According to Dev Naidoo from New Media and Leo Redelinghuys, Content Marketing Institute research indicates that B2B marketers are doing well when it comes to educating and growing awareness but are struggling with building lasting relationships and building the bottom line. The rise of digital has resulted in an ever-increasing wave of competition to reach audiences, be they business or consumer.
There are millions of companies buying products and services in South Africa. While B2B marketing has its own methods, it pays to remember there is a real person making those business decisions. So how do we engage customers through to point of sale and beyond?
Like everyone else, the B2B buyer is going digital-first. An IDC study found that 75% of B2B buyers and eight out of 10 C-level execs use social media to make purchasing decisions. That is great, but remember: when posting content, B2B brands are not only competing against other business accounts but also against personal accounts. So we only have a small window for our target audience to see and, more importantly, engage with our content. The key metrics, such as when our target audience is online and what type of content yields the highest engagement rate, will determine what to push and when. This data is critical.
Another opportunity is ensuring maximum discoverability by means of a proper SEO strategy. Digitalisation has made many B2B buyers turn to Google for product and service information, and data comes into play here too.
According to Marc Mathieu, the former senior VP of marketing at Unilever, marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling it, but now it is about finding a truth and sharing it. This is as true in the B2B sector as it is in the consumer realm. The open dialogue that marketing has become demands that we build our brand into a platform that our audience trusts.
That authentic platform must serve audiences information that is useful and relevant to them. B2B customers are particularly focused on return on investment, so the stakes are high. They are looking for expertise and for facts about products so that they make the right purchasing decisions on behalf of their business. It is a big responsibility that we should bear in mind.
Bombarding B2B buyers with stock-standard content or a sales pitch will lead to them losing interest very quickly. So we have to be wary of using data to fulfil the urge to become breaking news providers. This would place accuracy of information or quality of editorial at risk of compromise. It is not about getting there first; it is about leaving a lasting impression.
The onset of Covid-19 made B2B marketers realise we had to find new socially distanced methods of engaging with our customers. Webinars, for example, have been around for a while but might not have had the growth they have experienced were it not for the lockdown. We now know that a well-planned webinar with engaging content will attract attendance and participation.
One of the best ways to affect the bottom line is to close the loop in terms of the actual transaction. Instead of focusing on just generating great content as a method of marketing, we should shift to driving business to the transaction – without becoming salespeople.
According to Forbes, B2B e-commerce is likely to be the largest area of e-commerce growth from 2020 to 2025. But we cannot sacrifice the storytelling aspect of B2B marketing to this goal. It is a tricky line to straddle, but we can do it with the digital tools available to all content marketers today.
The future of content marketing is bright. There is a reason Seth Godin calls it ‘the only marketing left’. It is authentic, useful and perfectly suited to the internet generation. In the B2B arena, an established brand that regularly delivers trusted content will always attract the right audience. And we now have access to data that can ensure what we generate and serve to audiences, no matter how niche, is delivering ROI.