In this post, we cover the rise of content marketing in B2B markets, how to structure a content team and consider if a content marketing mentor can help.
The Rise Of Content Marketing
There are many reasons why B2B marketing is more complex and challenging than B2C including:
- Purchasing decisions made by a group rather than a single person.
- Long buying cycles.
- Project driven – changes and delays in the final project can cause design changes and new objections. This can open up opportunities for competition.
- Product complexity leads to more potential objections and information requests.
Traditionally, dealing with complexity depended almost entirely on the sales team. Their job was to identify the key decision-makers and develop strong ongoing relationships with each of them.
Push marketing was used to promote a business and its products or services. The most common promotional channels were advertising, direct mail, telemarketing and PR. Most company websites were little more than digital brochures.
Today, there is little doubt the balance of power has shifted. The B2B sales process has changed from leading the customer by the nose to guiding the customer down a preferred path to running alongside the customer helping them along a path they are quite capable of choosing for themselves.
Content marketing represents a large part of the modern marketing process. It is based on delivering useful, engaging, information to prospects via the most appropriate channel, at the correct point in the sales process.
Content marketing services the information needs of a diverse group of decision-makers. It raises the credibility of the potential supplier and keeps them front of mind. Content can be delivered over time and address potential issues before they arise. Personal relationships are most effective when combined with a content marketing process.
The Potential Value In Content Marketing
Customers no longer rely on suppliers to push the information required to make purchasing decisions their way. Instead, they actively seek out what they need before engaging with a potential supplier. Content marketing is the process of defining the audience, deciding on the content they may need, creating that content in its various forms, and deciding on the most appropriate channel to deliver that content.
if supplier A has a more efficient mechanism to deliver the content customers need than supplier B then they should be in a better position to take the business. Of course, this is an oversimplification as many other factors come into purchasing decisions in B2B markets. These include the suppliers brand, credibility, financial strength and their status as a key supplier (or not).
In B2B markets many subcontractors (each a potential customer) bid for a single major project. It is all too easy to be well placed with one contractor only to find that another sub-contractor wins the contract.
Covering the bases is a sensible precaution but given the strong competition, it can be difficult to have relationships with all the key players. Where it is not possible to break into a target customer content can be used as a disruptor. It is a way to position the business to pounce should an opportunity arise.
Organising for content marketing
Content marketing may be easy in principle but it is much harder to achieve in practice. To have any chance of success a close working relationship is required between sales and marketing.
To deliver any successful process a solid plan is required. This is particularly important for content marketing. It is essential to plan out what content is required, by whom, and via which channel. With every piece of content, it is important to define its specific purpose.
A range of marketing skills is required. The content may be expected to rank on the search engines. For prospects closer to the point of purchase paid advertising (Adwords and Display) could be used. Hence, SEO and Paid Ads specialists will be needed.
Various forms of content are often required including a manufacturers blog, guides, video, infographics, even Podcasts. All content must fit with the brand and design skills will be important. This brings in another set of specialists. All these people need to work together to deliver an overall plan so strong and focussed leadership is essential.
The Value In Employing A Content Marketing Mentor
Any business can build its own, content-based marketing process. The issue is the time and resources wasted on a content marketing process that has not been properly researched, designed, planned and executed.
To be successful in B2B markets requires a well-structured sales organisation and effective marketing. A specific type of marketer is required with industry knowledge, long term experience of the traditional B2B marketing and the ability to combine this with the latest content marketing techniques.
Market analysis and a solid plan are required. It may be necessary to sell this plan to stakeholders and the sales department. Where existing staff lack these skills a mentor can help them grow into the task.
Existing marketing staff could need to learn new skills or to adapt to a new content marketing (inbound) marketing process. New staff will need to be brought up to speed.
A content marketing mentor could either oversee the entire process or to fill in temporarily. Where there are skill gaps they can step in while upskilling existing staff. An experienced mentor could help with the planning process. They could use their experience to help integrate sales and marketing.
Content marketing mentors are both hands-on and teachers and guides. Their task is to take a process forward and leave behind an upskilled person or team when they are gone.