B2B companies face distinctive challenges than B2C companies. From which stages you target in the funnel to how you measure your achievement to the team you end up selling to, content marketing can be a horse of a different color when you are business-to-business. In this articles we give you tips for successful content marketing when you are a B2B.
Let’s start with the funnel.
The B2B funnel is extremely similar to a B2C funnel. In fact, marketing funnels in general work like this. People become aware of a product. They have some consideration for whether it’s something they might really want to purchase. They do some type of comparison against different solutions. They decide to change or not. Then there’s a retention element. Retention element is less valid in a lot of B2C fields, particularly eCommerce one time buys. It’s generally more valid in the B2B world.
Target the correct stages of the marketing funnel
I think one issue that we have in B2B marketing is a lot of times we target the wrong part of the funnel. This is actually very common. In B2C, typically things that hit on one of these hit on a lot of them. The same things that create awareness about a brand or a product also help with conversion, additionally might help with comparison because of brand affinity, and also might help with retention and consideration. It’s less valid in B2B, not to say not valid at all, but less valid. So I think one of the jobs that we have is to look inside our funnel and then recognize which part needs help versus which part works fine.
Another thing that is extremely important here: For the majority of your content, don’t try to target it at more than let’s say two of these stages. I may say, “Hey, I’ve got a piece of content that I think can work truly well for consideration and awareness.” Or it’s much further down the funnel. It’s for people who already know us and are already considering us. It’s truly about conversion and comparison or about retention and conversion. That’s fine. I think when you get into difficulties is when you say, “Hey, you know what, this is going to help throughout the funnel — conversion, consideration, and awareness.” Well, that tends not to be the case. That’s not to say it can never happen.
Actually design your content for parts of the funnel that need it
Try to pick. When you’re creating your content, when you’re creating the strategy for why you’re going to produce a specific piece, decide what it’s going to help with. Point it at the area of the funnel that is in most need of help.
Let me give you a speedy example here. There’s a company called PivotDesk. They’re a fellow at Foundry company. PivotDesk does something truly cool. They help small businesses — in particular a lot of startups and early stage companies — but plenty of regular small businesses, to find office space. They are extremely business-to-business. They are talking to landlords and they are talking to small businesses.
They have a awesome funnel, but they decide that they need more awareness, which is great. Good job PivotDesk identifying which part of the funnel is the issue. If you’ve seen that lots of people who are already aware of you and visiting you are converting and getting through this part of the funnel, then you don’t need to concentrate your content efforts there, or maybe less of them. We could think about potentially saying, “Hey, let’s say that awareness is our issue. Awareness to whom? Is it awareness to small businesses or is it awareness to the landlords?” Again, two distinct audiences. In this case, awareness to the landlords perhaps is the issue.
I’m making these up. I don’t really know if PivotDesk has these issues. If that’s the case, maybe what we want is an interactive tool that is essentially part comparison and part survey, benchmarking metrics, that a landlord can go in and say, “My space is in Seattle. I have this much square footage of AAA space, and the current price is $31 per square foot triple net,” and there’s the average me versus what the rest of the Seattle market looks like. Fascinating, I am undercharging or I am overcharging, or I have less square footage than most folks have, or I’m missing these facilities or whatever it is. That could work potentially extremely well for this stage of the funnel.
This is the procedure that I’d urge you to use when you are doing that B2B content strategy. Target the correct section of the funnel. Make sure it’s targeted to the right audience, and then come up with a piece of content that’s going to move the needle in the correct place.
When you are measuring success in B2B, it is really different than B2C. A lot of the time unfortunately the metric by which you will be judged upon is number of leads made. B2B tends to be very leads-driven. There are a couple of people who are in B2B who are also self-service, like Moz is. But for the wide majority, it’s leads for the sales people to follow up on.
Because of that, the classic metrics, like how many social shares you got across various networks and how much visibility and raw traffic and engagement and those sorts of things tend to be less important than quantity of leads generated. This is truly tough when you get into these areas of the funnel that are not the conversion point. If I’m trying to create raw awareness among my audience, I can truly get misjudged if my boss, my team, or my client is just looking at the leads.
What I ask you again to do is to take note of what you are trying to enhance and apply the right metrics to it. Don’t simply take the same metrics that are used for obviously B2C and don’t take the same metrics that are judged on conversion for awareness or retention for conversion. This is fundamentally important, or you are going to focus on the wrong parts of the solution you are trying to create.
The overwhelming majority of B2B transactions don’t just have a single buyer.
In B2C, it’s truly simple. I’m selling blue jeans. I’m selling them to a customer. That consumer tends to be the only individual who’s in on the consideration. Maybe their partner is also thinking about it. For the wide majority it’s simply that one person I’m selling to.
That’s not the case in B2B, not at all.
Generally the person who ends up purchasing, who you interact with, who your salesman reaches out to and has the conversation, that person is only one link in the chain of individuals included from a corporate ecosystem in who makes the buying choice. For that reason, many times content marketing that reaches this person does a good job of reaching that buyer but does a horrible job of reaching their manager or the CFO and the HR person who are all included in these decisions as well might be less successful.
