5 Tips to Increase Engagement on B2B Social Media Sites

b2b-increase-engagementEven if your B2B company has been posting to social media sites for some time, it is always a good idea to review your activities to make sure you are getting maximum engagement from your followers. Below are five considerations that can help everyone from the beginner to the seasoned veteran.

1. Post at the right time

Make sure you are posting to your social media profiles at a time when your customers and prospects frequent those sites. In most cases you might find that B2B buyers will show up on weekdays from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon, thus making this an optimal time for posting messages. Still, every B2B company has its own target time frame, so make sure you pay attention to when your audience is posting in response to your messages and when traffic increases.

2. Add calls to action

You can add calls to action to your individual social media posts to encourage prospects to learn more about what you have to offer. Your posts should give B2B buyers the opportunity to raise their hands and express interest in your products or services. The best way to do that is to make a compelling offer that will drive them to a landing page on your website. Usually they will need to exchange their contact information for the offer. These offers can be a mix of things that generate awareness at the top of the funnel and things that help drive consideration. Sometimes it can also entail telling a prospect why a particular offer is more appealing than something else. In other cases it might involve telling a B2B buyer why the product or service in your offer is so important. Anything that can be used as a call to action will be worthwhile for your marketing plans.

3. Keep from being overly personal

While you might have lots of friends that follow your B2B company on your social media profiles, you should treat your page as a business-first spot. You need to avoid posting too much personal information. Focus on posts that are relevant to what your business is doing right now and what it has to offer your customers.

4. Take risks

Sometimes you’ve got to take a few risks in order to go places. You might want to take some small risks that will cause your B2B company to look more appealing. Don’t be afraid to post funny videos that are relevant to your customers and prospects. This could be your chance to break out of the “boring B2B” mold. The odds are people will see the human side of your business.

5. Get special guests

Consider adopting the idea of the celebrity takeover on your social media profiles. Identify influencers from your industry, or even subject matter experts from within your B2B company. Customers and prospects are more likely to engage with these industry stars during the takeover. There is really no limit to who you can tap for this purpose, and it can even become a regular feature of your social media profiles.

If you follow these reminders for how to post and interact on your social media channels, you will create more engagement with your B2B prospects and customers, especially if you can drive them to your landing pages or website.

Photo credit: Flickr

5 Smart Ways to Build B2B Thought Leadership with Content Marketing

B2B-Thought-Leadership-Smart-Content-Marketing-smallLet’s face it; B2B buyers are unlikely to take you seriously unless you’re a big-name brand or they’ve heard about you from an independent source, for example through a recommendation on a social network. Unless you’re Google, Apple or you happen to know the buyer’s cousin, you might as well not exist, right? Wrong. You can establish B2B thought leadership and build awareness through a smart content marketing campaign.

You’ve likely read blog posts explaining how to establish thought leadership in 10 Easy Steps or other such nonsense. But establishing real thought leadership, the kind that can position you as a trusted source (and one worth buying from), isn’t some kind of cheap parlor trick. Content marketing takes work. With so many B2B brands out there clamoring for the sacred status of “thought leader,” you’ve got to go the extra mile with your content marketing if you want to position yourself as a truly trustworthy and authoritative B2B brand.

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1. Authenticity Is key

According to Michael Brenner, former VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP, in an article for Forbes, “thought leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”

Rather than push out half-baked content that’s merely trying to give the impression that you’re an authority in your field, you need to actually acquire the necessary knowledge and provide B2B buyers with purposeful, practical advice. In doing so, you’ll build trust and develop a relationship that could eventually lead to a sale. This is what real thought leadership is about &mdash knowing your topic extremely well and pushing out informed, creative content.

2. Do your homework

Do you know what pains your B2B buyers? You better if you hope to make any sales. B2B buyers will be more likely to engage with you if they feel comfortable with you and see that you’ve spent the time to get to know the kind of problems they deal with on a daily basis. It should not seem like you’re simply pushing them to buy your product.

Thought leaders are perceived as being entrenched in the pains that exist in the market, and that’s not something you can fake. You’ve got to spend ample time getting to know your B2B buyers’ pain points, by speaking with end users, reading relevant content, and attending industry events.

Spend the time getting to know the pain points of your B2B buyers and the content you produce will be more informed and more likely to make a positive impression on your buyers.

