Content marketing in the B2B space has exploded in the last ten years. In fact, according to recent research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 91% of UK organisations now use content marketing to communicate with existing and potential customers, with some spending up to 40% of their marketing budget doing so.
The CMI defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”. However, an individual organisation’s content marketing goals will vary; from improving brand awareness, generating leads and growing sales, to maintaining customer engagement and loyalty. Additionally, content is not confined to one type of asset: thought leadership articles, videos, case studies, blogs, social media, eBooks, research reports, infographics and podcasts all contribute to a successful content marketing strategy.
Inevitably this has led to an upsurge in the volume of content produced and audiences can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information targeted at them. Therefore, the challenge for any marketing department is not in creating more content but in developing more relevant content which is both appealing and valuable to its target audience.
Managing content strategically
Ten years ago, most published content was sales-based and had the ultimate aim of securing a purchase. Today, most businesses do recognise that content is a valuable asset for creating customer trust, with 90% of B2B marketers putting their audience’s informational needs ahead of company sales, according to recent research from the CMI.
Yet, while the value of content is well understood, many still rely on intuition to decide which content will resonate with which customers and prospects in the various stages of their buying journey. Such content is often speculative, targeted at
the mass audience in the hope that casting the net wide will result in a proportion of new leads being generated. So, is it time to adopt a more intelligent approach to content marketing?
Embracing behaviour-based marketing
With marketers under pressure to justify and show evidence of return on investment for content marketing initiatives, a method that is fast gaining ground is behaviour-based marketing (BBM). Still in its infancy in the UK, BBM is a qualitative approach that leverages the intent or signals which buyers display during their online research process to identify what information customers and prospects are interested and when. Using a marketing technology software-as-a-service platform, marketers can establish the type of information the target audience is looking at, where they are viewing it and who they are sharing the information with, helping to better inform content marketing campaigns.
This approach is particularly useful for lead generation campaigns where companies are looking to influence the final purchasing criteria. The DemandGen 2018 B2B buyers research report suggests that the most critical timeframe to engage with customers is within the first three months of their buying journey when they carry out the majority of their online research.
BBM allows marketers to identify those prospects that are in this active buying journey and provide insight into the type of content that they are looking for. As a result, organisations can ensure they get the context and timing of their content right, guaranteeing that it resonates with the target audience. This not only builds trust but facilitates a more intelligent and targeted approach to content marketing, resulting in a better return on investment.
Building existing relationships
A behaviour-based approach is not just limited to lead generation campaigns, but customer retention and engagement programmes too. Today, content marketing has a critical role to play in not only identifying and acquiring new customers but increasing customer loyalty and retention. By understanding what content existing customers are interested in online, marketers can not only ensure they continue to provide relevant content to keep customers engaged but identify opportunities for cross or upselling. The platform can also help marketers to establish if a customer is looking at competitor products, providing an opportunity to tailor-make content that meets their evolving needs.
The marketing function can wear many hats but, in the end, all activity is focused on acquisition, retention or loyalty. Tapping into behavioural intent at an intricate level ensures the content strategy fully aligns with the audience by addressing their needs and interests. There is an inextricable link between content marketing and BBM.