Tag Archives: content marketing

B2B’s miss the mark in their brand communication

It is not long ago, that the B2B content marketing institute released its annual content marketing prediction (in this case for 2014 – more here). Throughout the report,  two things became apparent, content marketing has grown widely (with 93% of B2B engaging in some form of content marketing) and thus gained more attention in yearly budget rounds.

Content Marketing Engagement

However, at the very same time, only 42% of B2B content marketers judge their own efforts as effective. Although this is an uplift from 2013 of 6%, we can see still a large number of marketers engage in a practice doomed non-effective by themselves.

Content Marketing Effectiveness

Even more interesting is the fact, that over 73% of marketers state to produce more content than the year before; with a large percentage even having a dedicated person to content marketing and a documented content marketing strategy.

YET, if we contrast the latest McKinsey study (more here) on B2B communication (although brand focused), it becomes apparent that the effectiveness rating giving by content marketers (most likely on the skewed goal setting and remaining issues to measure the success of their programs) are in contradicting to the perceived brand strengths (post communication) in the market. Brand Awareness was stated as the number one content marketing goal by B2B’s for 2014 (82%); but as it seems, the focus remains on internally centred and not customer centric.

McKinsey study on B2B brand communication

I am thus wondering if the stated success metrics and effectiveness rating of B2B content marketing programs are in line with customer perceptions or if B2B’s are still largely trapped in using gut feeling or sales as an overall measure of success. Contrasting both studies on that aspect, I have my ongoing doubts.

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3 steps to evolve your marketing from content to contextual

Over the last 2 years, the term content marketing has not only been coined but received wide acceptance within marketing circles. Content marketing became the new mantra to engage with customers on a wide array on both digital and traditional levels. Current studies show (link to a Marketing Prof’s article on B2C content marketing trends), that content marketing still receives great attention and for the most part, rightly so. As most studies confirm, over 85% of both B2C and B2B marketers keep or even increase their content marketing efforts in 2013 based on previous years budget spending.

The content marketing matrix, shines some light on the level of content marketing management possibilities but also highlights, that a very generic customer profiling is assumed.

content marketing matrix

Why is content marketing however becoming complacent with an overflow of content from all sides to a single consumer?

> Consumers follow less traditional funnel concepts but rely on multiple sources and a more diffuse buying decision making behaviour (see ZMOT by Google for some inspiration)

> Technology enables consumers to not just for ROPO (research offline / purchase online) but currently for RMPO (research mobile / purchase online) and RMPM (research mobile / purchase mobile)

> Influence of content to consumers decreases with the increasing emphasise placed on social sharing and social recommendation (e.g. great content marketing but 2 out 5 star rating)

How can a marketer deal with these changes in consumer purchasing behaviour and the increase of technology as enabler for new purchase decision making? 

1) Utilise digital data: with digital media in place, enabling big data to become smart data is easier than ever. It is however important to differentiate between wanting to know everything and being able to distill what is really important. Don’t get overwhelmed by the flow of data but control it!

2) Enable customer journey thinking: smart data allows you to follow single customers (don’t think stalking) but to determine their need at any given time. A housewife in Massachusetts using an Android based Smartphone might follow a different decision making journey than a college freshmen in San Francisco using a laptop in a coffee chain. Customers don’t want to be spammed with content but receive the right content at the right time. Banner blindness is not a sign of too much content but non-contextual content – just because I searched for a fridge doesn’t mean I want to see fridge banners for the coming two weeks.Don’t spam with content – be smart and enable customer’s to use it!

3) Less is more: Customer’s banner blindness, which served as an example for the increasing marketing message aversion, is just one example of content being misplaced, money and resources wasted. Follow the customer journey and anticipate in real time the needs and receptiveness of customers to your content. Use digital data to model the journey and most importantly track progress – add value to the customer journey but not noise. Use your budget wisely and at important decision making stages when the customer most heavily relies on external content to progress in his or her buying cycle.

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B2B content marketing trends in 2013 & upcoming challenges

According to a recent study by Content Marketing Institute, a little more than half of all surveyed B2B marketers are planning to increase their content marketing spending in 2013. This result almost mirrors the B2C oriented study and shows a clear trend of the increasing importance of content marketing across organisations.

B2B content marketing expected spending

B2B content marketing expected spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another promising development is the ongoing trend of B2B marketers, likewise to their B2C colleagues, to acknowledge the importance of content creation by gradually increasing in-house content creation efforts over outsources efforts. A trend which in my eyes is an inevitable step to create ownership, necessary processes and content creation experience. Contradicting this notion is however a slight increase in content marketing challenges, particularly in the category “producing enough content”.

Content Marketing Challenges

Content Marketing Challenges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B2B organisations are rich of quality content, the crux for every marketer is however to unlock this content from Key Account Managers, R&D folks, manufacturing partners, field engineers and top management. It is not impossible, but for many organisations, the years relying on external partners for content creation meant these necessary internal relations haven’t been built up to now capitalise upon.

Take on the challenge for 2013 to make B2C content sexy and engaging:

> Acknowledge the richness of content in B2B! Content doesn’t just have to be consumer stories in the earned media category – it is unlikely that your heavy machinery customer will post a picture of him and his new crane to your Facebook channel, however asking him in person for an experience interview changes things dramatically! Most often you will find open customers who are as emotionally connected to their products or work like your B2C counterpart’s mobile user.

