There’s more to B2B content marketing than just publishing a white paper and watching the sales leads roll in.  

At Econsultancy’s recent Digital Outlook 2015 event in Singapore two industry experts – Anol Bhattacharya, CEO of GetIT Comms and Vaasu S. Gavarasana, Head of Digital Marketing at AXA – offered some great insight into how B2B companies can improve their content marketing.

Content is the linchpin

The first key point that both Anol and Vaasu brought up is that content is the linchpin of B2B marketing. 

That is, if you are going to use marketing tactics to grab attention, then you need to have quality content available once you get it.

The content can then be used for many things like lead nurturing, marketing automation, and sales intelligence. And the analytics on the engagement – clicks, likes, shares, and viewing time – can also let you know what you should do more of.

Finally, Anol added, 80% of the buying decision is now made before the customer contacts you – so good content will deliver better results.

But how do you get consistently good content? By doing ‘real’ content marketing.

But what is content marketing?

Vaasu, who is also a co-founder of the Asia Content Marketing Association, offered this definition:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience, with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

And Vaasu also gave some great advice about why and how to build a content marketing program:

  • Customers are always online, brands are not – that’s why you need content marketing.
  • Brands need a philosophy to get followers – not their product’s USP.
  • And content marketing departments need journalists, not copywriters.

Producing content

When asked about the best practices for building up your content, Anol described what he calls a ‘hub and spoke model’ of content production.

He said that you should first produce content for your own site. Make sure it has a home which you are in total control of. Your ‘hub’.

Once your content is up on your website, then use the social channels to distribute it – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.  They serve as the ‘spokes’ which bring readers from the channels back to your ‘hub’.

Many content producers in the past have used the distribution channels to build a presence. They’ve worked extensively on Facebook Pages or Twitter accounts – and then something changed and they had to start all over again.

So, always make sure you serve your own digital property first and only use the channels for distribution.

Nurturing and lead scoring

We all know that we should nurture leads. But even with good content and marketing automation, it’s very hard work. Shouldn’t we focus our efforts on conversions instead?

According to Anol that would be shortsighted. His view is that at least 50% of your target market will be right prospect, right target – but you will get their attention at the wrong time. So you must nurture to keep them warm.

And then to see when they are ready to be contacted by sales, you need to ‘lead score’ them. But how?  

To start, you should analyze a few key factors of their content consumption and determine a weight for each of them.

  • Match / fit: Have they identified themselves as the ‘right’ person to buy your product?
  • Completion: Are they watching the whole video? Filling out the forms?
  • Engagement: Are they consistently engaging with you?

Now it’s difficult to be too prescriptive about when exactly people move from being a marketing target to a sales target, but over time and with some practice you can develop a ‘lead score’ which can help both you and your sales team use your time more effectively.

Trends

So what does the future hold for B2B and content marketing?  What are the trends?

Anol identified three:

  • Long form content is becoming more popular.
  • Need to aim content at a particular part of the sales lifecycle.
  • Interactivity is key. So create something which fully engages your potential customer – a survey, for example – and provide value for them once they do what you ask. For a survey, give them aggregated results for example.

Ideal vs. Current State

Vaasu then gave some great insight about the ideal state of content marketing vs. the current state:

 

Ideal State

Current State

Integration Search, content, social, and ecommerce all working together Siloed approaches to each
Philosophy Brands as publishers with journalist principles Content driven by the product USP, monologue
Content Creation Objective to create and connect with followers  Objective to sell USP
Industry Both B2B and B2C  Heavy B2B skew
Agency Ecosystem Proliferation of content marketing agencies  Very few real content marketing agencies
Distribution Paid, Owned, and Earned Media (POEM) should work well together  Disconnect between traffic drivers on social media and content
Outlook Head of Content Marketing to help drive marketing funnel  No budget, no stakeholders

Memorable Quotes

Vaasu

  • “Hire a journalist and give them an orientation to your brand and philosophy.”
  • “Learn lessons from the publishing world. You can see the same story in the Economist and Fortune but the differences will reflect the values of the publication.”
  • “Focus on UE – utility and entertainment – and not USP. The more utilitarian and entertaining you are, more you will be shared.”

Anol

  • “B2B marketers are behind on mobile, but we are seeing more content download conversions on mobile now.”
  • “To start lead scoring (with marketing automation), first sit down with sales. Then you can learn what is really important.”