B2B content strategies are not only becoming more ambitious, they’re becoming more characterised by consumer principles. In fact, the greatest B2B campaigns now barely even look like B2B campaigns any more.
This trend is only moving in one direction. Here are some of those consumer principles that I believe will characterise the most successful B2B content strategies in the next decade…
1. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is typically associated with instagrammers and YouTubers, but the truth is that influencers exist in every market. The B2B sector is certainly no exception. While the people may wear suits rather than bikinis and their followings may exist via real world connections rather than Twitter, they nevertheless offer all the same benefits as any consumer influencer:
– They pass enormous brand credibility
– They represent an incredible source of content and insight
– They can amplify the reach of the brand through their own networks
– Perhaps most importantly, they bring a content strategy to life
And one bonus advantage is that they often represent great direct sales prospects, making this as much of a BD exercise as a marketing one.
2. Charity partnerships
I use the word “partnership” deliberately. This is not about finding a convenient cause that elevates your CSR credentials. This is something else entirely.
It’s never been more important that companies demonstrate to both their customers and employees that they stand for something beyond the generation of capital. If you want to connect with your customer base and attract the brightest talent then you have to show that your vision statement are not simply words on a page, but a guiding light for every strategic decision.
There are many ways of demonstrating this, but I would suggest that one of the most efficient and impactful is to find a charitable organisation that shares the non-commercial goals of your vision, and partner with them on doing something truly extraordinary. They will bring their skillset to the table and you will bring yours. Not only do the results in themselves make this worthwhile, but it will also lead to stronger ties with your customers and employees, and all while forming the basis of a hugely exciting sub-branded content strategy (more on that later).
3. CPA models
When you see a brand flooding a new consumer market, it’s usually (at least in part) because they have a tight grip on their numbers. They understand the lifetime profit values of a customer and therefore what they can afford to spend in acquiring them, and whether or not a particular channel is viable and scalable. It’s this control on the financials that enable them to move so quickly and ruthlessly.
One might reasonably expect the B2B world to also behave in this highly rational way, but it’s rarely the case. Companies tend to think that because their sales journey is more complex and they may be selling a high value, low volume solutions, the numbers simply won’t be available. It’s a weak excuse. Even if you have to estimate certain parts of the formula (“I think on average a customer converts at about 25%, and they stay with us an average of 12-18 months”), it’s far better to have approximations than nothing at all.
Smart B2B organisations are beginning to realise this and attaching far greater importance to data, even when they have to make chunks of it up.
Many consumer brands carry such great equity among their audience, that not only are customers comfortable publicly engaging in the relationship, but they will happily promote that fact (the badge on a BMW, the swoosh on a t-shirt, the apple on a phone). This is part and parcel of developing a great consumer brand, but the B2B space doesn’t tend to work quite the same way. While a B2B brand could and should aspire to be the brand senior decision makers clamber to be associated with (think of a CMO who brags about bringing in Ogilvy as their agency), that’s a long journey. So if they wish to reduce barriers to engagement more urgently, it may make sense to launch a sub-brand.
By launching a sub-brand that is aligned to your vision and values whilst placing its primary emphasis on engagement rather than conversion, you are going to find that engagement comes at a far lower price. Whether it’s attracting the interest of an influencer, picking up likes and shares for your latest Facebook update or capturing data via content downloadables, you’re likely to see the costs plummet and scalability sore through the creation of this secondary identity.
These are just a handful of examples and in a couple of years they’ll have no doubt been done to death. The point is not so much to follow these specifics, but rather to start adopting a consumer mindset. Your decision makers did so many years ago.