The B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs indicated the most effective B2B marketers focus on better, more engaging content not just creating more and more content in an effort to reach their number one content marketing goal – driving sales lead quality. This didn’t, and yet did, surprise me. Let’s take a look at what respondents said.
When asked how much content their organization will produce in 2016 compared to 2015, 76% of B2B marketers planned to produce more. However, as most B2B marketers know, producing more and more content doesn’t necessarily translate into better quality leads. Lots of content that no one engages with is useless.
When asked to select their top 5 challenges, producing engaging content came out on top at 60%, and the ability to measure content effectiveness and produce it consistently tied for second at 57%. This didn’t surprise me given the increasing functionality of marketing automation technologies and ability to integrate with CRM systems. Increasingly B2B marketers are gaining the ability to measure which content is most effective, but many don’t quite have a handle on it yet. When everyone within an organization can see the numbers, the importance of producing engaging content that truly qualifies sales leads should only increase.
What was surprising to me was that only 41% of internal content creators are making it a priority to better understand their audience while an overwhelming 72% want to create more engaging content. Maybe it’s something to do with definitions and semantics, but how can a marketer create engaging content if they don’t understand their audience? Perhaps they already understand their target audience (developed the personas), but haven’t been able to produce the engaging content yet.
Below are three content production challenges many B2B marketers face, especially those marketing complex technical B2B products and services and how to overcome each:
- Understanding prospects’ and customers’ business: The internal marketing team doesn’t understand their prospects’ and customers’ industry or business well enough to write content from the prospect or customer perspective, not theirs.
- Solution – Marketers should spend time with the sales team, prospects, and customers in the field, on phone calls and in meetings. Hearing conversations and seeing first hand is invaluable for gaining this understanding. Marketers should take this opportunity to learn as often as possible. It’s not a one-time thing.
- SMEs not delivering the content needed: Internal subject matter experts (SMEs) don’t have the time and/or are not good writers. For many B2B firms, SMEs are often engineers, software developers, R&D, etc. who know the company’s product or service from the ground up and maybe even how customers use the product or service. However, writing content for the marketing team is not their priority and many times they are not good writers.
- Solution – Marketers should determine which SMEs can deliver content (with a real commitment to deadlines) and which SMEs can be a resource to help develop content topics (ideas, webinar speaker, or being interviewed by content writers).
- Technical content is hard: Content writers may be unable to research, interview SMEs, use technical research reports, etc. to develop educational and informative content that will truly engage the prospect or customer. Many writers and marketers, whether in-house or outsourced, simply lack the ability to translate complex technical information into compelling educational content their prospects and customers want and need – this is not an easy task for many writers and marketers who come from a liberal arts journalism or marketing background.
- Solution – Find a marketer with a technical background. If that person doesn’t exist on your in-house team find a freelance or other outside resource who can fill this role. Sometimes it’s a marketer with a double major like marketing and economics or math. Or look for someone who came into marketing from a technical field, even engineering like I did.
Were you surprised with the 2016 survey results discussed here? The 2017 report will be published soon. It will be interesting to see if more B2B marketers are figuring out what content engages and qualifies sales leads and how to produce it. What are you doing to produce more engaging content?