As B2B companies embrace digital transformation, their processes for researching, evaluating and selecting solutions to drive growth are becoming more sophisticated. They’re seeking vendors who intuitively understand them and can personalize information around their needs.
Unfortunately, many marketers are still stuck in the traditional practice of producing a growing mountain of one-size-fits-all content that may increase brand awareness but doesn’t help prospects make intelligent buying decisions. As a result, they’re contributing to information overload rather than helping their audience intelligently manage it.
The Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends: Insights for 2023 report highlights this growing problem: The top challenge B2B marketers struggle with, cited by 61% of respondents, is “creating content that appeals to different stages of the buyer’s journey.”
According to Gartner, B2B marketers need to rethink their approach to content marketing:
“In a world where customers are struggling with too much information rather than not enough, the most successful marketers are focused on providing less information, specifically designed to make buying easier.”
Here are three ways to elevate your content marketing strategy in 2023:
Use intent data to drive a better buyer experience
One key to taking your content marketing to the next level is to develop a deeper understanding of buyer intent.
Intent data consists of actions that enable marketers to identify where prospects are in their buying cycle. Examples include filling out a form to download a report, clicking on a link in a newsletter and visiting specific web pages on your website.
Only 25% of B2B companies use intent data now, according to DemandScience, creating big potential opportunities for companies that learn to do an effective job of leveraging it.
Properly used, it can help you deliver a differentiated, personalized buyer experience to your ideal prospects. But this data needs to be part of a well-rounded foundation of customer research. Not just basic buyer personas that are largely based on our assumptions about their needs and aspirations, but deep knowledge of what makes them tick.
“The most important thing to remember regarding data is that it tells you what someone did, not why they did it or if their experience was relevant and meaningful,” cautions Ardath Albee, marketing strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions. “That’s why data-driven efforts need a human assist. Data is critical for ensuring connection and progression, but as a standalone source of intelligence, it lacks the context you need to improve overall marketing performance,”
In many cases, deciding to invest in a new product or solution has become a form of internal change management, points out Robert Rose, founder of The Content Advisory and Chief Strategy Advisor of the Content Marketing Institute. This has become more common as the size of buying teams has steadily grown during the last decade. Seen in this context, it becomes obvious that buying teams don’t want to make a big, disruptive change. Rather, they want the best possible solution that they can implement without having to re-engineer their operations.
“Buyers want to assemble a roadmap that provides the least amount of disruption on the way to their intended future destination,” Rose emphasizes.
The solution is to move beyond simple buyer personas to develop a much deeper understanding of the problems they’re facing, from their point of view. How do they see the problems they face? What happens if they don’t solve them? What’s getting in the way? What do they need to do to enable change?
One common trap that B2B marketers fall into is focusing exclusively on awareness-building content. But they fail to provide their audience with knowledge and advice to help them take the next steps in their journey toward a solution. Or if they do produce consideration or evaluation content, it often doesn’t take into account what the prospect has already learned earlier in their self-education process:
“As you build the buyer experience, consider what they learn during an interaction. Stories are progressive. Momentum builds from past chapters. Context shifts as your buyers learn,” Albee points out.
One of the ongoing challenges of today’s overworked content marketers is being able to produce enough content to stay top-of-mind with their target audiences. Short-form video has emerged as a potent storytelling tool that’s fairly easy to produce and meets the needs of busy buyers.
According to Hubspot, “A staggering 90% of marketers using short-form video will increase or maintain their investment next year, and 1 in 5 marketers plan to leverage short-form video for the first time in 2023."
Short videos take fewer resources to produce and are perfectly matched with the short attention spans of today’s busy B2B buyers. “As a general rule, the shorter, the more concise, the less fluff, the more impactful. Sometimes leaving ‘food for thought’ is a highly effective way of making your point,” points out Neal Schaffer, content marketing expert, fractional CMO and author of The Age of Influence.
Because short-form videos are easy to consume and share, they can help you reach a wider audience. Viewers can watch them on any internet-connected device. Imagine a key decision-maker watching your product launch video on her tablet while commuting home from work.
Short-form videos have many uses, including:
- Brief product demonstrations or tutorials
- Responding to customers’ frequently-asked questions
- Teasers for upcoming events, such as a booth at a trade show or a scheduled webinar
- Teasers for longer-form content or lead magnets
- Customer testimonials
- And much more
Interactive content is one of the most underutilized types of content that has the greatest potential for driving increased engagement in 2023. It includes polls, surveys, flipbooks, assessments and calculators. It often invites visitors to submit their data and get useful insights or advice in return.
For example, a prospective buyer could submit information about a specific challenge they’re facing to an interactive tool. It would then provide them with a customized recommendation for a solution that’s tailored to their needs.
Interactive content isn’t just a plaything for website visitors: It’s also a clever way to gather data about customer needs, preferences and aspirations:
“Interactive elements… not only keep your readers engaged with the content, but they can also help you collect valuable data that you can use to better understand your audience,” reveals Neil Patel. He also emphasizes that interactive content can help you build relationships with them faster – by transforming them from passive consumers to active participants in your content.
According to Mediafly, interactive content delivers an average of 52.6% more engagement than static content. Buyers spend nearly twice as much time interacting with it than they do static content. Another study from Demand Metric shows that interactive content is nearly twice as effective at converting buyers compared to passive content.
One of the reasons this type of content is still relatively rare is that it takes a major commitment of time and thought to design and produce it. That makes it an excellent opportunity for you to provide a differentiated buyer experience to your ideal audience. If you’ve mastered other forms of content creation, interactive content is a logical next step.