2 1 CNBC s list of the Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2011 revealed that the sixth most stressful job was that of an advertising account executive. The reason today s account executives are so stressed is something that you, as a B2B marketer, can also understand because you both work in rapidly changing environments where traditional marketing channels are uncertain and new digital channels are cropping up almost daily. introduction Plus, although B2B marketing budgets have increased, the number of channels may far surpass what you can do with your budget. With all these changes, it can be hard to determine where to put your budget and the best way to build relationships with customers. This report will explore some of the key shifts that are changing B2B marketing. When you understand these shifts, you can transform your marketing so you can stand apart from your competition and increase your ROI.
3 Shift #1: Relevance Today s customers are overwhelmed with advertising and will ignore anything that is not relevant to their needs. When buyers want to make a purchase, they will often look to their peers either on an individual basis or through social media for a recommendation. According to the IT Services Marketing Association, B2B buyers leverage referrals from their peers in making purchase decisions by a ratio of almost 2:1 over any other factor considered in the buying decision-making process. The IT Services Marketing Association also revealed that nearly 75% of B2B technology buyers consult social media before making a decision. 2 This shows that B2B buyers are actively engaging in social communities. If you want to get those peer-to-peer referrals, you must become an active part of your customers communities and find a place in their inner circle of trusted resources. According to Michael Brenner, Sr. Director of Global Marketing at SAP, Companies need to become more social by understanding that when marketing focuses on putting the customer and their needs first, business outcomes are much easier to achieve.
4 Here are four ways to make your marketing more relevant: 3 Create or update your buyer personas Before you can create content that speaks to your buyers needs, you must know who your buyers are. Take time to craft personas for your key buyers. You can even give them names and find an image that reflects what they look like. The personas can include your buyers demographic information, motivations, a description of their typical work day and the personal and professional challenges that they face. Keep this information handy whenever you create new content. You can even hang your buyer personas next to your computer so you can refer to them at a glance. Ask your customers what they want It may be hard to get to know your customers if you spend all of your time at your desk or in endless meetings. Luckily, many of the new digital channels allow you to engage with your customers and get their feedback without leaving your desk. For example, allow your community to post comments to your blog, encourage them to contact you through social media or survey them about their likes and dislikes. Constantly ask your customers how you can provide them with more value. You should also talk to your customer service team, as they interact with your customers on a day-to-day basis and can tell you exactly what your customers like and don t like. Ensure that your content corresponds to all stages in the buying cycle The B2B market is changing. A few years ago, buyers were more likely to contact a sales representative to learn about a new product. Now, they conduct research online and wait until they re almost ready to make a purchase before they speak with a sales representative.
5 This means that you need to provide your early stage leads with content that will educate them about their problems and help them find solutions If you focus solely on the leads that are ready to make a purchase, you will lose potential customers. Create different materials for different audiences A scheduling software company recently contacted me to write copy for their website. They had a few target audiences, including dentists, personal trainers and sales professionals basically anyone whose business was appointment-driven. They wanted me to write some copy and then simply change a few words to address their different audiences. I advised them that this probably wouldn t work, as the needs of dentists are different than the needs and concerns of sales professionals. Either the copy would be so generic that it wouldn t appeal to any of their markets, or it would only speak to one of their key buyers. 4 Your buyers can tell when you re talking to them and truly understand their needs versus when you re putting out something generic to improve your search engine rankings. If your audiences have different needs, you ll want to consider targeted content for each audience. A good example of this comes from a software company that I recently worked with. Their home page contains banners for their three target audiences. Depending on your role within an organization, you can click one of the three banners to get to highly customized website copy, white papers, case studies and other content. Aligning your marketing with your customers needs is the single most important step you can take to improve the quality of your leads. When your customers can relate to your marketing, everything else will follow.
6 Shift #2: Content Marketing Content marketing is one of the hottest B2B marketing trends. According to The 2012 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends Report, 60% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending this year. The report also revealed that 9 out of 10 B2B marketers are using content to grow their businesses. What is content marketing? 5 The Content Marketing Institute defines it as the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. This usually leads to the question, How can I increase my bottom line if I can t use my marketing to sell my products or services? The definition goes on to explain, The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty. Here are 5 benefits you can achieve from content marketing: Generate more leads Marketers are realizing that blasting their audience with sales messages no longer works. People don t want to be sold to all the time. However, they will view content that helps them solve one of their key problems. That s why offering white papers, videos, e-books, research and other content is a great way to get someone to subscribe to your list. The better your content can address your target audience s key concerns, the more they will download and share your materials.
