Secret №1. Quantity over quality
Your current, and potential customers, live and work in an age of information overload. Figuratively speaking, they are in the firing zone of massive advertising shelling. That’s why it’s so hard for you to reach them.
It’s not your fault. It’s just the world that has changed, and one where the amount of information is growing exponentially.
In the best case, a typical B2B service or product provider attracts only 12% of their target audience when advertising materials. CEB (The Corporate Executive Board Company – one of the main advisory services provider in USA) experts got this data during research on how content marketing influences B2B-sales. The results showed that, today, sellers must work harder than previously to stay successful.
The thing is that a typical B2B customer makes about 60% of their buying decision without the seller’s help. It is possible because of their almost infinite access to information, which is necessary to make a deal. That’s why sellers should put as much effort as they can into attracting customers.
Now let’s talk about content marketing. The idea behind this method can be schematically represented in this way: if a seller manages to catch a user’s attention by publishing useful and topical content, then the seller can expect growth in number of deals they close. In other words, content marketing fills an audience’s need and creates additional demand.
The effectiveness of this technology depends on precision in choosing the target audience and also on the relevance of content. That’s why marketing automation systems, which easily allow targeting advertising campaigns, are widely used.
Marketing automation systems is a type of software that helps you to operate your marketing activities and segment a market. Such platforms are widely used by the marketing departments of big corporations and external consultants, who are responsible for conducting marketing campaigns.
Marketing specialists love and hate automation systems at the same time. The convenience and effectiveness of using programs for planning advertising budgets, building demand and driving sales are not in doubt, that’s why marketers accept and appreciate marketing automation systems. However, one of the consequences of using such services has almost become the main problem for sales managers, so experts don’t like automation systems.
The consequence we are talking about here, is the necessity to create a great amount of topical content. These simple calculations will help you understand this line:
Let’s imagine that your target audience segments into four groups of consumers.
You have successfully identified the need of these consumers groups. Imagine that each group has three marketing needs.
You have to take into account the information channels the target consumers use. According to conservative data, a consumer uses, on average, five informational channels.
Now you have to create topical content for each group of customers and spread it over these five identified informational channels. Wherein, you will publish content that helps satisfy each audience’s need. It should be done at least once a month, so your content remains topical.
This way you’ll need 4*3*5*12 = 720 publications a year, and each of them should be adapted to the needs of a correlating group of consumers. This is the most conservative evaluation, because in real life, audiences can merge into more than four groups and will need topical content more than once a month. Is it worth remarking that a modern consumer is not likely to be limited to using just five informational channels and having only three marketing needs?
So, you start regularly creating content. You use graphs and matrices, according to which experts write and publish new content. You are constantly asking your directorship for more budget to create content. If there are any chances to borrow or steal financial resources, then you might do, to create topical articles and reviews. Just follow best web practices – put hyperlinks to sources (available both for search engines and humans).
Only, after some time passes, you look back and see you have produced a lot of mediocre content, which was created for different target groups and which is spread out over different channels. Wow, your content has become a part of the ‘informational noise’ which makes consumers unreceptive to new marketing messages!
You have unwittingly sacrificed your content’s quality for the quantity needs of all these target groups, used different channels and are in need of fresh content at least once a month.
This is it – the first little secret of content marketing.
Secret №2: defining quality content
The hypothesis (which was proved by specialists at CEB) is: even if you defeat your customers’ unreceptiveness to marketing messages and manage to attract their attention to you product, then it doesn’t meant that sales success is guaranteed. In order to make a marketing campaign successful, your content must change customers’ behaviour. It can be reached with the help of educating and motivating the audience.
Let’s take a more detailed look. Think about what tasks a typical B2B customer solves when making a purchasing decision. He wants to get the answers to three questions:
1. What decision making criteria should be used when buying this or that product?
2. What are the minimal characteristics it should possess?
3. What is the minimum cost of a product which possesses these characteristics?
The behaviour of B2B customers is almost the same as that of someone choosing a car. A car buyer can answer the first two questions by himself. He can solve this task without visiting an auto show and without consulting with a dealer. Perhaps, a customer will visit an auto show, if he wants to test drive a car that catches his fancy. In other words, a customer doesn’t need a seller’s help to understand what car he wants to buy. He knows all the characteristics that his car should possess. That’s why a customer only contacts a seller to find an answer to the third question. He dials the dealer’s number and asks how much a car with a particular configuration costs.
In this situation, a sales department turns into a paperwork department, doesn’t it?
So, B2B customers are just like normal people buying a car. They get and analyse information on necessary products by themselves and contact providers right before making their final decision. As mentioned above, customers pass about 60% of the way from searching for information to making a deal without any provider’s help.
The first contact that customers make is when they contact “semifinalist providers”, who were chosen during a self-contained study of marketing offers, after making sure that they can provide a product with necessary characteristics. The only purpose of this contact is to find the best price.
Do you understand now why defeating potential customer’s unreceptiveness to marketing messages with help of content marketing is not enough? A seller must create and publish content, which make users go back to the first two questions and change their criteria of choosing a product. Otherwise, a provider will be engaged in a price war with competitors, where you can only win with help of damping.
How to change a customer’s behaviour
So, what content can change a customer’s behaviour?
On this diagram you can find the results of the above mentioned CEB research, which involved questioning thousands of B2B customers. Respondents were naming the types of content that had influenced their criteria for choosing products. Based on customers’ responses, the researchers identified the power of influence of this or that content on a thousand-point scale.
As you can see from the diagram, the following types of content barely influence customers’ behaviour:
- Information that makes a seller remain professional in the eyes of a customer.
- Content that describe complicated products in popular and simple words.
- Interesting and little-known facts about a product.
In other words, expert data and interesting facts almost don’t change consumers’ behaviour from the point of view of statistics. Wherein, such content is most frequently used by sellers to attract a target audience, as CEB experts think.
It is clearly seen on the diagram the types of content which influence customers’ behaviour most effectively. These are materials that educate and motivate customers.
- Educational content has the strongest impact on your audience. Pay attention to the accuracy of the wording, because if you try to teach a customer how to use a product properly, then you’ll fail. You need articles that teach a customer something new in the context of his business. You’ll have to work hard when creating such content.
- Motivational content strongly influences customers as well. You’ll have to find the correct words to persuade a customer that he should act this or that way.
Thus, successful content marketing strategies are focused on educating and motivating consumers. How do you create educational and motivational content? It’s a great question indeed, and it deserves to be developed in detail, so we will speak about the third secret of content marketing in one of our future articles.