How B2B Companies Whip Up Content Marketing Strategies

July 19, 2018

By Paula Tompkins

Cagkan Sayin/

In the film Apollo 13 (1995), which portrays the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission, there's a scene in which NASA engineers realize the flight may be doomed due to an explosion depriving the spacecraft of most of its oxygen supply. NASA must act fast to get the three astronauts home safely.

As the team peppers him with possible remedies, flight director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) implores the crew: "Failure is not an option!"

In a similar vein, for business-to-business companies trying to figure out how to monetize their content marketing efforts, inertia is not an option.

Granted, failing to nurture business customers via content marketing channels is not a matter of life and death. Nevertheless, there may be unintended consequences for B2B managers who give their content marketing efforts short shift in terms of decreasing budgets and, in the eyes of C-suite executives, diminishing value.

"You might argue that in some ways the B2B sector has been late to the digital game but many now routinely take a page out of more traditionally consumer-oriented playbooks," said Greg Welch, senior partner at Spencer Stuart, one of the world's top leadership consulting firms.

He added, "The good news is that today's new technologies and the vast distribution options allow even B2B companies to be efficiently shared with the right proprietary message to the precise target, whether it be to an intermediary distributor or on to the end customer."

According to a report released earlier this year by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 91 percent of B2B companies now use digital communications. However, when asked how they would describe their organization's digital maturity level, roughly two-thirds of the respondents said "adolescent," "young," or "first steps," according to the study.

The report, based on responses from 2,190 executives throughout the globe, also found that 36 percent of B2B organizations are "somewhat" committed to digital communications.

All told, the numbers are less than inspiring.

Perhaps the problem is how B2B companies approach content marketing intellectually. In a post-digital age, brand managers need to accept that every company is a quasi-media company. To stay viable B2B organizations must provide original content across multiple channels serving several different audiences. Otherwise, they may as well concede their future to those who can.

With that in mind, here are three practical tips on how to whip up your content marketing efforts and make sure they align with your company's overall goals and objectives.

  1. Get out into the field and press the flesh. With each passing day, your customers and prospects get increasingly conditioned to receiving information that's relevant to them via multiple channels, including reviews on social media platforms, webinars, email newsletters, and podcasts. To inform their content marketing strategy, B2B companies must get out in the field and talk to their sales teams and customers about what type of information they need and through which channel(s) they like to receive it. Are they hungry for white papers? Do they need industry data to fuel faster decision making? What's their appetite for attending events and conferences? Conduct test pilots and be sure to measure your efforts comprehensively. Perhaps most important, don't be afraid to fail and fail fast. If a particular type of content doesn't engage your audiences, put it to pasture. Agile technology processes also enable B2B companies to move quickly and easily integrate the human touch.
  2. Boost visual communications. It's a function of the digital transformation: People respond a lot faster to visual content than plain text. Indeed, businesses using images, graphs, charts, testimonials, and video grow company revenue 49 percent faster year-over-year than organizations without a heavy reliance on this type of content, according to Aberdeen Group.

    While many B2B companies have limited budgets, online video with solid production values doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. For example, record a 20-minute video of your CEO discussing a product launch and how the move benefits the company's stakeholders. Chop up the video to share via multiple channels. Repeat the process with senior product managers who have a business case study to tell. If budget and bandwidth allow, craft a mini documentary focusing on what distinguishes the product from the competition.
  3. Tap into the company's sales executives. Because sales reps are on the front lines with customers and prospects, it's important that B2B companies capitalize on the consultative aspects of relationships in order to fuel their content marketing strategies. B2B sales and marketing teams need to establish a systematic way to communicate information that the sales reps and their customers find helpful and useful. Sales reps can also provide critical information to help define different levels of customer "personas" and how to distribute disparate content according to where these personas reside in the sales funnel. Sure, sales and marketing execs tend to have an adversarial relationship. But working hand-in-glove on the company's content marketing strategy is an effective way to bridge those differences and, at the same time, serve the greater good.

To succeed in the current business environment, it's mission-critical that B2B marketers take a media-agnostic approach to content marketing. It's not a matter of analog vs. digital or tweeting vs. LinkedIn posts. You have to be comprehensive in your approach and willing to adopt new content channels. Otherwise, you're asking your customers and prospects to tune out your brand altogether.


Paula Tompkins is CEO of ChannelNet, a SaaS company specializing in digital customer acquisition and retention.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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