Content marketing has made a big impact on both business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) brands. While the methods of reaching their audiences as well as the goals may be different, both can see the endless benefits that content marketing can offer.
At NewsCred’s 2016 #ThinkContent Summit, a panel featuring B2B industry leaders discussed about how they determined what kind of content they need to create, how they should tell their stories, and which measurements they have to take. They’ve been seeing how content marketing can drive their sales, draw in leads, and foster customer loyalty.
The panelists who talked about these subjects were Camille Ricketts, head of content and marketing at First Round Capital, Cameron Potts, vice president of public relations and community management at Deluxe Corporation, Bill Morrison, vice president, global communications and integrated marketing at Emerson Process Management, and Brian Becker, senior digital marketer at JPMorgan Chase. Jeremy King, managing director at C Squared, moderated the discussion.
All of the panelists jumped into content marketing for various reasons and they’ve found that these campaigns have pushed their brands forward. They touched upon what strategies they’ve taken, and which approaches have worked the best, and what our audience and readers can learn from their successes, failures, and struggles.
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Each panelist represented a company with varying years of business – some incredible legacy brands and others more recently established. Emerson Process Management has been around for 125 years and Deluxe Corporation recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. The JPMorgan Chase merger happened in 2000, and First Round Capital was founded in 2004.
No matter how long each company has been in business, it because quickly obvious that each marketer had similar struggles and successes in launching their successful content campaigns. Equally as consistent is their need to continue to grow their businesses. Even if they are worth billions of dollars, each brand still needs to constantly attract new customers and work to retain their current ones. To appeal to their B2B audiences today, they found that a content marketing strategy is crucial.
When it comes to B2B marketing, campaigns don’t necessarily have to be emotional, like one may expect with many B2C campaigns. Instead, content that is thought-leader and customer focused, as well as practical, is what is going to strike a chord. For example, Ricketts puts out long-form content that helps leaders run their businesses better on First Round Review. This may include 3,500-word long utility articles that act as manuals for information on a certain topic. “People appreciate that level of comprehensiveness,” she said.
First Round Capital also did a series where they showcased leaders at the companies they support. They took high quality photos of these individuals and wrote articles in the tone and cadence of how these subjects talk. One story, which was about Uber’s Product Executive Frederique Dame’s approach to happiness and productivity, was extremely tactical. It received 8,000 shares.
On JPMorgan Chase’s website, there is content for the nearly 40 million people logging in on a daily basis. There are Chase for Business stories on small business, finance, community, and lifestyle under their “News & Stories” section. Some recent articles are, “How Music Festivals Fuel Small Business” and “A Marriage to Someone Married to Their Business.”
The content marketing campaign that Potts is currently working on is called “Small Town Revolution.” Deluxe invited the public to nominate small towns for a Main Street small business revitalization project. The winner, Wabash, Indiana, received $500,000 and was the center of a documentary the company produced, due for release this fall.
For the company’s recent 100th anniversary, Deluxe put out 100 small business stories from across the country. This content generated 700 news stories and over two billion impressions. Potts said that if his company would have told the story about being in the checkbook business for 100 years, they “may have gotten six stories told.”
Emerson Process Management creates all types of content,including blogs, webinars, and videos. In all of their content, they emphasize thought leadership and share voices from their customers. They talk about customer challenges from the time that these customers decided to start their businesses on the back of a cocktail napkin to when they’re ready for launch. They produce content for every step of the way, even if it takes a business owner 10 to 12 years to get their company up and running. Unlike B2C, which can be very transactional, B2B content is all about building loyalty overtime.
B2B content needs to demonstrate a company’s influence in an industry, showcase the customers, include as many customers as possible to increase the reach, and help customers along in their journeys in the business world. To come up with these campaigns as well as see these great results, all of these panelists needed to first garner buy-in from their teams.
Team structure and collaboration
For a B2B content marketing campaign to be truly successful every involved team member must be on board from the beginning.
According to Morrison, content marketing has been extremely helpful to the sales staff at Emerson. Many times, salespeople will go to their comfort zones and sell to people with whom they already have relationships. The new content the company is producing is giving the sales team confidence and changing the foundation of how they interact with leads and customers. This is because salespeople can point to a piece of content and use it when attempting to close a deal.
Along with getting the sales team on board, Morrison said that it’s important that the executive leaders are involved as well. Emerson’s executives realized that content marketing was a customer engagement strategy and thus were excited about it. Executives will go through social media training and learn about initiatives that the marketers are taking.
Potts said that the leaders at Deluxe Corporation recognized how critical content marketing is to their strategy. They encouraged the marketing team to do something different with the money they allocated to them. Since Potts couldn’t invest into paid media, he was determined to use his budget for “scrappy” content marketing efforts that have paid off.
Executives, marketers, and sales teams must work together for content marketing campaigns to go anywhere. They can’t exist in their own bubbles and not interact with one another. Collaboration is key, even when timelines fluctuate and goals aren’t met. They must carry on until they achieve the results they crave.
Pushing content marketing efforts forward
Every panelist had a different opinion on how to handle timelines. However, they all agreed that you can’t give up easily, even if you’re not meeting your goals in the short-term.
Ricketts recommends putting six months of work into campaigns. She said that if you don’t see excellent results, you can still look at your learnings and data you collected during that time to see if you made any progress. At six months, you should have valuable information that you can learn from and use to hone in on what you should do in the future.
Potts set a goal of three years for his campaigns. He and his team agreed that after three years, if something wasn’t working, they’d change up what they were doing. He said he knows content marketing campaigns evolve overtime. He is going to be dedicated to content marketing long-term.
According to Becker, every company should create a timeline with intermittent goals. As the campaigns play out, targets should be reinforced, whether they’re brand building, lead generation, etc. Companies should be showing real increases overtime, staying consistent, and resetting goals when they see fit. They need to measure how their campaigns are doing to see whether or not they’re hitting their goals. At JPMorgan Chase, the team measures everything from paid media and sources of traffic to lead generation, SEO, and website clicks.
After taking measurements, companies can see where they’re doing well and where they need to make improvements. If they’re facing roadblocks, they have to re-strategize and determine how to get past these challenges. “Have the courage to knock down those doors when they are put in front of you,” Becker said.
“Content marketing is all about doing, learning, and doing again,” said Morrison. At Emerson, the team has made content marketing seminal to the DNA of their company. “It’s not about the products. It’s about the impact we create,” he said.
Key lessons from the B2B marketing panel
- B2B content needs to serve a purpose by being functional and/or informative. Businesses are always looking for new ways to operate more effectively.
- By focusing on the B2B customers themselves and showcasing them in your campaigns, you can increase your reach.
- Content marketing requires buy-in from all the executives, marketers, and salespeople at your company
- You can’t give up too easily if campaigns aren’t going as you planned. Instead, regroup and see where improvements can be made
Actionable insights to take in your content marketing strategy
- Find current customer stories that your other customers can relate to
- Create content that helps customers run their businesses better
- Showcase thought leadership to establish your influence in your industry
- Don’t just take money from executives; instead, get them involved by showing them what campaigns you’re working on and how they can be apart of them
- Encourage your sales team to look at your content and utilize it when trying to sell your products
- Come up with a timeline and goals, and reevaluate intermittently to make sure you’re getting the results you want. If you’re not, go back and see what areas you can improve.
For more on B2B content marketing, watch the B2B panel discussion in full from the 2016 #ThinkContent Summit.