Posted by randfish
B2B companies face different challenges than B2C companies. From which stages you target in the funnel to how you measure your success to the team you end up selling to, content marketing can be a horse of a different color when you’re business-to-business. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his tips for successful content marketing when you’re a B2B.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about B2B marketing, specifically B2B content marketing, and some tips that I’ve got for you that are a little bit different from how we would do B2C or other kinds of content marketing.
I get it. A lot of the examples that you see in the content marketing world are B2C, or they’re at B2B companies that are more like Moz where we have a B2C-like community and a B2C-like audience. So I think that when it comes to B2B, because there are some tricky elements, I wanted to try and walk you through a few of those.
Let’s start with the funnel.
The B2B funnel is very 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 actually want to buy. They do some form of comparison against other solutions. They decide to convert or not. Then there’s a retention element. Retention element is less true in a lot of B2C fields, especially eCommerce one-time purchases. It’s generally more true in the B2B world.
Target the right stages of the marketing funnel
I think one problem that we have in B2B marketing is a lot of times we target the wrong part of the funnel. This is actually really common. In B2C, usually things that hit on one of these hit on a lot of them. The same things that create awareness about a product or a brand also help with conversion, also might help with comparison because of brand affinity, and also might help with consideration and retention. It’s less true in B2B, not to say not true at all, but less true. So I think one of the jobs that we have is to look inside our funnel and then identify which part needs help versus which part works fine.
Another thing that is very 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 might say, “Hey, I’ve got a piece of content that I think can work really well for awareness and consideration.” Or it’s much further down the funnel. It’s for people who already know us and are already considering us. It’s really about comparison and conversion or about conversion and retention. That’s fine. I think when you get into trouble is when you say, “Hey, you know what, this is going to help throughout the funnel — awareness, consideration, and conversion.” 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 choose. When you’re creating your content, when you’re designing the strategy for why you’re going to produce a particular piece, decide what it’s going to help with. Point it at the area of the funnel that is in most need of assistance.
Let me give you a quick example here. There’s a company called PivotDesk. They’re a fellow at Foundry company. PivotDesk does something really 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’re very business-to-business. They’re talking to landlords and they’re talking to small businesses.
They have a great funnel, but they decide that they need more awareness, which is good. Good job PivotDesk identifying which part of the funnel is the problem. 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 focus your content efforts there, or maybe less of them. We could think about potentially saying, “Hey, let’s say that awareness is our problem. Awareness to whom? Is it awareness to small businesses or is it awareness to the landlords?” Again, two different audiences. In this case, awareness to the landlords perhaps is the problem.
I’m making these up. I don’t actually know if PivotDesk has these problems. If that’s the case, maybe what we want is an interactive tool that’s essentially part survey and part comparison, 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 amenities or whatever it is. That could work potentially very well for this stage of the funnel.
This is the process that I’d urge you to use when you’re doing that B2B content strategy. Target the right 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 right place.
When you’re measuring success in B2B, it is pretty different than B2C. A lot of the time unfortunately the metric by which you will be judged upon is number of leads created. B2B tends to be very leads-driven. There are a few folks who are in B2B who are also self-service, like Moz is. But for the vast majority, it’s leads for the sales folks to follow up on.
Because of that, the classic metrics, like how many social shares you got across different networks and how much visibility and raw traffic and engagement and those kinds of things tend to be less important than quantity of leads generated. This is really 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 really get misjudged if my boss, my team, or my client is only looking at the leads.
What I urge you again to do is to take note of what you’re trying to improve and apply the right metrics to it. Don’t just take the same metrics that are used for obviously B2C and don’t take the same metrics that are judged on conversion for retention or awareness for conversion. This is critically important, or you’re going to focus on the wrong parts of the solution you’re trying to create.
The overwhelming majority of B2B transactions don’t just have a single buyer.
In B2C, it’s really simple. I’m selling blue jeans. I’m selling them to a consumer. That consumer tends to be the only person who’s in on the consideration. Maybe their partner is also thinking about it. For the vast majority it’s just that one person I’m selling to.
That’s not the case in B2B, not at all.
Oftentimes the person who ends up buying, who you interact with, who your salesperson reaches out to and has the conversation, that person is just one link in the chain of individuals involved from a corporate ecosystem in who makes the buying decision. For that reason, a lot of times content marketing that reaches this person does a great job of reaching that buyer but does a terrible job of reaching their manager or the CFO and the HR person who are all involved in these decisions as well might be less successful.
This is why we need an overlapping persona analysis when we do our content. It’s also why, when we’re thinking about the funnel, we can’t think about it without regard for which target is in which stage of the buying process. It could be that your buyer is all the way down here, but you have no resources, 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 other options and why do you help them save money and those kinds of things.
Be careful with this. Target your content to not only your buyer but other folks as well, especially 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 remarketing and retargeting. 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 customer lifetime value is way higher. B2B transactions, we’re talking about usually many hundreds, if not many thousands or tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per converted customer.
Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC)
What you want to be looking at is not just the lifetime value but also the current cost of customer 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 cost us to get a new customer versus how much value does that customer provide. B2C folks look at this too, 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, gee, $450 to acquire a customer versus $3,780 CLTV, that’s like a 9 to 1 ratio, something like that. I have a ton of room to boost that. I could probably boost that. I could more than double it, and I’d still be fine with a four-to-one ratio or even a three-to-one ratio. I might consider spending a tremendous amount more money to get a customer. If I can see through my funnel that I’m measuring to see how content performs as it pushes people down this funnel and gets them to conversion, if I can see that for every 1,000 views or 10,000 views I’m getting a customer converting, well then I can go and I can amplify through paid channels, through retargeting and remarketing.
I can pay a lot of money to go push that content to more places and to more people. I can probably do things that I would almost never ordinarily do, like even buy paid search ads against a keyword that is very content-focused, not very conversion-focused, that lives up here in the funnel and I can still have success. This is something that very few 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 every B2B marketer reads from the same playbook. Look, I go through this process 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 very 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 corporate and boring. I’m deeply interested in it. It really affects Moz’s metrics.
I might go look, and then I see I can’t really tell what’s in here, what’s behind the wall. You’re not showing me very much.
There’s supposedly this amazing 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 different 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 web accessible.
I have to download it, which is insanely frustrating if I’m on one of these. It sucks. It’s a terrible 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 very hard for me to amplify that content if I’m interested in it. When I want to share it with other people I have to tell them, “Hey, you’ve got to go to this download link.”
What happens? I’ll tell you what happens. Every single time I download it and then I attach it in an email and I send it to every relevant person at Moz, that B2B company that made it only gets one email address, and I unsubscribe from their list.
If you can, fix this process 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 possibly can. You can get more later. You can learn a ton about someone once you have just 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 sorts of persona-type data about that person. You can go then research the company and get all the facts. Tons of stuff to do.
Then the last thing that I find that’s oddly 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 okay 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 hard. Hopefully, you haven’t auto-subscribed me to an email newsletter and I’m getting tons 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 probably be very interested in this other piece.” That’s going to work really well.
You can also do RLSA with this for more paid amplification. I can take a list of emails of all the people who’ve downloaded this, upload it to Google, upload it to Facebook, and then have this content accessible via these paid formats so that I’m bidding in Google and I’m showing the ads to people on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, all that kind of stuff.
All right, everyone, hope you B2B marketers out there are doing some awesome stuff with your content in the near future. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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