Have you ever told a story or joke that you were sure was wildly entertaining or hilarious, only to have it fall flat? The response you received may have included blank stares or obligatory chuckles, followed by awkward silence.
No need to cover your face in embarrassment – we’ve all been there.
Sometimes your material is good, but it’s just not right for that particular audience. In fact, knowing your audience and what appeals to them is the key to developing a successful content strategy, as well as being a hit at your next social gathering.
The truth is, you can write the best content in the world, chock full of statistics and well-researched information, but if it doesn’t resonate with your audience, you’re not accomplishing your goals. Successful content marketing involves addressing the needs of customers or potential customers, answering their questions, or solving their pain points – at the right time in the buying process. In other words, it’s about providing value.
It seems straightforward, but many marketers are still experiencing a disconnect between what they believe is valuable and what their customers or prospects really want. A study by IDG Connect noted that “86% of buyers say content is neither useful, relevant or aligned with the needs of people in the buying process.” Ouch!
The problem lies in not starting with a content strategy. Consider these statistics from the B2B Content Marketing 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report:
- 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing, but only 24% say their efforts are “very” or “extremely successful.”
- Respondents who have a documented content strategy report higher levels of overall success than those who have a verbal strategy or no strategy; yet only 37% have a documented content strategy.
Why Create a Content Strategy?
Having a strategy will ensure that you produce content based on knowledge of your buyers, their industry and their problems/needs. Without a strategy, companies tend to produce content about careers, company culture, investments in new technology, and trends, which can be interesting, but buyers prefer content that provide statistics, teach new facts, discuss best practices and highlight customer stories.
However, don’t forget to make an emotional connection. B2B marketers tend to think that their buyers are interested in “just the facts,” but research shows that emotions play a bigger role than you might think. CEB Marketing Leadership Council, Motista, Google and Image Source all found that B2B buyers make highly emotional decisions:
“Not only did the B2B brands drive more emotional connections than B2C brands, but they weren’t even close. Of the hundreds of B2C brands that Motista has studied, most have emotional connections with between 10% and 40% of consumers. Meanwhile, of the nine B2B customers we studied, seven surpassed the 50% mark. On average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.”
This makes sense when you think about it. Many B2B buyers spend a lot of money on their purchases, which typically involve several other people in the decision-making process, along with a great deal of research. Investing in a new piece of machinery or software is significantly more complex than buying a sweater!
Case studies and client testimonials can help you make an emotional connection, but so can writing content with empathy (i.e., we understand your problems/concerns and want to help).
Developing a strategy also forces you to discover the questions B2B buyers ask throughout the sales process and then answer those queries with content. Your sales team should know these questions and answers, but have they shared them with the marketing team? If not, it’s time to schedule a meeting.
You can also talk with customers directly or do some social listening. What type of content are customers and prospects interacting with? Which pieces of your competitors’ content are getting shared? What type of discussions are popular on industry forums? Use multiple sources to discover what your buyers are interested in and then build content around those topics.
Finally, don’t forget current customers. A study by Eccolo Media found that 80% of B2B buyers thought it was “important” or “very important” to receive content on an ongoing basis after a purchase. The types of post-purchase content they wanted was:
- Thought leadership content (36%)
- Technical support and updates (30%)
- New product information (25%)
In short, before producing content, invest some time upfront developing buyer personas, researching interests/needs, and outlining relevant topics. Having a content strategy ensures that your content is aligned with your audience, thus avoiding those blank stares and awkward silences – or worse, failing to tune in at all.