The words content marketing have exploded over the past few years. Marketers from travel to F&B and fashion are certainly maturing in how they use content. B2B marketers are no different. In fact, in the B2B space, content marketing has often been lauded as the perfect channel to generate leads and sales.
In a conversation with Marketing, Rashish Pandey, director of marketing for APAC at Cisco Systems, said B2B marketing relies heavily on building trusted partnerships with customers. As such, Cisco Systems is increasing its content marketing budget substantially. It is investing in both local resources and funding to build audience-first content in key markets.
“We have realised the importance of storytelling to engage customers and building an emotional connection. This is where building content marketing capabilities comes in. Content marketing allows us to tell compelling stories at scale that resonates with our customers, drives engagement, builds relationships and ultimately drives demand,” he said.
Wayne Tay, regional digital communications manager for DHL Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the advent of social selling had fuelled the growth of content marketing in the B2B space. content marketing capabilities comes in. Content marketing allows us to tell compelling stories at scale that resonates with our customers, drives engagement, builds relationships and ultimately drives demand,” he said.
The traditional sales model of doing cold calls, finding quality leads and making contact is slowly moving to social channels where sales teams engage and educate potential customers to ultimately close a deal. As such, content marketing can help business development teams to build relationships and create meaningful and business-relevant conversations with clients.
“The way people look for information has also evolved; buyers more informed of their partners because there are so many digital avenues for them to acquire information. Hence, the traditional sales model is increasingly less effective now,” Tay said. Yet, not all marketers are as forward-thinking it seems. Many remain uncertain on how to exactly create a solid content plan.
A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute, titled 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America showed that fewer B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy this year (32%) compared with last year (35%).
This is despite 53% of the most effective marketers today having a documented content marketing strategy. In correlation, the study also stated that 40% of the least effective marketers have no strategy at all.
So what exactly is holding marketers back?
One reason could be due to a lack of understanding as to how to generate effective content.
Currently only 30% of B2B marketers in North America say their organisations are effective at content marketing, down from 38% last year.
Tay says that creating quality content, which is also creative, is a challenge for companies where content differentiation is low. As such, these companies need to tell the same story in different ways. He added as content marketing is a holistic way of acquiring customers in the long-term, “it will be more challenging to get businesses to invest in top of funnel and middle of funnel marketing activities such as downloading a white paper or obtaining a product sample, as compared to bottom of funnel activities such as getting a sale that does not deliver immediate ROI”.
PR firm Text 100, which helps a number of B2B marketers with their content strategies, agreed that creating engaging content is tough. Often, the agency and the client will begin the content marketing journey with a strong editorial focus, but it is hard work balancing editorial versus commercial interests from the business units that often fund these programmes.
It added, as far as challenges go, the biggest challenge is to tie content marketing efforts with conversion (that is, lead generation) to demonstrate business ROI. It is easy to design the digital conversion path in theory, but in reality there are real challenges such as legacy tech that hinders the integration of the CMS and CRM systems, or the way the communications, marketing and sales functions are set up within an organisation.
Meanwhile, the study added that the average spend on budgets also remains stagnant despite many understanding that content marketing should be placed as a priority.Like last year, most companies currently spend only 28% of their total marketing budget on content. This is in stark contrast to the most effective companies which allocate 42%, and the most sophisticated/ mature who allocate 46%.
Text 100 added that its clients’ spend ranges from as little as US$50,000 a year to US$400,000 a year – this can include content production (articles, infographics, videos), paid and social amplification.