In his recently-published book, What’s Your Problem: Become a Better B2B Marketer by Enhancing Your Problem-Solving Skills, Steve Goldhaber argues that the discipline of content marketing boils down to a simple consistent objective: solving problems.
It’s a reasonable framing. Almost every piece of marketing content is essentially aimed at solving a problem. This really gets to the fundamental intent of B2B content marketing as a practice: by helping our audience solve day-to-day problems and overcome business challenges, we hope that they’ll eventually consider using our product or service to solve a bigger problem.
But content marketers can’t focus solely on solving problems for customers. We also need to look inward and address key challenges that threaten the value and impact of our problem-solving content. The old saying about “getting your own house in order” comes to mind.
Here’s a look at four prevalent conundrums faced by B2B content marketers today, and how I recommend confronting and conquering them.
How to Overcome 4 Vexing B2B Marketing Conundrums
Content marketers need to reckon with these stumbling blocks before they can race to big success with their strategies.
Conundrum #1 ? More brands and platforms than ever are competing for the diminishing currency of attention.
On the surface, it seems like a clear positive: Fueled by social distancing and a lack of in-person experiences, audiences flocked online more than ever in 2020. Usage of mobile devices and social media apps has risen dramatically. In theory, this means it should be easier than ever to attract eyeballs and engage users via digital marketing.
So, why the conundrum?
Two reasons. First: every brand and content-creating entity is aware of this trend, so there’s been a widespread increase in supply to meet the demand. That means more competition. Second (and not unrelated), audiences are fatigued after a year of being necessarily glued to their screens. Without question, it’s growing more difficult to earn and sustain someone’s attention, not to mention drive action and engagement.
What To Do?
It has never been more important to adopt a quality-over-quantity approach. Zero in on a narrowly defined audience whose problems you can help solve. Create highly focused and directly relevant content. Personalization holds the key to breaking through with a clear message in an online environment full of buzzing static.
Of course, the heightened competition also calls for a re-emphasis on capturing the attention of a scrolling user. Go against the grain and deliver something your audience isn’t expecting. Rock the boat in a sea of sameness.
Our clients at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions recently shared tips for thumb-stopping content that catches a user mid-scroll and invites engagement, including examples. I especially like the bear ad example from eCornell.
Conundrum #2 ? Measuring results is difficult when direct links to revenue aren’t always clear or straightforward.
During times of economic duress, there is a natural inclination for businesses to scale back on discretionary spending. In its early days, content marketing was often viewed as discretionary, or a complementary aspect of business development. While that perception has generally changed, marketing leaders still can face an uphill battle when vying for a fair share of reduced budgets.
What To Do?
The connection between content marketing and revenue is not as overt or direct as some other investments, that’s true. But it is undeniable. The ability to map content to revenue is becoming a key asset for marketing departments, and in some cases it may require rethinking conventions.
For example, some organizations need to slow down their campaign measurement, to align with a complex and lengthy buying cycle. Another opportunity: refining attribution methods to deliver more clarity and comprehensiveness. Do you track user actions across channels? Are you accounting for both post-click and post-view conversions? Are you quantifiably measuring brand awareness and engagement? If not, these are worthy aspirations in a results-oriented business landscape.
Conundrum #3 ? It’s tough to authentically integrate influencers into content when audiences are suspicious of brand sponsorships.
Influencer marketing is a broadly-applied term, and in some applications it can feel a little sketchy. When people relate the concept with Kylie Jenner shilling for Pepsi in a tone-deaf Super Bowl ad, or Instagram celebrities promoting a disastrous tropical festival, it’s understandable how they’d become skeptical. The credibility gained by associating your brand with a respected figure is negated (and then some) when the influencer isn’t genuinely interested or invested.
When done right, influencer marketing is highly effective. But more than ever, marketers need to be strategic, and mindful of optics.
What To Do?
It all starts with selecting the right influencers. Identify voices with strong topical and audience alignment. Aim to be more relationship-based than transactional in your partnerships. Deliver clear value to the people you work with to spur enthusiastic participation. Co-create content and find interesting ways to incorporate influencers’ expertise, perspectives, and stories.
Above all, make transparency a fixture. You don’t want your audience left to wonder about the motivations of people involved — or worse yet, feel misled.
Conundrum #4 ? Fast-rising new channels don’t have obvious applicability for B2B marketing purposes.
When glancing at recent trends and stats in content marketing, it’s hard not to notice the meteoric rise in usage of apps like TikTok and WhatsApp. Brands are gravitating toward Instagram Stories.
These channels are intriguing, but they don’t intuitively have much applicability in B2B marketing.
What To Do?
The last thing you want to do is jam a square peg in a round hole for the sake of seeming cool or hip. But that’s not to say there aren’t creative and contextually-fitting ways to market a B2B brand on B2C-centric platforms. Doing so effectively is an opportunity to stand out and differentiate, in accordance with our solution to Conundrum #1.
“Finding creative and contextually-fitting ways to market a #B2B brand on B2C-centric platforms is an opportunity to stand out and differentiate.” @NickNelsonMN #B2Bmarketing #personalization Click To Tweet
For inspiration, courtesy of PixelMe, here are 10 creative Instagram ads from B2B companies (led off by our clients at monday.com).
Break Down B2B Content Marketing Barriers
Both challenge and opportunity can be found within each of the conundrums presented. Those B2B marketers who take the right steps to solve them will enjoy a more smooth and frictionless path to success.
Keep four things top-of-mind as you venture ahead:
- Create with a purpose (and flair)
- Measure robustly
- Partner strategically
- Experiment away from the beaten path
For more advice on overcoming obstacles to resonate with your audience, check out my recent post on five B2B content marketing pitfalls to avoid.