5 Ways B2B Marketers Struggle With Content Marketing

And 3 Questions


I was quoted in an eContent Magazine article (Why B2B Marketers Often Struggle With B2B Content Marketing Effectiveness) regarding my reaction to a Forrester study that found:

“while 51% of B2B marketing leaders rate their content marketing practices as very mature, an overwhelming 85% fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty. In fact, when asked to look back at the past 12 months and rate the effectiveness of content marketing efforts, only 14% of those surveyed gave their content practices high marks for delivering value back to the business.”


As I said in the article, the fact that 51% of B2B marketing leaders consider their content marketing programs very mature seems to contradict the finding that 85% fail to connect business value to those efforts. That suggests B2B marketers do not have a sound idea of what a mature content marketing program looks like.

Some additional thoughts on the topic of B2B content marketing:

Why B2B Marketers Struggle To Prove The Business Value Of Content Marketing

There could be many reasons:

1) Measuring Content Marketing Efforts

Failure to properly measure content marketing efforts by defining goals, key performance indicators, and conversions.

Markers should ask themselves what is the business purpose of the content? Is it to build awareness? To increase engagement? To generate leads? To sell product? Each purpose has it’s own goal(s), key performance indicators, and conversion metrics.

2) Analytics Insight

Failure to gain insights from analytics. What is your web traffic, email metrics, or social media analytics telling you about your content? Does a given piece of content drive more conversions than other types of content? Is more shareable on social media? Does it get more comments? Is it more visible in search?

What insights can marketers gain from content marketing efforts that can be applied to future efforts?

3) Empathizing With Target Audiences

Failure to understand their target audiences. Content marketing requires a far more intimate understanding of the people with whom you want to communicate than ever before.

A basic demographic profile is no longer adequate for your efforts to be successful. You need to build a persona for your target audiences that include demographics, psychographics, technographics, generational dynamics in order to get into the head of those people and see the world through their eyes.

What is their day like? When do they check their email? What kind of music do they listen to? What are their fears, frustrations, hopes and desires?

Understanding who your target audiences are, what their references are, and what they value will help you understand what content they value, how to frame and deliver that content, and what will motivate them to act on it.

B2B Buyers Online Content

4) Mapping The Customer Journey

Failure to understand the customer journey. This goes hand-in-hand with understanding your target audiences.

It is crucial to map out the stages prospective customers progress through from discovering and considering a brand, to becoming a customer or client, maintaining loyalty and ultimately becoming an advocate for that brand.

How do people behave as they progress through those stages? What content appeals to them during those stages? What channels do they use? What prompts them to act?

5) Content Marketing Competence

Internal skills gap. Content marketing is only beginning to become a broadly accepted communications concept and therefore, few B2B businesses have the internal skills and expertise to be successful.

What often happens is traditional marketers are charged with creating the content for marketing efforts and they apply what they’ve always done to the new tool: Touting features and benefits, which is, of course, only a small slice of content marketing to which prospective customers will pay attention only briefly.

The point of content marketing is to maintain a prospective customer’s attention for as much of the buyer’s journey as possible in order to develop an on-going relationship by offering value during every step of that journey. Creating that kind of content requires skills well beyond a thorough understanding of the product or service.

Why Don’t More Marketers Use Content To Build Relationships With Customers & Earn Long-Term Loyalty?

Again, content marketing as a discipline unto itself is fairly new concept, especially when it comes to the B2B sector, where a salesforce was the primary “content delivery” channel. Now that people rely far less on salespeople to answer questions and far more on Google, social media and their peers, content marketing is filling that gap.

But most businesses do not have storytellers who excel at creating compelling content nor the internal expertise at optimizing it for search visibility and social sharing, delivering it through email, and optimizing web conversions.

Ultimately, businesses need to decide what makes the most sense to develop internal expertise for and what makes the most sense for finding an outside partner with whom to collaborate on content marketing efforts.

Primary B2B Content Marketing Practices

How Can Marketers Reduce Customer Churn & Improve The ROI Of Content Marketing?

Again, understand what customers value and therefore what content they value along the entire customer journey and deliver that valuable content as the foundation for building a lasting, trusting relationship.

If you can, get a baseline number or industry benchmarks for customer retention, determine your lifetime customer value and net promoter score or other indication of loyalty in order to compare with content marketing efforts. For measuring you efforts, start with the end result you want for a given piece of content and figure out what the goal(s), KPIs and conversion are from there. Ideally, you’ll want end-to-end measurement from content delivery to conversion.

The ideal situation for measuring the ROI of content marketing is in a eCommerce scenario where you sell things directly on your website so you have direct access to sales data that can be tied to content marketing efforts. There’s a reason Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post.

By positioning your company as a trusted source of valuable information even after they’ve become a customer or client, you’re well on your way to maintaining their loyalty and turning them into an advocate and source of referrals.

What Can Help Sales Reps Connect To Tools & Content At Each Stage Of The Sales Cycle?

Most importantly, this again goes back to the customer personas mapped to the customer journey with content mapped to that journey. It is crucial that marketers from strategists to sales people intimately understand who their customers are before they can best understand what content is best delivered when.

Any system should easily allow sales reps to discover content that is appropriate whatever phase of the journey a potential customer or customer is in with training in how best to deliver that content. Look for ways to bring the customer persona alive.

More importantly for salespeople, though, is the idea of progressive profiling of customers so that sales people can see the history of how a given person has interacted with a company–whether that interaction involved people or content. The system should allow sales reps to add insight to that history.

It should be no surprise that organizations are struggling with content marketing. We’ve been content marketing well before the phrase became the business buzzword it is now. If you need help with your efforts, we’re more than happy to talk things through with you.

Photo courtesy jseliger2