> Be a tactician! As with customers, the same applies to your own R&D and sales guys. It is very unlikely that they will knock on your door and ask you to write an article about their work or achievements; but there are surely some out there who are more outspoken or who like to glow in their own glory. Perfect – use them as forerunners. Creating a competitive environment by adding a section “success stories” to your publication will spark drive and challenge others to showcase their success in similar ways. It doesn’t happen over night but with patience this will lead to great success and a pipe full of publishing ready content.

> Measure everything! Use digital tools to measure the results of your content creation efforts. Show the time customers have spent reading or accessing various channels and show it in a dramatic fashion. 50% of your content creation efforts will be spent internally, as shown above, on your colleagues or even superiors to market the content marketing idea to them. See them as your audience which is easier won by strong use cases than shallow marketing jargon, especially in B2B.

> Be a risk taker! Content marketing has to be engaging otherwise it doesn’t show effects and or results as planned. Don’t just rely on content marketing tactics that you are familiar with such as blogs, websites, case studies or whitepapers. Think outside of the box and look for the sexy new thing such as mobile and gamification. Don’t let Kodak style content marketing efforts fool you – not everything B2C marketers do leads to a great ROI apart from its sexy look to outsiders. Try to think of other tactics as use cases, why no gamify content creation internally or run a best product in use picture with customer’s field engineers? Applying tactics to the B2B world is easier as it seem but the sale internally can be hard and daunting. Be prepared for that and create a lot of small use cases for new tactics – these will help to convince superiors and colleagues of new tactics and ease the approval process.

> Use your own organisation as testing ground! Over the years, my most critical yet most rewarding audience was internal. Every employee in your organisation is waiting to be engaged, more in B2B than ever imagined. They won’t take anything for granted nor jump on every campaign or effort coming from marketing but if you manage to convince this audience, everything else will be a piece of cake. Furthermore, this will provide you with a richness of feedback (mostly critical) which helps to learn and avoid mistakes in the outside world.

> Have fun! I have seen and meet many B2B colleagues who were nothing but worked up in what I would call sales support (that is updating brochures, organising exhibitions etc). Working in technically oriented organisations doesn’t come with the same audience and or work environment as in B2C but that doesn’t mean you and your team cannot have fun. Create a driving environment for ideas, host internal creative brainstorming sessions, have regular team retreats to come up with new tactics, go to conferences and speeches to learn from colleagues, competitors and even off the grid B2C marketers.

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How contagious is your marketing (network)?

Network sciences has long worked to establish theorems about the spread of connections (edges) between network participants (verteces or nods) which is a prerequisite for the spread for a contagion through the network. Some of the most known work in this field includes of course Milgram’s 1967 study of social networks, or the small world problem, in the US (which resulted in the six degree of separation theory – some read up here).

 

So what does this all mean for marketers? 

The spread of information (content marketing) is largely influenced through 2 factors:

1) the contagious itself, e.g. the relevancy, attractiveness of your content marketing to the target group. This has been covered in numerous articles which are readily available online.

2) the network structure, e.g. the size of the connected component or in other words, the reach each individual within your accessible target group has. The interesting point to mention here is to find heavily connected users, or multipliers, which are likely to spread your marketing content within their network. We can think of it this way, if you market to a very fragmented low cluster target group the viral effect (to use this buzz word at least once) of spreading your content is very low due to the network structure and almost independent of the contagious or your marketing content. The outcome is obvious, highly fragmented marketing spend to cover the reach needed for the target group at hand. If however, you target to a highly clustered (or maybe even highly fragmented) target group, finding multipliers or vertexes with high number of edges becomes essential in increasing the information spread, building upon network effects and keeping your budget to a minimum (increasing your ROI). An visual example for this is looking at your friend’s facebook profiles. Surely somebody has 500 or 1000 friends. He or she would be your strong multiplier, even though all other friends might have only 20 on average. The likelihood of having one large structure due to the multipliers within your network is therefore quite high.

 

So what?

It thus pays off to analyze your target audience based on the inherent network structure in order to build a meaningful marketing plan for both reach effectiveness and budget optimization. A good indication of your network structure is of course knowing the average friends your network has (yet large connected components can form through multipliers yet again, e.g. a friend of a friend has many friends and thus connects two or more of your target group clusters). It becomes of course more interesting when talking about the spread of information in social networks, thus digital marketing in a social media context. This is something I will cover in a further post.

 

For all nerd marketers:

Click this link to get to Northwestern University’s ‘Virus on a Network’ simulator. By changing the degree number to 4 (all other regulators set to minimum, virus spread to 10%) you will notice that you almost infect or in our case reach the entire network. Keep in mind that this network simulator was created to visualize viral spread on a randomly created network with obedience based on the user’s settings. Interesting to observe is the difference between 3 and 4 degrees. With a setting on 4 degrees, almost the entire network is infected or reached (given the linear probability of infection or reach as in our case).

Northwestern University Virus in a Network simulator

Northwestern University Virus in a Network simulator

 

 

This link will let you simulate the growth of networks (building upon the Erdös Renyi Model). Really cool, especially to see the spike when approaching factor 1 happen (see below).

Network Simulator

Network Simulator

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