature and purpose in choosing that device or medium for information, and capitalize on the opportunity.
Thought #3: Become Their Trusted Information Way Station
It’s a simple fact. Today’s B2B buyers span multiple “generations” . . . and different age brackets access and consume information differently. You don’t need to look any farther than Gardner Business Media’s own Media Usage in Manufacturing 2015 Survey Results for a good overview of the variety of media usage among your customers. Some key findings:
- Websites and trade magazines are the two most accessed and effective information resources
- Trade magazines remain the leading push media
- 65% of business buyers are aged 51 or older; 21% are 40+, 10% are 31-40
This isn’t to say internet, mobile or social media presence aren’t important. They are. But, effective communication across these demographics requires an integrated approach, as well as a microstrategy, based on behavioral insights, that is aimed at tailoring content to the needs of each demographic and psychographic. That “custom content” model needs to be mindful of the balance between the “device,” desired information and staying within your brand persona.
Thought #4: Be Where They Want You to Be
Good content management is, essentially Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Getting information to your customers how they want it, when they need it, in the channel they prefer. In the web world, this is referred to as user experience, or UX. But, in B2B, it’s abundantly clear your UX goes well beyond the confines of the internet. The fact 2015 was the second straight year of rising print ad revenue for B2B trade publications puts some teeth in that argument.
Personally, it seems to me that content strategy too often involves too little thinking about media alternatives beyond social media, blogs and other digital deliverers. Facts are facts. Study after study has shown even college students today prefer learning from printed matter. I covered that in my last blog. My good friend, Dr. Bob Lauterborn, wrote about that in a recent book, “Print Matters.” Print advertising drives traffic to websites. Printed technical articles and white papers are manna for engineers and tech buyers. Simply put, print can’t be overlooked.
Thought #5: Have a Real Content Strategy
One can, and many have, written entire books on content strategy and development. I don’t have the space here to do that, but can contribute some bullets to spark your own strategic thinking:
These aren’t my ideas, but those put forth in 9 Tips for Creating Content that B2B Readers Love by Neil Patel (@neilpatel in a Hubspot blog):
1) Use jargon appropriately: The jargon you use internally may be meaningless to customers.
2) Go deep: B2B readers are proud of their knowledge; appeal to their continued education and professional development.
3) Predict the future: B2B content thrives when it covers present hot topics and future predictions.
4) Get to the bottom line: B2B readers are interested in revenue. How does your content matter in this regard?
5) Be an expert: It’s becoming challenging to find experts in some fields. Use all the resources in your company; sales, marketing RD&E and manufacturing, to assist in content creation.
6) Create case studies: Case studies make great content; they’re a self-contained proof statement.
7) Be tactical: The content has to make a difference to the reader to be worth their time.
8) Bring forth the data: Just like revenue, business buyers love data.
9) Say it, prove it, and be done: Don’t obsess over style; especially true if you have a tech expert contributing material.
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Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
2015 Recipient, G.D. Crain Jr. Award
Inductee, Business Marketing Hall of Fame
MARK SEMMELMAYER is a former Chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and President of the BMA’s Atlanta Chapter. He’s a 40-year B2B marketing veteran, including 32 years with Kimberly-Clark. He is the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA.