Marketing for B2B companies always seems to go through cycles where there is a trend that takes over everyone’s life for a while, until it is replaced by something else. If you map these trends to the Gartner Hype Cycle, these trends rise to the “peak of inflated expectations,” only to fall into the “trough of disillusionment.” It is in this trough where they get replaced by the next one.
We have seen this with social media, although many B2B companies have figured out how to make this approach work for them. It often involves content marketing, which seems to be the trend that replaced social media. And even though last week over 3500 content marketers gathered for Content Marketing World, everyone in B2B marketing seems to be talking about account-based marketing (ABM).
And again, just like with social media, account-based marketing can’t really exist without content marketing.
According to Demandbase, “ABM is the process of identifying the companies most likely to buy, and then marketing to them. B2B companies understandably want to focus their marketing dollars on accounts with the highest potential to deliver sustainable revenue.”
Now let’s look at some basic steps to align content marketing with account-based marketing. This assumes that you already understand content marketing and can leverage your existing program to support ABM. If you are still looking to get started with content marketing, this link can help.1. Conduct Content Inventory Audit
If you have been creating content for your B2B company for a while, it is always good to periodically go back and review what you have, and how it has been performing, but this is especially important for ABM. Don’t just look at raw numbers of downloads, but review its conversion rate for marketing qualified leads. Also make sure things still align with your current marketing strategy and brand look and feel. You can also identify if anything needs to be updated for other reasons. It you use statistics or pop culture references to make your point, you may want to mark a few of these pieces for updating.
This audit will prepare you for the minor tweaks that might be needed for you to create custom content for specific accounts that sales will want to target.2. Identify Named Accounts
Named accounts are often the biggest accounts that a B2B sales team pursues. In an ABM world, these are the accounts that are most likely to become customers. There are two primary ways to identify these accounts. The first is to ask your sales leaders to provide this list of the most important accounts. Sales reps are often assigned to these accounts, rather than assigned by geography or industry. This list may or may not represent the best opportunities for closing sales.
The second way to identify named accounts is to use data. There are many data providers who can review your existing customers, identify patterns and suggest other companies that are like those. Remember, if you are looking for prospects most likely to buy, a predictive analytics approach is often better than other anecdotal methods.3. Gather Specific Challenges of Named Accounts
Once you have identified the accounts to focus on, you need to learn more about them so you can tailor your content directly to them. Your sales team can help with this step, but data sources are also an option. If you have software in place that tracks prospect activity, like marketing automation, then you will know the sorts of things that resonate with your prospects. The average B2B purchase committee is made up of more than five people, so the activity of one can inform the potential activity of others.
If you already know what content is consumed by your current audience, and specifically, your current customers, you need to know how these named accounts are different. Are they bigger or smaller companies? Are they in industries you currently serve? What are their competitors doing?4. Modify or Create Account Specific Content
Armed with your full inventory of content and the knowledge about these specific prospects, you can now easily find the overlap between your existing content and the challenges of the named accounts. This doesn’t mean you have to create brand new content from scratch. It may be as simple as adding some industry specific information and a target company logo on the cover. But if during your discovery phase you uncovered topics that were required, yet were new to your content library, new content will need to be created.5. Provide Sales Discussion Points
Once you have updated, tweaked and created your content, it’s time to sit back down with sales. If you haven’t already figured this out, ABM is yet another path to marketing and sales alignment. It is even more important for content marketing to be fully aligned with the account plans of ABM. The journey of the prospect is very different. Educational content is not about awareness. These prospects know about your company and your products. Sales is likely already engaged with someone at the company. That’s why you need to provide sales with talking points, opening questions, closing takeaways that can be supported by the content you have prepared.
Maybe it’s sent as an email from the sales rep. Maybe it’s handed across the table during or after a meeting. Regardless, the sales rep needs to fully understand how the content will help them build their relationship with the prospect to move the sale along.
As you start exploring how to incorporate account-based marketing into your B2B marketing efforts, make sure you bring your content marketing along to fully support the process.
Photo credit: Flickr
I started thinking about this post, or pondering Snapchat for B2B as I said in the headline, about six months ago when I saw an article by Gary Vaynerchuk about the topic. It was called Why Snapchat will be great for B2B companies.
The headline of his article is meant to draw you in, because you don’t quite realize he is talking about the future. “Though Snapchat is not the place that I would recommend doing B2B activity right now,” wrote Vaynerchuk, “I am completely convinced that in 24 to 36 months, as the platform dramatically ages up and starts hitting the 30 to 50 year old demo, there will be enormous possibilities”
He continued to describe the platform in a manner that is totally in line with a storytelling approach to content. “Snapchat will be an excellent place for B2B players who act like media companies — media companies that create stories to bring value to their end users.” But again, he’s talking about the future, not now.
I’ve had Snapchat on my phone for more than a year and until recently had never sent a single snap, as a message is called on the platform. Jason Keath of Social Fresh has advised marketers who are unsure about the platform (and me when I asked him directly) to use it personally and learn how it works. My teenage children are my tutors in my endeavor to follow this advice.
On a few recent trips I have been sharing photos and videos, creating a Snapchat Story, which is the more public way to share. But as the very nature of Snapchat is that everything disappears, you can’t go back and see them. And neither can I. But soon, we will be able to, as Snapchat announced a new memories feature where you can save your photos and videos in the app. This is also a huge boon to marketers, because this now lets you post photos and videos that were not shot in the app to a Story.
