Article as seen on Forbes in September 2017

 

As channels for reaching customers multiply, B2B companies are reprioritizing their marketing spends to more effectively reach and engage customers and prospects. To drive results, B2B marketers must present their brands in both online and offline environments, developing an omni-channel experience that includes compelling digital content as well as more traditional approaches such as trade shows and special events.

A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs sponsored by Brightcove surveyed more than 1,500 B2B marketers in North America and noted that, on average, they allocate 28% of their overall budget to content marketing with the most effective allocating 42%, highlighting the importance of a defined content marketing strategy to increase lead generation and sales. More than 50% of the respondents noted they will increase their content marketing spend in the next 12 months, focusing more on creating shareable content distributed through digital and social media channels along with a documented editorial strategy.

There are several areas that deserve the attention of B2B marketers, and potentially a new approach for the development of content and its distribution:

Content Marketing. As these conversations with customers and prospects become more personalized, B2B marketers must message around more than data points and product features — they must remember that B2B customers are people and storytelling resonates with them. The should create content that explains the work companies do in a way that educates the prospect, gains interest and leverages emotions — treating communications more like consumer advertising. Content that sells the benefit to the reader and is not overly promotional can position you as a thought leader, putting you top of mind when it is time to make a purchase decision. An example of this kind of approach would be showing a prospect how he or she is doing his or her part to address the global water crisis by buying a dishwasher that uses less water, which also saves money.

Social Media. Finding new ways to develop relationships through social media is another important opportunity for B2B marketers. Social media platforms have opened up two-way conversations while providing opportunities to distribute valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract prospects and increase sales. These conversations take place when companies create content that fosters engagement. According to the 2017 Social Media Marketing Report from Social Media Examiner, visuals have become essential: 85% of marketers use visuals and 73% plan to increase their use of visuals. Live video is on the rise with 61% of marketers planning to use live video services such as Facebook Live and Periscope. Video and arresting visuals can attract people to engage with your content instead of just scrolling past.

The debate over which social channels are best for B2B marketing rages on, but for the first time in the history of Social Media Examiner’s annual study, Facebook surpassed LinkedIn as the most important platform for B2B marketers. This is a significant shift. Traditionally, B2B brands have large followings on LinkedIn but most see minimal engagement. The increased use of Facebook allows for more creative opportunities, like the use of video, to help generate engagement.

While planning your B2B message strategy for the next year, remember that your prospect is also a consumer who responds to emotional messaging more deeply than any rational sales pitch. For many years, consumer advertisers have understood that you need to elicit an emotional reaction to truly connect or engage with a customer or prospect. This reaction can create a desire for a product even if there is no real need. Applying some of this same thinking, B2B marketers must make a unique claim that solves a real business problem. This will engage the prospect on a non-rational level, supported by features and benefits, which are rational and consistently supported in every channel. There are so many different purchasing decision makers in the B2B channel, but with an omnichannel approach, you can reach each of these different decision makers with a tailored message.