Content marketing is more important than ever in B2B; however, it’s getting harder and harder to get it right. According to recent research by The Content Marketing Institute, 53% of marketers rate the success of their organizations’ overall content marketing approach as moderately successful, while only 4% would rate it as extremely successful.
With content coming out of our ears, and stretch goals getting ever-so stretchier, Mention hosted the ultimate year-end Content Marketing Roundtable. 4 of the brightest B2B minds came together to discuss content marketing trends for 2019 to create better content, get more eyeballs on it, and make sure all your hard work is paying off so your 2019 content marketing success goes from moderately to extremely successful.
Here are some highlights, featuring:
- Daniel Waas, Director of Marketing at GoToWebinar
- Elle Woulfe, VP of Marketing at PathFactory
- Katie Martell, Executive Director at Boston Content
- Sandra Chung, Head of Content at Mention
Biggest content marketing challenges today
Daniel Waas [DW]: Measuring it all the way through. Really understanding the impact it’s had and attributing it. Especially as we lay over ABM and getting all the sales reps involved, getting everything in the right hands, and having a holistic understanding of what’s going on.
Elle Woulfe [EW]: We’ve all become so prolific at creating content, the big challenge now is how do you get narrow and focused to make it hyper-relevant to the people looking at it. It’s hard for marketers to connect buyers with the information they’re looking for in the moments they’re looking for it. And it’s hard for people to scale that.
It’s hard for marketers to connect buyers with the information they’re looking for in the moments they’re looking for it. And it’s hard for people to scale that.
Katie Martell [KM]: The meaning of content is very specific per company. What this creates is a lot of confusion in the hiring process: how do you hire a content professional when you’re all doing different strategies? We really have to understand what we’re doing for the organizations we serve, and be really good at articulating that.
Sandra Chung [SC]: And then there’s also the factor of time and resources. Like we have so little time and we have so much within our job role that we have to do a little bit of everything, so it’s a challenge to manage that for sure.
Content consumption habits have changed. What does it take to really capture someone’s attention with content?
KM: B2B buyers are consuming content right now as a stand-in for what would traditionally have been them talking to a sales rep. However, a lot of content professionals are creating very top of funnel content that really doesn’t traditionally connect to the sales process. So you have this big divide between the role content should be playing and the content we create. I think we need to figure this out in 2019 or risk the content profession being seen as irrelevant to business growth.
DW: I think that’s why video is really hot right now. Over the years, we’ve sort of lost the feeling of actually being approachable, of knowing who you’re talking to. That’s where the power of video comes in. You get to see who you’re engaging with. It’s something you can use to inject relationship-building into the sale.
KM: We hear a lot that B2B is about selling to people, but when you think about that as a content professional it really just means understanding your buyers’ motivations at a very human level. For example, if someone is searching for fresh ideas or industry trends–what does that mean for the individual in the business? It’s about being able to continually add value to their role at work.
EW: I think people have become really impatient. They want what they want when they want it, and they want it to be a great and relevant experience. So, if you’re just trying to ship stuff you’re not going to succeed because it’s probably not special enough. We binge watch Netflix’s original programming because it’s really high-quality stuff. B2B marketers need to provide that same high-quality experience.
DW: Based on the research, the number one reason people engage with content is that it connects with them, and does so instantly. The main things that get people to really dig into content is that it’s easy to understand, educational, and entertaining.
The main things that get people to really dig into content is that it’s easy to understand, educational, and entertaining.
EW: I think we expect a little bit of an entertainment factor, a little bit more engagement, and so, I’m not saying that the written word is dead, but I do think you’ve got to have lots of different options for people. Everyone learns and consumes in different ways, and not everybody wants to read the 30-page document, so you’ve got to satisfy that.
KM: We see this skimming consumption habit because we’re so used to crap. And I think right now we’re seeing a resurgence in detailed, long, guide-like content that really helps people make decisions. It’s counterintuitive to everything we know and everything we read, but it’s happening because people want answers to their questions. If you can do that in a way that no one else has done, it doesn’t matter how long it is or what format it’s in.