This is the reason we need an overlapping persona analysis when we do our content. It’s additionally why, when we are thinking about the funnel, we can’t think about it without regard for which target is in which stage of the purchasing process. It could be that your buyer is all the way down here, but you have no assets, no content that’s going to help convince a CFO and an HR person up here that they should even put you in the consideration set, because you have no comparison against what are their different options and why do you help them save money and those sorts of things.
Be careful with this. Target your content to not just your buyer but different folks too, particularly if your sales folks are giving you feedback that that’s where they’re getting stymied.
With B2B, it tends to be the case that you can be much more aggressive with forms of re-targeting and re-marketing. That means paid content. That means amplification. It means spending dollars to promote the content that you’ve created. The reason that you can do this as opposed to a lot of B2C is because it tends to be the case that your client lifetime value is way higher. B2B transactions, we’re talking about normally many hundreds, if not many thousands or tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per converted client.
Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC)
What you want to be looking at is not just the lifetime value but also the current price of client acquisition, or CAC, as it’s called. There’s a ratio that a lot of folks look at in B2B, which is the CAC to CLTV ratio, essentially how much does it price us to get a new client versus how much value does that client provide. B2C folks look at this as well, but B2B folks tend to be obsessed with it.
When I see the ratio is high or the CAC itself is low in comparison, this is, well, $450 to acquire a client versus $3,780 CLTV, that’s like a 9 to 1 ratio, something like that. I have a lot of room to boost that. I could likely boost that. I could more than double it, and I’d still be fine with a 4-to-1 ratio or even a 3-to-1 ratio. I might consider spending a tremendous amount more money to get a client. If I can see through my funnel that I’m measuring to see how content performs as it pushes individuals down this funnel and gets them to conversion, if I can see that for each 1,000 views or 10,000 views I’m getting a client converting, well then I can go and I can amplify through paid channels, through re-marketing and re-targeting.
I can pay a lot of money to go push that content to more people and to more places. I can likely do things that I would almost never normally do, like even buy paid search ads against a keyword that is extremely content-focused, not extremely conversion-focused, that lives up here in the funnel and I can still have success. This is something that very couple B2B marketers are doing but some very successful ones are.
Last thing that I’ll cover here, most B2B content does this… I don’t know. It’s like each B2B marketer reads from the same playbook. Look, I go through this procedure a lot because I’m interested in a lot of B2B content since Moz is a business that I’m trying to grow.
What happens is that the content exposes each little for free. I might hear about something and go, “Oh yeah, I am interested in the average lifetime value of self-service, software as a service companies.” That sounds super boring and corporate. I’m deeply interested in it. It truly affects Moz’s metrics.
I might go look, and then I see I can’t truly tell what’s in here, what’s behind the wall. You’re not showing me all that much.
There’s supposedly this incredible content, but I don’t see anything there.
Then it asks me for too much in order to get access.
If you fill out all these 10 diverse form fields about your position at the company, and how much revenue you have, and how many employees you had, and what was your growth rate last year, and which other products in this field have you considered and so on, man, geez, I feel like I just had to sign a lease agreement in order to get a piece of content.
Then, that content is not website accessible.
I have to download it, which is madly frustrating if I’m on one of these. It sucks. It’s a horrible experience on mobile. It’s even a bad experience on desktop. I don’t want to have to download something and open it back up. That makes it less shareable. It’s too hard for me to amplify that content if I’m interested in it. When I want to share it with different people I have to tell them, “Hey, you’ve got to go to this download link.”
What happens? I’ll tell you what happens. Each single time I download it and then I attach it in an email and I send it to each relevant person at Moz, that B2B company that made it just gets one email address, and I unsubscribe from their list.
If you can, fix this procedure by making your content web accessible, making it so that you’re providing more of a teaser right on the page here so that more people are likely to go through here. Ask for as little information as you likely can. You can get more later. You can learn a lot about somebody once you have only one piece of information, their correct email address. If you have that, you can learn a tremendous amount about them. You don’t need this. You’ve got tools like FullContact, where you can use the API plugin and email address and they’ll give you all kinds of persona-type data about that person. You can go then research the company and get all the facts. Lots of stuff to do.
Then the last thing that I find that’s strangely frustrating — I don’t know why I’m frustrated about it, but you should be frustrated about it if you’re a B2B marketer — is you don’t reuse the audience for future content amplification. If you know that I downloaded this piece of content, I think it is perfectly alright to follow up with a personal message the next time you produce a piece of content like this and say, “Hey, we redid it and here it is again.” That’s not that difficult. Hopefully, you haven’t auto-subscribed me to an email newsletter and I’m getting lots of pieces of content that I care nothing about. What’s far better is if you tell me, “Hey, we redid this piece,” or, “Since you liked this piece, you’ll likely be very interested in this other piece.” That’s going to work truly well.
You can also do RLSA with this for more paid amplification. I can take a list of emails of all the individuals who’ve downloaded this, upload it to Facebook, upload it to Google, and then have this content accessible via these paid formats so that I’m bidding in Google and I’m showing the ads to individuals on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, all that sort of stuff.
All right, everybody, hope you B2B marketers out there are doing a few awesome stuff with your content in the near future.