This is the platform that is exploding in the social media world. It has grown very fast, it has a young and desirable audience, and they share privately. This means that there are articles about the platform every single day, so if I don’t finish this today, there will be more tomorrow.
This is a millennial and younger platform, and while many B2B companies do not specifically target these younger generations, there are certainly plenty of heavy Snapchat users in decision-making positions at B2B companies of all sizes. But as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, older people are joining the platform, so it becomes less about a particular demographic and more about a way to connect with customers.
While lots of the coverage is about how big consumer brands have used expensive advertising on the platform, the article linked above, and this one dedicated to B2B marketers, show that marketers are eager to learn this platform.
Here’s the thing about Snapchat (if you are older than 23): it does not feel intuitive when you start using it. There are lots of different swipes and taps that reveal functions that you didn’t know existed until you saw someone using it. It just feels like the point is that your friends have to tell you how it all works. This is another part of the private nature of the platform. So I’ll be your friend and tell you a few things, but you won’t understand it until you use it.
There are basically three parts of Snapchat: Snaps, Stories and Discover. Snaps are the messages, photos or videos that are sent privately between friends either individually or to groups of friends. If you see a millennial using Snapchat, this is most likely what they are doing. Once the Snap is received, it disappears shortly after it is viewed. Next are the Stories. This is a collection of photos and videos that are available for 24 hours. They can either be visible by your friends or everyone based on your privacy settings. And finally there are the Discover sections, which are the sponsored content sections posted by media and publishers.
I’m not going to talk about how to follow brands or how to build a following, because the internet is filled with many of those stories. Go to your favorite marketing site and search for Snapchat articles. You’re sure to find something. Here are a couple of resources for learning more about how the platform works and the best brands on Snapchat, which only include a few B2B choices.
So where does that leave us in our pondering of Snapchat for B2B? I haven’t mentioned analytics because there aren’t any. They are certainly coming because big brands can only pay big money for so long before they need to see some numbers. Can you tell the human story of a B2B company on Snapchat? Of course you can. This is similar to how the best B2B companies have used Instagram and Vine, but there is more intimacy and immediacy on Snapchat because of how people use it.
There are no live links so it is probably not the best for directing prospects to landing pages. And because there are no good discovery mechanisms, either for accounts or Stories, this is more a platform for your customers or your known universe. Like a lot of social media platforms, early adoption and understanding starts with B2C marketers and it just takes some time for the leading B2B marketers to master it.
In a recent episode of Marketing over Coffee, Chris Penn and John Wall talked about Snapchat for Business, and concluded that “you’re not going to sell enterprise software on Snapchat.” But I’m holding out hope that we can try to strengthen our relationship with our B2B customers by showing them what happens behind the curtain.
I was recently talking to the marketing team at a B2B enterprise company about content marketing. With all the conversation about content marketing over the past few years, it is hard to imagine there are those who are still not incorporating content marketing into their marketing efforts, and who still don’t know how to get started. This B2B technology firm has multiple divisions selling multiple products around the world.
After I described some of the basic elements and best practices of content marketing, especially at the top of the funnel, and specifically how we approach it, they put me on the spot a bit. They asked me if I were consulting for them, what are the five things that I would tell them to do to get started in content marketing. Assuming that they are not the only B2B company still struggling to fully understand content marketing, I will share what I told them.1. Identify an Internal Champion
If you are looking to start content marketing, you need someone to lead the charge. There are two main jobs for this person, and it doesn’t matter if they have a content marketing title or not. The first is that they set the strategy for the effort. They need both the authority and the vision to know how content marketing can be incorporated into the business. And the second function is internal education. Because a content marketing approach to marketing represents a big culture shift for many B2B organizations, someone has to sell the story to both executives and other marketers. Success will come with a broad understanding of what is required of everyone, not from a small group pushing content out without the support of others.2. Review Current Marketing Plans
Content marketing cannot succeed in a bubble. It has to align with the rest of your marketing plans. Start with your personas and make sure you understand how other marketing campaigns are communicating with them. You don’t want to disrupt what is already happening, especially if it is working. You want to add a layer of top of funnel, valuable content to the marketing mix.3. Audit Existing Content
Before you start everything from scratch, you need to audit all the content that already exists. For most organizations that have not really adopted content marketing, most of the marketing materials are product focused. If you are lucky there are things beyond the usual feeds and speeds type content. Definitely look for white papers, case studies, customer testimonials, explainer videos. All of these elements can be utilized as you think about content across all stages of the buying cycle. If you know what already exists, you can create additional content that connects more dots with your buyers by showing them that you understand their business pain points.4. Establish Goals
No marketing is ever successful unless everyone agrees upon the measures of success. Again, this needs to align with other marketing efforts and not be an outlier. If your marketing team is measured by driving marketing qualified leads then that should be your metric for content marketing. If you focus on driving pipeline then you should measure against that. This way your success will be understood by the rest of the organization.5. Create a Pilot Project
Since you can’t change everything overnight, it’s better to start with something small and develop processes around creating new content. While a content marketing effort is a long term prospect and you may not have results quickly, a pilot project for one product line or buyer persona will help you and your organization understand what’s involved in this shift to content marketing.
These are not the only things to do to get started using content marketing for your B2B company, but if you begin with these five things you will be well on your way to success.
Photo Credit: Flickr