new rules of content marketingContent Marketing is hot!

And while it has always been one of the ways businesses have tried to reach buyers, the emergence of digital, social and mobile platforms has produced an explosion of content. This has caused a fundamental change in the relationship between buyers and the B2B marketing and sales efforts competing for buyer attention. These changes have re-written the rules of content marketing.

In a recent whitepaper, Brendan Dell explores The New Rules of Content Marketing where he defines the content needs of today’s buyer and provides best-practice advice to B2B Marketers on creating content their buyers want. Here’s a quick summary:

Understanding The New B2B Buyer

In the past, sellers pushed out product-related information in an attempt to generate awareness of their products. When buyers were ready to make a purchase, they consulted with various solution-providers, maybe talked to their peers and made a decision.

Today, buyers complete most of their information gathering before reaching out to a sales person. And when they do, they are often just looking for a contract and a price.  Brendan points out:

  • B2B Marketing needs to be about pulling buyers in. Not pushing product information out as today’s buyer likes to educate thenmselves online.
  • B2B buyers are avoiding “marketing spin” and doing the research on their own terms.
  • The purchase process has changed as most buying happens outside the “annual budget” and at the line of business levels with many more people involved in the buying process.
  • 79% of buyers consult with peers, often through social networks, before making a buying decision and they like to share what they learn back through their networks.

The New Rules Of Content Marketing

Brendan states that  ‘the impulsive nature of today’s buyer and a hyper-competitive business environment means that today’s solution provider must be ubiquitous.” We have to create high-quality content at a high enough volume to gain a real share of buyer conversations.

To accomplish this, Brendan advises marketers to:

  1. Give internal brand champions the ammunition they need to effectively reach new buyers with engaging content.
  2. Support the ecosystem (partners and influencers) who may be tasked with implementing your solution.
  3. Re-purpose every piece of content into as many formats as possible to extend their shelf-live and maximize their reach.
  4. Syndicate your content into as many channels as possible. Content that doesn’t reach your audience is wasted expense.
  5. Be different. A ton of content is competing for your buyer’s attention so it has to stand out.
  6. Consider the quality and depth of your content relative to the complexity of your solution.
  7. Define the editorial process and content workflows so content flows quickly from idea to distribution.
  8. Think mobile first. The majority of content consumption on many channels is now from a mobile device.
  9. Tell customer stories about how your solution helped your customers to solve a business problem.
  10. Segment your audience. Test different approaches and apply those learnings to your content strategy.

Define Your Content Strategy

Finally Brendan outlines the steps to an effective content strategy similar to the steps I have defined here many times.

  • Define your target audience
  • Document the channels and content types they use most
  • Map the buyer journey
  • Establish success metrics
  • Optimize the conversion path

The Single Most Important Element of Content Marketing

In concluding the paper, Brendan says “creating engaging and effective stories” is the single most important element of  effective content marketing. It all comes down to the art of storytelling. So if you only have time for one new rule of content marketing:

Give buyers engaging, compelling, thoughtful stories and they will gladly give you their attention, respect, and business.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

23 Comments

  1. Peter Johnston said…

    Absolutely excellent intro, especially on understanding the new buyer here.

    Like an awful lot of marketing, it is focused on the greenfield relationship.

    In a company like SAP and indeed most larger ticket items companies, this totally new to you customer is rare.

    Often the task is building on an existing relationship to widen the product offering, it can be making people realise you also do this, in others it is getting back in after a past failure. It can even be following individuals when they move.

    How can Content help with this? Are there other things you would do as well?

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Peter, I think all companies have to balance the marketing mix (time, money and effort) between loyalty, upsell and cross-sell programs after the sale and on efforts to drive net-new customers. Content can help both because you are adding value before the search for a solution even begins. If the content is produced and delivered in the ways outlined here, it will be helpful, will assist in building trust in the right solution areas and earn more sales. but it starts with content that is ultimately helpful.

  2. Cara Posey said…

    There are many important elements in this work…I do think that as part of creating engaging content, we need to focus more on showcasing expertise within the company. Help buyers see the personality and experience of the individuals that make up the brand. This helps build confidence in the buyer and helps them create a lasting relationship vs. a transactional one.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Cara. I think you are right and this one is tricky. Because you want your thought leaders to produce content that shows their expertise without sounding too much like a sales pitch. You have to strike the right balance to gain attention and trust and it is pretty tough to do in my experience.

  3. Michael Gerard said…

    Some great points Michael. No doubt that the new BtoB buyer provides many significant challenges and opportunities for us as marketers. As you mention in the earlier comment, we need to balance the marketing mix from a time, money and effort perspective as well as providing highly engaging content in order to be successful. Dell’s whitepaper provides super insight into the new rules of content marketing.

    There is also a significant divide today between the larger companies that have the resources to produce (and leverage) high quantities of created content, versus those “smaller” organizations that must rely to a greater extent on curated and aggregated content (http://tinyurl.com/mgtmwvg). Marketers at both types of organizations will need to get more innovative at using their own content as well as tapping into high quality content from other sources through content curation strategies. Leveraging curated content will not only help from a resource perspective, but it will enable greater engagement with buyers who demand exposure to more independent views and other perspectives…..and if we as vendors don’t provide this exposure to them, they will most certainly go elsewhere.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Great point Michael. There are challenges in organizations of all sizes and we need to understand the differences. Having been at both large and small organizations, I can tell you content is a struggle no matter where you are. We all need help so thanks for chiming in.

  4. Randy said…

    Hi Michael. I recently posted a slide to Sladeshare with 21 New Rules of Content Marketing. Hope your readers find some value in there: http://goo.gl/dTMrh

  5. Lucy Thorpe said…

    I agree – the bottom line is – it is all about telling stories. That is why I would strongly advise bringing in ex journalists to help with this – marketing expertise alone is no longer enough!

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Lucy, I agree we need journalists and journalistic-minded marketers. but I would argue that good storytelling has always been a valuable asset for the successful marketer and business executive. Steve Jobs was a master storyteller. So are many successful business owners.

  6. William Steward said…

    Excellent post Michael. Can’t help but agree with Lucy on her comment about journalists, also. One of the most important things for marketers to get to grips with when embarking on a content marketing strategy is to thoroughly understand the problems that their prospects face. This means being able to ask the sales teams and existing customers the right questions, and accurately interpret their answers. It’s quite easy to be lazy at that stage, and skip to the “fun” part, i.e. producing content, especially if interviewing is not a strong point of the marketer.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks William, what you said is so true. It’s just to easy to focus on creating stuff and checking the item off your to-do list and not really spending the time listening to your customers and sales people.

  7. Kuldeep said…

    The real issue is that the proportion of people who read longer content like entire books, whitepapers, etc was always smaller. There are people who skim books and people who read them from cover to cover. But get the right audience, and not only will they read it but they will read much more intently and in my unscientific study, yields a higher percentage of people who’ll take action IF you tie the content to an action.

  8. Andrew said…

    Nice post, Michael. As Kuldeep says, the amount of people who read long copy is always smaller. So, all the more reason to re-purpose it for those of us who like to skim.

  9. Alexandra said…

    The nowadays trend is to build a brand, not just links online. Here are some additional suggestions on how to do that: http://www.logodesignteam.com/blog/do-not-build-a-linkbuild-a-brand/

  10. Abhishek Gupta said…

    The article summarizes the aspect of content marketing and the importance of content for your business as well… I would say that businesses in order to grow in popularity and their business would need to promote themselves with some great contents online.

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