Content marketing has firmly embedded itself into the core marketing strategies of B2B companies around the world, with 89% of us using content as part of our tactics to attract more customers.
However, only 25% of B2B organisations rate their content as having above average success (Content Marketing Institute). This stat surprised me, and lead me to wonder:
What makes the best B2B content stand out?
What types of content are the top performers having most success with?
What the heck are they doing that the rest of us aren’t?
The Content Marketing Institute has just released their 2020 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report. Their findings on what the most successful (and least successful) are doing is a handy way to determine which areas bring companies the real wins.
While this research surveyed North American B2B organisations, I think there are lessons we can all take away. To save you trawling through the whole report (which you can read here), I’ve pulled out three common themes that spell content marketing success.
Here are three things that the most successful B2B marketers do differently:
1. They build an ongoing relationship with their customers
One of the more frustrating things about content is that it’s not a quick win. It takes a while to build up momentum, SEO kudos and ROI (which is rarely what your boss wants to hear).
CMI’s report shows that the most successful B2B organisations have embraced the long game and are using content to build lasting relationships with their audience.
According to the report, the top three goals B2B businesses achieved through content were:
- Brand awareness
These three goals, in particular education and trust, speak to the value of building an ongoing relationship with your customers that deepens over time.
The report also found that nurturing customers showed the most significant increase in success over the last year, rising 10% from the previous year, and building credibility and trust a close second with a 7% increase. Both of these areas are only possible by building an ongoing relationship with people.
And one of the best ways to do this is with quality content.
TAKEAWAY: Have a long-term view of your content and use it to establish a relationship with your customer that builds up over time. Save the quick wins for other marketing channels.
2. They nail the balance of information and promotion
Blogs were voted the #1 way to build awareness, with 89% of companies who responded to CMI’s research using blog posts and articles to build awareness. However, getting the right mix of information and promotion in blog content is proving challenging for most.
The survey uncovered only two-thirds (66%) of content marketing programs prioritise their audience’s informational needs over their organisation’s promotional message. Yet, 88% of the top performers do.
“88% of top content marketing performers put audience needs over their sales messages”
Getting this mix right is so important at the awareness stage of content marketing, yet rarely executed well. Going hard with sales messages in this stage is really counter-intuitive to me.
Creating good content is all about staying true to your audience’s needs. Although it’s a tough ask, I encourage marketers to push back on execs who ask for salesy messaging over educational content.
“I don’t get enough salesy product news,” said no customer ever.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Have your customer’s informational needs as a top priority when planning content. There are plenty of clever ways to subtly weave in promotional messages later, but keep your core goal about your customers, not you.
3. They have someone coordinating their content
When it comes to managing content marketing, the CMI report found 32% of organisations had no dedicated content marketing resource. Interestingly, this number drops to 13% when looking at the top performers.
In other words, those who had someone coordinating their content were much more successful than those who didn’t.
While you might not have the budget to hire a full-time content marketer, that doesn’t mean you can’t have someone who oversees your content. There are plenty of great content writers who can write and manage your content.
The CMI report found half of all respondents outsource at least some of their content marketing, so you’d be in good company if you chose this approach.
Content creation topped the list of outsourced activities, with 84% of respondents looking elsewhere to get this done. This is not surprising, given the time it takes to plan and write quality content – time busy marketers rarely have.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Appoint someone, either internally or externally, to coordinate your content to maximise results and increase consistency.
Writing quality content remains at the top of B2B marketers to-do lists, with articles, eBooks, case studies and whitepapers all proving to be a successful way to create long term relationships and build trust with customers. Yes, it’s a crowded marketplace for content, but don’t let this put you off. Invest the time and resources into making your content high-quality and customer-focused and you’ll join the ranks of top-performing content marketers in no time.
If you’re struggling to find the time and resources to write the kind of high-quality content that is going to make your customers sit up and take notice, get in touch.