B2B marketers have faced unprecedented challenges over the past two years but I am one of those people that genuinely sees these times as an opportunity. Working in the marketing industry, especially at a B2B marketing agency, means being adaptable and engaged in a constant state of improvement aka ABO (always be optimizing).
Information overload, changing buyer behaviors towards digital first information experiences and the dramatic increase in content competition mean B2B marketers cannot win simply be creating more content or chasing the latest shiny object tactic.
In these times of elevated digital savviness and access to digital content consumption, creation and engagement, we are all creators. We are all influential. We are all in market to engage on topics relevant to the brands that serve us. As marketers, we are also increasingly pressed to prove our impact to the business.
Winning at B2B marketing in 2022 and beyond requires a more strategic approach to creating marketing experiences that are more empathetic to customers in ways that are differentiated from competitors that can can connect more authentically through partnerships with trusted voices in the industry at both a macro and micro level. The increased emphasis on marketing to prove its contribution to the business also means improved accountability for impact.
To help B2B marketers elevate their 2022 B2B content marketing more strategically, provide better experiences to customers and demonstrate impact to the business, here are three key areas of focus:
Research shows there is more content being created now than ever but B2B company execs do not feel all this content is particularly valuable. To stand out, B2B marketers need to “break free of boring B2B’ to escape the status quo trap of trying to win customer attention simply by creating more content. More than ever, it is important to create content that is more in lime with customer experience expectations.
Our own analysis and research has found that innovation of our content means going beyond creating blog posts, social content, presentations and reports to emphasizing short form videos for thought leadership as well as practical topics, episodic and story form content, publishing on story based platforms like IG reels, TikTok and even leveraging AI avatars for certain content creation.
Content innovation for your B2B brand might be similar or very different. The important thing is to be empathetic towards customer expectations and data informed with an emphasis on looking forward to how buyers are discovering, consuming and engaging with content. Of course there is a cost to experimenting with new content formats and speculating that becoming prominent in emerging publishing channels will help your brand stand out to customers. There is also a cost to reacting to the new challenges of digital first buyers and changing behaviors simply by creating more of the same kinds of content.
Virtually everyone in business is empowered to publish through any of a number of digital devices. Millennial and Gen Z generations are digital natives to electronic content consumption and creation. As B2B buyers increasingly pull themselves through the majority of the sales journey through researching solutions options through digital content, peer networks, search engines, social media and industry content, B2B brands have an opportunity to elevate their content marketing with authentic voices.
We’ve all seen statistics about the lack of trust customers have for brands and their advertising / marketing messages. We’ve also become increasingly aware of how important it is to have the trusted voices in the industry talking about and even advocating for our brand. Every day there are conversations about the very topics that drive buyers to choose solutions happening with people influential towards decision making.
B2B brands can either continue trying to push their own messages towards these buyers or they can become part of the conversation by engaging relevant industry experts, media and even prospects/customers in content collaboration. By identifying and targeting key industry influencers, prospects, media and customers for content collaboration, B2B marketers can create value and impact in multiple ways:
- Content collaborations that create value for contributors builds relationships with the brand
- Collaborations help elevate visibility and credibility of contributors – which they will appreciate
- Co-creating content can help create community around topics buyers care about must, building trust for the brand
- Developing content collaboration can elevate a B2B brand amongst the most trusted voices in the industry
- Engaging customers, industry experts and internal key opinion leaders can drive conversations that create real value for customers and drive purchase intent
In 2020 many B2B marketing budgets were put on pause and expectations for marketing to deliver impact increased significantly. As brands pivoted and embraced digital transformation, marketing budgets have opened up but those increased expectations for marketing to deliver value to the business have remained. Research has shown that new digital go-to-market models have performed as well better and B2B brands are not going back to their old “boring B2B ways” anytime soon.
With these increased expectations of impact, B2B marketers must focus on acceleration. From moving prospects through the sales journey more quickly and in greater volume to increasing the size of deals, better sales and marketing collaboration and technology integration are essential. B2B brands must do a better job of leveraging customer insights for more personalized content experiences using strategies like Account Based Experiences supported by platforms like Demandbase (client).
Additionally, improved thought leadership can help B2B brands connect as a “best answer” solution for buyers across the customer lifecycle from awareness to purchase to advocacy. Research being put out by The B2B Institute at Linked is incredibly insightful about these opportunities. B2B brands cannot afford to sit and wait for their content marketing to work like throwing digital spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. They must be proactive at elevating the marketing experience to create trust, credibility, confidence and speed of decision making with what we call “best answer content strategies”.
The changes that have occurred in the past few years in the B2B marketing world are not a speed bump for us to get over, they are a launching pad for something greater for our industry. In marketing and business, if you’re not growing you’re dying. The B2B marketing industry needs to continue the transformation started during the pandemic to elevate the marketing experiences for customers and impact for B2B brands. With a strategic approach to content innovation, collaboration and acceleration, B2B marketers can achieve all of those things and more.