7 Shorten your sales cycles Once someone subscribes to your list, you ll want to keep sending them relevant content to move them along the sales cycle. For example, showing leads case studies can help them envision themselves in the role of your happy customer and eliminate some of their concerns about working with you. Become recognized as a leader in your industry When you provide your community with advice on how to solve one of their most pressing problems, they ll see you as a helpful resource. Over time, they ll associate you with the answer to their problem. This can help you build credibility, land speaking gigs and attract customers. Improve your search engine rankings Keyword-rich blog posts, articles and reports can bring more visitors to your website. Plus, the more your community shares your content, the more links you will get back to your site. 6 However, don t stuff your content with keywords in an attempt to get to the top of the search engines. You might as well put a big header along your copy that tells readers - I wrote this for Google not for you. Instead, write about topics that interest your readers. If readers enjoy your content, they will share it with their networks. The inbound links you gain when people share your content will also do more to improve your Google rankings than simply stuffing your copy with keywords. Gain an advantage over your competitors Many companies are still stuck on the old way of doing things pushing out sales messages to people who aren t ready to buy. You have an opportunity to attract some of these potential customers by helping them, rather than selling to them.
8 Great, but how do you sell your stuff? While content marketing is gaining traction for all of the reasons above, you still need to encourage leads to take the next step in working with you. That s why you can apply a 90/10 rule to your content marketing. 90% of your content should be educational, while 10% can focus on the call to action. Here are some examples: 7 While it s not appropriate to write a blog post about how great you are and why people should buy from you, you should encourage readers to subscribe to your blog. For example, place ads on the sidebar to get readers to visit other pages on your website. Use 90% of your blog page to provide valuable content and 10% for banner ads, opt-in boxes or subscription buttons. And while no one wants to read a white paper that s a 10-page sales pitch, best practices state that you should discuss your solutions at the end of the white paper. If the first 90% of your white paper was entertaining and informative, readers will want to learn about how you can help.
9 Content Marketing Success Story: Entertaining and Educational Podcast Series Brings Donovan Group Media Attention and Leads Donovan Group Inc. is a Toronto-based multimedia communications company that provides strategic advice and project coordination for clients within the public, private and charitable sectors. Every month, Donovan Group publishes an audio podcast called The Tweep in Profile. During the podcast, they interview one of their Twitter followers about how to use social media for marketing and PR. The podcast allows listeners to move beyond the avatar and get to know someone through Twitter, as well as pick up lots of great social media tips. Not only does the monthly podcast generate exposure for the featured tweep, but it also has been instrumental in helping Donovan Group generate leads and attract media attention. This content marketing strategy is also successful because it touches different platforms. Donovan Groups sends out a social media press release for every podcast. They also feature it in their newsletter, post it on their website and share it across numerous social media sites. Using this strategy, Donovan Group can take one piece of content and generate maximum exposure. You can see the latest Tweep in Profile at 8
10 Shift #3: Social Media Integration Social media is no longer a new trend. In fact, the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report stated that 93% of marketers are now using social media for marketing purposes. Although almost everyone is using social media, many marketers are still uncertain of how to get the greatest ROI from their efforts. The 2011 Social Media Marketing Report also revealed that marketers #2 concern is how to integrate and manage all of their social media activities. 9 Here are three ways you can integrate social media into your marketing to engage your audience and increase your ROI. Be present all of the time. Some companies will launch a campaign, promote it like crazy across social media and then go silent when the campaign ends. You may think this is strictly a B2C problem, but plenty of B2B companies are also guilty especially ones that promote conferences or new products. If you disappear after your campaign, you ll wonder where your audience went the next time you have a campaign. Gain insights into your target audience. Social media provides you with endless ways to get to know your customers. For example, you can conduct formal or informal surveys to learn about their greatest concerns and what they think about your company. You can also just chat with them and answer their questions. The information you gain through social media will allow you to improve your products, services, customer support and marketing.
