B2B SMBs Can Excel in Content Marketing

Content marketing success is not inherently tied to company size, as exemplified by SMBs Cablevey Conveyors, Time is Ltd., and Gong

By Marie Griffin

Joey Guidone/theispot.com

Content marketing has been a pillar of B2B marketing for decades, but most marketers don't feel they're succeeding.

When the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) surveyed more than 800 B2B and B2B/B2C marketers in July 2021 for its "12th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends" report, only one-quarter of respondents reported that their organization's content marketing had been very successful during the prior 12 months; a miniscule 4 percent said their efforts were extremely successful.

The findings came with a damning statement from the CMI: These figures are "in line with what we find every year with this research."

Yet, small- to mid-size businesses (SMBs) might be encouraged to know that "an organization's size had little impact on overall success. For example, 27 percent of those from small companies reported high levels of success, as did 30 percent of those from large companies," according to the CMI.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of The Tilt, a new website for "content entrepreneurs," and co-founder of the Creator Economy Expo (CEX), has a unique view of the evolution of content marketing. He founded the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) in 2007, sold it in 2016, and remains a content marketing thought leader, writer, and speaker.

Technology and social media have democratized content creation so that "anyone can use amazing free tools to build audiences, but that also means there's never been more competition," Pulizzi says. "To break through the clutter, small- and mid-size businesses must develop an area of differentiation."

Pulizzi advises marketers to pick just one content initiative, tied to a key marketing objective, that will be valuable enough to the target audience to rise above the noise. Once the marketing team has established its goal and created a differentiated content jewel, "treat it like a product and use different channels and partnerships to make sure it gets noticed," he says.

He adds that marketers should pace themselves, despite any pressure the C-suite might apply, because it will take time — in the range of nine to 18 months, he estimates — to show solid results.

In the meantime, marketers can rack up small wins. For example, a simple action like updating existing content can make a big impact, according to a global survey of 1,500 marketers conducted by Semrush late last year. Marketers who freshened up an existing asset reported increased engagement (45 percent) and/or a boost in search rankings or traffic (43 percent) afterward.

Only 57 percent of businesses with 500 or fewer employees do any content marketing, according to Service Direct's 2022 "State of Content Marketing for Small Businesses," based on a survey of more than 700 owners or executives across B2B and B2C companies.

But there are notable exceptions, like SMBs Cablevey Conveyors and Time is Ltd., and mid- to large-size companies like Gong.

Despite the differences among the three companies, the markets they serve, and the backgrounds of their marketing leaders, all are doing content marketing by the book: they invest in compelling, differentiated content that puts the information needs and interests of customers and prospects first.

Cablevey Leverages Audience Diversity

Karl Seidel, Cablevey's marketing director for 15 years, has been developing a digital content portfolio that spans video content, animation, blogs, original research, and social media. "We use as many different marketing channels as is appropriate to be in touch with our audiences on a regular basis," he says.

Cablevey designs, engineers, assembles, and services tubular-drag cable-and-disc conveyor systems for food and beverage companies, powder processors in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and smaller markets like seeds and pet food. To reflect the diverse interests of its buyers, Cablevey's strategy is to "break down content by vertical categories," Seidel says. "A craft beer brewer in California doesn't speak the same language or run in the same circles as a coffee grower in Brazil."

In December 2021, Cablevey was acquired by private-equity firm May River Capital, which boosted Seidel's marketing budget by 30 percent and funded a logo update and website redesign. To Seidel, the most important change was that the new landing pages improve Cablevey's ability to measure the results of his marketing efforts.

Seidel recently teamed up with Ascend2 to conduct Cablevey's first third-party research project, a survey of food processing professionals. The result was an asset for lead generation, but the larger objective was greater insight into that vertical audience, he says.

Carving a Niche for Time Management

Evan James joined Time is Ltd., a productivity analytics software platform, as SVP of marketing in July 2021. One of his first moves was to develop full-funnel programs around a topic of interest that would draw a reader along the path to purchase with content appropriate to each buying stage.

This summer, James launched a new resource center on the company website. He says he wants to position Time is Ltd. as a learning hub with a range of articles, templates, and how-tos about "utilizing collaboration data to improve employee experience and engagement." Time is Ltd.'s first audience target was talent management professionals. As it expands into more personas over time, the resource center will have different content tracks for each one.

James has an edge in bringing unique content to his audience because he can use data his company aggregates and analyzes to put a new spin on current events. While economic woes were the topic du jour this summer, Time is Ltd. used visualizations based on its data to anchor tips for improving productivity.

'Backbone' of Original Content

Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong, a cloud platform that extracts intelligence from communications between salespeople and prospects, says his content marketing formula is to "talk about something people are already interested in and have a unique point of view."

Like Time is Ltd., Gong uses its proprietary data as the backbone of original content. The platform uses artificial intelligence to analyze data from hundreds of thousands of actual sales conversations. "Provide value around the hottest topics, even if they seem overdone, because this is what people want to read about," Ledergor says.

Gong waded into the economic uncertainty conversation last summer with research that would uncover how the downturn was affecting salespeople's ability to close deals, an extremely important topic for those whose job it is to generate revenue. While economic concerns were indeed coming up more often in sales calls — mentions rose by 55 percent — there was encouraging news for business leaders in Gong's audience. Only 5 percent of active deals had been impacted to date.

As much time, money, and creativity as these companies invest in content that puts the audience first, content marketing is not an altruistic endeavor.

As Ledergor puts it, "90 percent of the time, we provide pure value without asking for anything in return, but by doing that, we believe we earn the right to offer a demo or ask for a registration once in a blue moon."

Update: October 17, 2022
An earlier version of this story misstated the given name of the marketing director at Cablevey Conveyors. His name is Karl Seidel, not Kurt.


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comments (2)

‪Ahmed AlNuaimi‬‏

October 15, 2022 8:27pm ET

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Karl Seidel

October 16, 2022 9:51pm ET

Kurt Seidel should be Karl Seidel - thanks!