Why B2B content marketing needs a human face

man-1483479_640Chances are your marketing budget is being stretched. Many dollars are often wasted by casting a wide fish net across a number of market segments in the hopes of reaching potential buyers. If your messaging is not resonating with the right people, no one will notice.

One of the best ways to build a brand and deepen customer relationships is via content marketing – the creation, publication, and distribution of relevant, high-value content that is customized to the needs of targeted groups. The goal is moving the prospect deeper into the sales funnel towards conversion.

Business-to-business (B2B) marketers are embracing content marketing for their sales pipeline using various digital formats, including websites, articles, case studies, blogs, whitepapers, and videos. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 2016 Benchmark study indicates 88 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing for top goals of lead generation (85%) and sales (84%).

According to the CMI research, one in five B2B marketers are making content personalization a top priority. It’s important to tailor messaging by industry sector, organization size and buyer role – essentially segmenting your database.

Let’s take an example from the manufacturing sector. The CFO of a manufacturing plant is likely interested in learning more about financial models that use shop floor data for cost monitoring and predictive analysis, while a quality engineer may be seeking information on sensor and Internet of Things (IOT) technology for helping solve equipment collaboration issues; and lastly, a production manager may desire knowing more about best practices in dashboard development for monitoring production workflows.

Each role possesses a different motivation when seeking information based on objectives and needs. A successful content marketing strategy requires a deep understanding of your target audience, removing the mystery of who is your buyer or ideal customer.

Defining a buyer persona

A persona is a detailed view of your target customer in the form of a semi-fictional character that generally describes personality traits, behaviours, roles and responsibilities, and challenges, to name but a few. It’s not an exact individual representation, but more of a broad brush stroke on who you want to target.

By creating a buyer persona and giving it a name, such as Business Buyer Tom, the marketing team can better rally behind a more tangible target on who they want to reach with messaging. Many companies even post a photo of their persona on their walls, bringing the persona to life and reminding everyone across the company who the customer is.

The persona development process begins by analyzing demographic data, followed by immersing yourself in a “day in the life” of your buyer.

Asking the right questions

The best way to gather information on your persona is using third party research and by interviewing customers. While it may appear easier to simply ask members of your sales force, they may introduce personal biases in their responses. Non customers can also be helpful for important insights, by asking them why they chose a competitor over your offerings.

Inbound marketing software giant HubSpot has a great post on the subject: 20 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas, as well as a free downloadable template to get you started. Here are a few of the interview questions listed:

  • Describe your educational background.
  • Describe your career path.
  • What is your job role? Your title?
  • Whom do you report to? Who reports to you?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What does it mean to be successful in your role?
  • Which publications or blogs do you read?
  • How do you prefer to interact with vendors?

A ‘Business Buyer Tom’ persona example

Let’s look at an imaginary cloud services provider that targets large enterprises in the retail sector and revisit our buyer persona Business Buyer Tom.

Business Buyer Tom works for a 500 to 1,000 employee retail organization. He is described as a 45 year-old Line of Business Manager, with a college degree, interested in driving market innovation, improving business agility and lowering the costs of doing business. Some of the challenges faced by Tom include the time to market for new products, lack of budget for new initiatives, and rising costs to serve customers.

While price is an important motivating factor to purchase, Tom is more concerned with security, functionality and ease of implementation of a cloud solution. He meets regularly with other Line of Business Managers, the IT Director and Operations Director. Tom stays on top of business and retail technology trends by reading publications such as the Globe and Mail, NRF News, and Canadian Retailer Magazine.

Tom is seeking information on how to harness cloud services for new product offerings and streamlining business operations, and often looks at whitepapers, blogs and articles. Tom uses on-line assessment tools from our company for operational and comparative benchmark insights.

Final thoughts

The B2B purchasing process is complex, involving a multi-step buying process, longer sales cycle, and typically more than one decision maker. Your content must be aligned not only along the entire buyer’s journey, but meet the needs of the various participants in the decision making process.

It’s also helpful to keep your positioning statement and value proposition in mind. What problems does your company solve in a unique way? How does your company deliver value to the customer?

Start measuring results such as website traffic, sales pipeline activity, search engine optimization (SEO) page ranking for industry keywords, and external links to your website.

And lastly, always picture the face of your persona when creating content to remind ourselves that customers are real humans.

This post originally appeared on TechVibes

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