Content marketers now work with a different kind of customer. The traditional B2B customer is considered rational, interdependent and loyal. The new B2B consumer is anonymous, more emotional, fickle, and increasingly reliant on mobile devices.
New research from Forrester Consulting revealed in a recent webinar that 68% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct online research on their own, 63% of them do so with a mobile device, and 63% say they are perfectly happy and “totally capable” of developing an RFP based on content they find themselves.
“This is a really different customer than we’re used to,” said April Henderson, Forrester Consulting vice president, market impact consulting, in the webinar.
Today’s B2B customers need marketers to develop a new relationship with them. Forrester found that 66% of B2B buyers say vendors provide too much material, 57% say much of the material is useless, and 58% say the material is focused more on style than substance. While B2B customers rely heavily on marketing content, they are running out of tolerance for traditional marketing practices. In addition, they’re tired of being treated like a data point and distrust how companies treat their data.
Forrester recommends content that is: empathetic, easy to consume, and interactive.
Empathetic. Empathetic content focuses on your customers and their needs, not about your company and its products. According to Forrester, 79% of buyers say they value content that’s tailored to their industry, role or department. Emphasize helping customers and speak with a human voice.
Easy to consume. Buyers prefer content that’s shorter and easily consumable in small chunks. Laura Ramos, vice president, principal analyst, recommends the “appetizer and dinner model.” An in-depth “big idea report” is the main course and smaller pieces of content such as infographics and blog posts are the appetizers. Give away the appetizers to get prospects to pay for dinner, Ramos advised during the webinar. That is a marketing model long used by Forrester for its own promotion.
Types of formats B2B customers prefer include:
- Reports 4 to 6 pages long,
- Short articles of one or two pages,
- Webinars less than 30 minutes long,
- Videos less than 90 seconds long,
- SlideShare presentations,
- Interactive ROI tools.
Interactive content. Today’s buyers want customized, interactive content. Sixty-one percent of buyers surveyed want to be able to input information and generate a customized output. Types of interactive content include assessments, quizzes and polls.
Align Sales and Marketing
In the traditional model, marketing collects leads, and then sends them to sales without further interaction with them. But engagement is no longer linear. Buyers alternate between engaging with B2B marketing content and talking to sales reps. Seventy-two percent say sales reps need to continue the conversation started with marketing messaging and content. That means sales and marketing teams need to be aligned.
“The buyer doesn’t care about the sales lane between marketing and sales,” Henderson notes.
Other experts agree that placing greater priority on the information needs of a brand’s audience is a more effective content marketing strategy than trying to sell products.
Put the Audience First
Among top-performing B2B content marketers, 90 percent say they put their audience’s informational needs ahead of their company’s sales/promotional message, compared with just 56 percent who say so among least successful content marketers, according to the B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.
“In short, if you want your brand to be well-regarded by your audience, give it something valuable,” states CMI Research Director Lisa Murton Beets. “Be consistent. Be easy to find. Give your audience members content they want and need – when and where they’re looking for it. And make it about them, not you.”
Bottom Line: Changing preferences of B2B customers require businesses to adjust their content marketing strategies. Meeting the needs of audiences with relevant, easily consumable content and working closely with sales is the order of the day.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.