The Single Most Effective Content Marketing Strategy for B2B Is…
… Knowing Your Customer
Content Marketing has become part of the marketing strategy of a staggering 93% of B2B Marketers [Australian Content Marketing Research, King Content 2014].
The B2B brand-customer relationship is no longer based on one-way communication, but rather focuses on two-way brand engagement. That’s why smart B2B businesses are effectively using content marketing to create a valuable conversation with their customers. By sharing content that is relevant, timely, and addresses their prospects’ needs, B2B marketers are nurturing their customer relationships and ultimately increasing the likelihood of the prospect buying their products or services.
Although B2B companies focus on enterprise level transactions, people within the organisation ultimately make the decision to purchase. Knowing exactly who that person is and what drives them is key for crafting any content marketing conversation.
Here are the steps we follow when implementing a content marketing plan:
Know Their Characteristics
Only by truly understanding your customers, can you assess their needs and consider how your business concept will meet those needs. The first step to do this is to create a customer profile, considering demographic and psychographic variables that are common to your target market.
Demographics: Grouping potential customers by variables such as age, gender, occupation, industry, number of employees, number of years in business, or the products / services offered by the business.
Psychographics: Psychographic information provides deeper insight into how and why your customers buy, by grouping them into categories according to their values, beliefs, buying patterns and lifestyle.
By identifying the key demographic and psychographic categories that you want to converse with, you can focus your content marketing so that it really speaks to them.
Identify Their Drivers
Until you know what your prospective clients want or need, you won’t be able to engage in a mutual conversation with them. All you can do is present the product or service and describe its features. However, once you know what the prospect is looking for, you can then create content that matches your product or service to their wants or needs.
Business buyers will purchase a new product for several reasons:
Need: While some customers already know that they have a need or problem, others are clueless. Until your customer recognizes the problem and realizes that viable solutions are available, they will see no need for what you’re selling. Effective Content Marketing can be used to raise your customer’s awareness of their problem and address how your product or service can help solve it.
Money: Businesses want to make money. If what you’re selling can make employees more productive, boost revenue or cut expenses, then you can use your content to address your customer’s desire to make money.
Fear: Some claim that fear sells better than sex, and they might be right. If your product can be used to protect customers from real or perceived threats, content should be focussed around addressing these issues.
When you understand what motivates your prospects to purchase, you can curate content that speaks to these motivations and increases the prospect’s intent to buy your product or service.
Understand their Objections
For most prospects, objections are defence mechanisms that allow them to avoid a buying decision that represents a certain amount of risk. In order to address your customers’ objections, listen to what they have to say and try to understand where they are coming from. By hearing their objections, you will find out key information that will help you overcome the objection through content marketing and advance the sale.
Objections will typically fall into one of these categories:
Warning Signs: Indicators of information that tell you what the prospect is interested in and which direction he or she needs to go in order to proceed to purchase. Content can be used to address the issues and steer the customer in the right direction.
Insufficient Information: If your prospect doesn’t have enough information to make a decision to buy, you need to use your content to tell them more. Use communications that outweigh perceived risks with benefits and give your prospects as much information as you can.
Uncertainty : A common objection that must be overcome to reach a B2B purchase decisions, is uncertainty. In the B2B space where purchase decisions are high risk and high involvement, the prospect will often need absolute reassurance that you are an expert in your field. To successfully overcome this obstacle and build trust with the prospect, use your content to position yourself as a thought leader in your space.
Objections are a natural part of the sales cycle. If you can anticipate the reactions and sticking points that your prospect is having, you can craft content that really speaks to them and moves them along their buyer journey.
Recognise the Consumer Journey
The traditional sales funnel is no longer relevant. B2B customers don’t take in information, narrow down their choices and finally decide which company to purchase from. Today’s B2B decision process is in fact anything but linear, and the post-purchase period is often as, or more, important than other steps along the way. To create content that really speaks to your audience, B2B organisations must develop a deep understanding of their customer’s journey so hat they can develop content that addresses each specific stage.
For your content marketing efforts to be effective, you must focus on the points in the customer’s journey where your content will be most successful in influencing them. If you can identify bottlenecks in the journey, where several customers are stalling or moving slowly, you can use content marketing to address the specific issues and objections at this point in time, and use this to move them more swiftly through their journey to purchase.
By fully understanding the prospect’s buying journey, you can focus your content marketing budget to channel resources and spend where it’s most likely to have optimum impact.
Define Your Actions
Your content marketing efforts will be rewarded if you focus on solving a customer’s problem or adding value to your conversation. A recent Economist survey  found that business executives forge meaningful brand perceptions when content is timely, unique, and when it helps them to understand a complex issue in simple terms.
Understanding your customer, what drives their decisions and any potential obstacles means that content marketers can make smarter, more informed decisions about where to allocate resources, and what content to use at each stage of the journey.