B2B content marketers are falling short in delivering engagement and ROI despite growing confidence in their efforts, according to a recent report from Forrester Research. A renewed focus on content marketing strategy is needed to close the gaps.
Forrester Research teamed up with the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Online Marketing Institute (OMI) to conduct a joint survey to benchmark the maturity of B2B content marketing efforts.
The report found that B2B marketers are overestimating their progress in these areas, focusing too narrowly on early-stage buyer acquisition, often failing to establish a formal editorial board, and lacking effective metrics to show a direct link between content production and business results.
Here we offer our views on the key findings:
1. Content marketers are not as mature as they think they are
Although 51% of those in the survey rate their content marketing as very mature, 87% find producing content that engages buyers challenging.
This is disconcerting because it means that B2B marketers are failing to address the key engagement issue due to a false assessment of their practices relative to their peers.
2. Focus on building long-lasting relationships with your clients
“Business marketers must shift marketing practices from product-focused to relationship building”
Current content marketing is not producing the expected results and one of the explanations from the survey is the focus on the acquisition stage and ignoring the rest of the buyer’s journey.
Simply put, to develop closer relationships with clients, the content created should focus less on product and service offerings and more on delivering helpful insights in the early stages.
3. Marketing teams should be able to produce content that buyers want and need
An alarming statistic from the report is that 72% of the respondents said that less than half of their marketing staff play a primary role in content marketing.
With few marketers trained in producing content that buyers want, how can anything but sub-standard engagement result? Of course, finding the perfect publishing partner can help to redress the balance.
4. There needs to be an integrated marketing strategy that connects activity to business value
A majority (62%) develop content campaign to campaign and only 14% surveyed rated themselves highly on delivering value back to the business from content marketing.
The two statistics are unavoidably related. It is why you should document your content marketing strategy!
5. Marketers struggle to create more powerful content that customers value
The Forrester report urges marketers to move from a product and service focus to producing more insightful and engaging content.
A consistent programme of client-led articles, videos, webinars and other insights will build the trust and relationships that convert interest into consideration.
“While 71% of respondents say that their content frequently features case studies or customer stories, only 3% admit that they’ve made this a primary focus of their efforts.”
6. You should deliver insights that buyers can use.
New ideas and thought leadership insights demonstrate that you understand the market and are thinking about your clients’ real business issues. It also creates conversation starters with C-suite clients.
The point is to build a relationship based on offering existing and prospective clients more than just a service or product, but an ongoing partnership that is consistently beneficial to both parties.
7. Connect content to business outcomes to boost maturity
Marketers still struggle to demonstrate a meaningful correlation between content production and business results.
To advance content maturity beyond early-stage levels, the report recommends that marketing leaders should:
- Consistently incorporate customer feedback into editorial processes.
- Document the content strategy and hold business teams accountable to guidelines.
- Establish an editorial board chartered with extending best practices company-wide.
- Arm field teams with technology and processes that fuel demand and manage content.
- Refine metrics to demonstrate clear correlations between content and business outcomes.
Content with a purpose
Creating content that attracts attention and builds customer relationships requires a fundamental shift from writing about features and benefits to delivering valuable information that drives business results.
The changes enabled by digital technologies have happened at such a fast pace that there has been a power shift towards the customer that has affected everything from social interaction to how we do business.
Digital disruption is both a threat and an opportunity but for marketers to maximise the potential they must first acknowledge that shift of power and focus on understanding customer needs and communicating to them in their ‘language’ and on their terms. Only then can true B2B marketing maturity take place.