B2B-specific content marketing struggles
EW: I think a lot of the metrics that marketers, and particularly content marketers have relied on for a long time are somewhat shallow and don’t tell you a whole lot. You’re measuring it in whether or not they clicked on it or downloaded it. It doesn’t tell you if they consumed it. So it’s really hard for marketers to understand the quality of the engagements with their marketing. We’ve been banging this drum for a long time, marketers need to understand if the time spent with content is meaningful.
KM: The amount of content we’re producing for buyers is actually slowing down the sales process. And this is not anecdotal, this is research that was done by CEB, which is now Gartner. They found that the content we’re producing has actually led to an 18% decrease in purchase ease. We’re making it harder for people to make decisions because we’re giving them too much information. And that doesn’t’ mean don’t produce content, what that means is product content with purpose. Content that’s actually meant to push the sales process forward.
We’re making it harder for people to make decisions because we’re giving them too much information. And that doesn’t’ mean don’t produce content, what that means is product content with purpose. Content that’s actually meant to push the sales process forward.
How can B2B marketers combat information overload and be more relevant when it comes to the content they produce?
KM: TOPO asked: what is relevant content for B2B purchase? Meaning, what does ‘good content’ look like in an environment of buying committees, where 10-12 people might be involved in a deal. The research showed that buyers:
- Want vendor content to educate them on the space that they’re in. That to me is looking at patterns in the industry and seeing what’s coming and making it clear that you can help them navigate whatever the road ahead contains.
- Want content to be contextual to their business. So you really have to understand the industry and org size for that specific account.
- Thirdly, they want a plan of action. They don’t just want to know why they should do something, they want to know that the 18 months following their purchase will be a great experience.
That’s the kind of content we should be pumping out because it gives buyers the sense of trust that we’re going to be there for the long haul, not just up until the purchase, but a partner in growth with them.
DW: We ran a content consumption study where we asked people what kind of content traits interest them the most. The number one was it needs to connect to their professional interest site. And that just means relevance, right?
EW: I think we sometimes try to apply our top-of-funnel of strategy to all stages of the buyer’s journey, and it’s just such a mistake. At some point people want you to pull back the curtain and show them how it’s done. I think we shouldn’t be afraid of getting really tactical.
KM: in 2018, only 40% of content marketers talked to customers when doing audience research. What they’re relying on instead is keyword research, which is great. But the problem with that is that if you don’t talk to real people you’re not getting at this rich source of really human and empathetic insights. If you’re going to take anything away from this webinar for 2019, tweak and re-prioritize where you get some of the inspiration for your decision making. It could be as simple as having five customer conversations, that’s it.
If you’re going to take anything away from this webinar for 2019, tweak and re-prioritize where you get some of the inspiration for your decision making.
Content marketing trends to watch in 2019
EW: I don’t think we’ve seen the end of AI. And I actually think content is a really great application of artificial intelligence. AI will help us to start collecting the right types of data to inform smarter content recommendations for our audience at scale. I think you’ll see more sophistication with AI and more marketers adopting it. In B2B buying, people aren’t making spontaneous decisions. They need to consume a lot of information to mitigate risks and make sure they’re making good choices. How do you just make that really easy for them? I think it comes down to using machine learning, having better data, creating experiences that are on-demand for the buyer.
AI will help us to start collecting the right types of data to inform smarter content recommendations for our audience at scale.
DW: For me, it’s personalization. There’s so much content out there, the key to standing out is to build true connections with people.
KM: Pew Research Center today announced that social media’s now the number one platform that people get their news. It’s finally overtaken traditional newspapers. What that means is there’s just more information being consumed on different channels that come with a level of skepticism. That means that as a marketer our job is perception. We can impact the perception of our brands, we can impact the trust level that folks have with our business if we prioritize it.
We’ve got to work really hard to balance the content we produce with the credibility of the brand. In a world of fake news, he who speaks to the buyer with empathy and relevance wins.