Content marketing was once a buzzword. Today, it is table stakes for B2B companies—and it’s more data-driven than ever.
In a recent DemandGen report, B2B buyers indicated they are spending more time researching purchases (77%) and expecting more personalized attention from providers based on their specific needs (76%). In the same report, B2B buyers outlined how crucial relevant content was in their decision-making process. Respondents indicated content relevancy affected their decision-making, with 76% saying the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
Likewise, 70% of buyers ranked “relevant content that speaks directly to our company” as “very important” in the survey, and 96% of B2B professionals considered messaging that “spoke directly to our industry needs” to be important.
B2B marketers know that they need an always-on content machine to deliver leads consistently. To craft relevant pieces with the reader in mind, organizations can use audience data to personalize content based on:
- Where they are in the buying cycle
- Who they are (job title, role, level)
- Their business needs
- Their personal needs, interests, and values
B2B marketers can also use campaign and behavioral data (e.g., email opens and clicks, display ad conversions, browsing history, etc.) and third-party data (e.g., intent) to guide content creation and choose the right content types, channels, timing, and frequency for their outreach.
Take Nationwide Insurance, for example. The company offers a resource center for businesses that are looking into insurance and insurance-related topics. The resource center guides businesses across various sizes and industries, from mom-and-pop shops to manufacturers and agribusinesses. The content topics, which are unique and relevant to the company and stakeholders, answer questions about insurance products and provide helpful safety tips and business advice. Nationwide runs targeted social media and display ads to promote their resources to each audience segment to draw in new leads.
Targeting content to the right person and buying group
Once you have top-notch content, you need to be able to get it in front of the right people. Effective B2B marketers target leads in many ways—by their role in the buyer’s journey and marketing funnel, by their job title, by their industry, by their behaviors, or by a combination of these factors. Here are some of the top methods B2B marketers use to reach their audiences:
Organic outreach: A 2020 report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that B2B marketers are actively using unpaid methods for distributing their content. Social media was the top earned media (91%), followed closely by brand websites (89%) and email (87%). Email newsletters were identified as the top approach for nurturing leads (31%).
Paid programs: According to the report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 84% of B2B marketers use paid distribution channels for content marketing purposes. Marketers can use paid search, display, and social media ads to target business decision-makers across the web and within social media channels’ walled gardens. You can also use these platforms to target new prospects, retarget website visitors who have not converted, or upsell new products to customers who are already in your database.
Native advertising and branded content: With ad-blocking technology and the phase-out of third-party cookies, more B2B companies are using native advertising and branded content to get their expertise in front of potential customers. By carefully selecting publications that are a natural fit for your target audience, you can deliver native ads (branded content that looks like editorial content) that can help increase brand awareness and lead generation.
For example, IBM created a multi-part native advertising campaign in The Atlantic to reach a specific target audience: executives in the athletics industry. The series included interactive infographics and research that illustrated how sports teams are using technology to improve performance both on and off the field, as well as real-world examples outlining how IBM has helped companies in the athletics industry improve performance. Created to blend into The Atlantic’s tone and content, this highly targeted campaign offered unique and relevant information to decision-makers in one of IBM’s key segments.
A steady stream of content is not only essential to bring in net new leads; it’s also an integral part of nurturing existing ones and guiding them further along the funnel. B2B marketers can target and engage current customers to help lower attrition, particularly in industries with high turnover rates (e.g., technology companies with a subscriber-based service model).
Your content can position your company as an expert in your field and serve to educate prospects and customers about the benefits of your products and services. Designing content around who you are ultimately targeting ensures you have relevant messaging for multiple buyers and accounts—and that you’re serving the needs of your prospects and customers along with those of your business.
Ken Stout is a senior vice president at Data Axle, a marketing and data services agency.