While uncertainty can be distraction, now is a time for focus in the B2B marketing world. Beyond figuring out the new logistics and operations of remote work, paused marketing efforts and the urgent need to keep employees, customers and community safe and healthy, there's still a need for marketing. In fact, the areas of focus below are relevant in any time but are worth considering over the coming weeks and months. Align content strategy with the entire marketing funnel. Successful business marketers are doing more than ever to understand the customer journey and realize that in today’s environment, buyers are pulling themselves through 60-80% of the funnel with information they find on their own before ever contacting a vendor. Without real-world events and interactions, the current focus on digital engagement pushes that percentage even higher. During that self directed information gathering process, marketers have an opportunity to create content experiences that engages with prospects and earns their trust. Providing what we call best answer content to questions buyers have at each stage of the funnel builds a connection early and can last all the way to the decision making stage. B2B marketing likes acronyms so here are a few that represent how B2B companies are focusing on each buyer stage:
- TOFU – Top of funnel content emphasizes broad topics, empathy with understanding the problem and building credibility
- MOFU – Middle of funnel content helps provide answers to more practical questions about how solutions can solve the problem specifically for a company in a given industry. Case studies and testimonials build confidence in the solution.
- BOFU – Bottom of funnel content provides even more specific information about implementation, support, costs and gives evidence of success. Scoping tools and calculators are helpful for prospects to scope the solution.
With a shift from demand gen to branding during COVID-19, lead gen is still needed, but how? In a time when push marketing and advertising can be seen as tone-deaf and opportunistic, pull marketing methods like SEO enables B2B brands to attract customers on their own terms. While building brand credibility through thought leadership is very different than most SEO efforts, prominent search visibility adds credibility to a brand, especially for category level search topics. Branding content should focus on articulating the unique value of the business and build credibility with support from internal and industry experts, industry media and credible content like research. Brand content can and should also be optimized for search visibility. There are many specialist articles on SEO and experts who can help with this (including TopRank Marketing), but at a high level, B2B content marketers can optimize for better organic search visibility through a mix of technical optimization (page speed, markup and structured data, mobile friendly, etc), on page content quality and ability to engage, as well as 3rd party references to brand content. Check out this video from Moz's Britney Muller for where to focus on SEO in 2020. B2B Needs to Learn Communication Lessons from B2C You may be familiar with the expression that the B’s in B2B are people too. That means empathizing with business buyers as people, not just as corporations can result in content that is more consumer friendly, yet topically relevant for business. Over the past few years there’s been a trend in the consumerization of business software where business users expect a consumer like experience when using enterprise software. That same set of expectations is showing up for business solution buyers and the content experiences that B2B marketers create to attract and engage them. An example would be an unboxing video featuring a commercial class server that is done somewhat in the style of consumer electronics unboxing videos which get incredible traffic. A 4 hour server unboxing and configuration video in the style of the latest iphone unboxing my not appeal to a consumer, but the details, questions and actual example is very appealing to those in the market to purchase that kind of hardware. Plus it can be infotaining. Take a look at top consumer video channels from influencers and brands alike for inspiration to create more entertaining, yet informative content for B2B audiences. Creating experiential content is a key differentiator for B2B brands and podcasts are a great place to start. Podcasts are hot and the reason is, they are a format that is easy for customers to subscribe to and consume during their commutes or even listen to during work. Well-done podcasts can feel like a one to one communication and build a connection with the audience in a way that text does not. In the current environment without real world conferences, alternative formats like virtual events, webinars, video livestreaming and podcasts can serve as an effective format to deliver useful content in a way that feels personal. Ultimately, a focus on the customer will drive the relevant areas of focus for B2B marketers. That opportunity for focus is true whether it means full funnel alignment with content strategy, creating more engaging content experiences like video or audio, or optimizing brand and lead gen content for questions buyers want answered vs. pushing tone-deaf brand messages.
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