11 Your social community will also let you know if you re staying true to your brand. A few months ago, someone had suggested I write about a particular topic on my blog. However, I felt the topic was off-brand and wanted to get the opinion of my Twitter followers first. So, I took an article about the same topic from someone else s blog and tweeted it. Within minutes, one of my followers responded by saying how out of date the advice was. I appreciated this comment, because it let me know the topic would have been bad for my blog. It saved me the time of writing and promoting a post my readers wouldn t have liked. Make all of your content social. All marketing today is social marketing whether you use social media or not. That s because your customers are probably using social media to spread interesting content across the web. If you want your message whether it s a white paper, case study, video or other marketing piece to reach a larger audience, you ll need to make it social. 10 Here are five ways to make all of your marketing more social: Add social sharing to your website. Make sure these buttons are included on all of your landing pages and resources pages. Create hashtags for your events and trending topics so people can discuss them on Twitter. Publish a blog and encourage visitors to leave comments. Include your latest Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube content on your website. This makes it easier for your website visitors to find your social networks. Put follow me and share this buttons in your e-newsletters.
12 Are Your Marketing Goals Aligned with These Shifts? Key Questions You Must Ask Is your marketing relevant? Have you created buyer personas for all of your target customers? Do you understand your customers key pains, desires and needs? Does your target audience regularly share your content with others? Do you receive feedback from your customers saying that you get them? Is your marketing doing a good job of driving leads and sales? 11 If you answered yes to all of the above questions, you re probably putting a lot of effort into understanding your customers and demonstrating that you care about their needs. This goes a long way towards improving the ROI from all of your marketing. If you answered no to some or all of these questions, you may want to spend more time getting to know your target audience and creating content that shows them that you understand their needs, desires and concerns.
13 Are you using content to engage and convert customers? Are all of your marketing materials sales-focused (e.g. product brochures)? Do you offer free, educational content throughout your website and social networks? Does your website rank well with the search engines and bring you lots of targeted visitors? Do you have a reputation as a trusted resource in your industry? Have you developed educational content for buyers in every stage of your sales cycle (e.g. not just late-stage leads or early-stage leads)? If you answered no to question 1 and yes to everything else, you re taking advantage of the many benefits that content marketing has to offer. Congratulations! However, you may still have opportunities to further increase your content marketing ROI. 12 If you answered yes to question 1 or no to the others, you should explore how you can use content (or further use content) to attract customers.
14 Are you integrating social media into your overall marketing? 13 Are you active with the leading social networks (the ones that are relevant to your cutomers)? Do you use them daily to engage your target audience? Do you have a blog? If so, do you publish new posts at least weekly (preferably more often)? When you create a new piece of content, do you always share it with all of your social networks? Even if this means repurposing your content for a different medium (e.g. turning a blog post into a podcast, slide presentation or video)? Do you integrate social sharing features into your blog, marketing, website and other content where appropriate? Does your organization encourage your employees to use social media? If you answered yes to all of the above questions, you re on the road to social success! However, with the social landscape rapidly changing, you can always learn more and improve your social media ROI. If you answered no to any of these questions, you have the opportunity to blend social media throughout your marketing to build your brand and connect with customers.
15 Next Steps Research has proven that creating relevant, useful and educational content can allow you to break through the clutter and appeal to customers in today s oversaturated market. If you need assistance developing content that will help you attract customers and build your brand, contact Rachel Foster at or to discuss your marketing objectives. 14
16 About the Author Rachel Foster is an award-winning B2B copywriter and owner of Fresh Perspective Copywriting. She helps technology marketers improve their online response rates, clearly communicate complex messages and increase the opt-ins for their premium content and product demos. As a content marketing specialist, she also helps her clients use compelling educational content to increase their brand awareness, be recognized as leaders in their industries and drive business. If you found the information in this report helpful, you can also visit to check out other FREE B2B marketing resources, see what s new on the Fresh Marketing Blog or subscribe to the Fresh Marketing e-newsletter. Plus, join the 13,000 professionals who follow Rachel on Twitter at She shares the latest B2B trends, content marketing tips and advice on how to effectively use social media for B2B marketing Fresh Perspective Copywriting. All Rights Reserved.