3. Think outside the box

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your B2B buyers’ pain points, it’s time to hit them with content that demonstrates your knowledge of said points. As mentioned above, it’s not as easy as spending millions of dollars (as if that were easy to begin with.) It comes down to creativity.

Your competitors are likely pumping out blog posts and e-books to establish thought leadership themselves. The Internet is practically clogged with this kind of content. If you want to stand out in the sea of would-be thought leaders, you’ll have to go a step further with your content. What this looks like (or sounds like) depends on your brand and its unique place in the market, but you can do it if you put in the time and effort.

What can you say that others haven’t said? How can you solve a problem no one else has been able to solve? Again, you’ll be better prepared to create more original content if you’re knowledgeable about the buyers’ pain points.

4. Be a presence

You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” That certainly applies to B2B brands trying to establish thought leadership on the web.

Once you’ve amassed a content arsenal, it’s time to get it out there. By strategically placing your content throughout the web &mdash on popular content marketing blogs, YouTube, podcasts, social media, online magazines, etc. &mdash you’ll start gaining more recognition.

The more B2B buyers see your name, the more they’ll think “Hey, I see this brand’s name out there all the time. They seem to understand me.” Just make sure that your content is honest, smart and helpful. Visibility is important, so long as what’s being seen is top-notch stuff. Remember, quality over quantity.

5. Don’t Take Shortcuts with Your Content Marketing

Content marketing isn’t something you can “hack” or do in “just fifteen minutes a day!” It takes a concerted effort on your part and a willingness to really learn the pain points of your B2B buyers. By becoming an actual thought leader, as opposed to one solely doing it just for the sale, you’ll create more meaningful content and, in turn, will be more likely to have a more comfortable, open conversation with the buyer.

Happy B2B Customers Can Get You More New Customers

b2b-customer-acquisitionAs we all know, word-of-mouth is the best marketing channel there is. Social media gives us the opportunity to create and scale word-of-mouth on a level that was impossible a few years ago. Top B2B companies are already taking advantage of this. According to a 2012 report by the Aberdeen Group, the top B2B firms gained 230% more leads via social media than their competition.

So how does this happen? The process has a few steps:

  • Identify why customers love you
  • Build a relationship
  • Ask for referrals and get them started
  • Make it a system

1. Identify why customers love you

Why do your customers love you? It may be your unique value proposition (i.e. we provide a super simple way to create media clips), or something distinctive about your company (i.e. we provide great customer service).

If you don’t know this, the way to find out is simple. Just ask. Ask your happiest customers why they are so happy with you. Ask them why they love your product and your company. Ask them what drew them to you, and why they are staying.

Make sure you write down as much as possible. You’ll be able to hear directly from customers what keeps them with you, and you’ll use this exact language later.

Now that you know why your happiest customers love you, it’s time to build a deeper relationship with them.

2. Build a relationship

When you’re dating, you don’t ask someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend right away – you build a deeper relationship. And when you’d like a referral, you do the same thing. The goal is to transition from customers to happy customers, and from happy customers to evangelists.

To start, make sure that they’re getting top-notch customer service. Then get them more involved with your company so that they feel an emotional investment in your success. The best two ways to do this are through case studies and testimonials.

In a case study, you would feature the customer and their success using your product. If possible, try to make the case study a longer form piece of content, like a long form interview, a video, or a podcast. This gives your readers more quality content and allows you to spend more time with your customer.

Testimonials are also useful. It’s always good to have testimonials, and they also help build a stronger relationship with a customer. Remember, the more you interact with your customers (within reason), the better the relationship.

One you have case studies and testimonials, feature them on your blog or website. Share it on social media, and invite your customers to do the same. When they do, engage with them and have public, online conversations. This breaks the ice of you talking about your business on social media with the customer. It also makes them feel special, because they were highlighted on your blog and on social media. It’s a win-win.

3. Ask for referrals and get them started

After you have established a relationship, directly ask for a referral. At this point, this should be easy. By now you have a long-standing relationship with them, beyond just being a vendor. You have talked to them about why they are happy and what makes them stay, you have ensured they’ve gotten top-notch customer service, and you’ve given them exposure in your blog and in social media. They should be delighted with you, and delighted to do it. If not, you can win them over using the same language they used with you when they said why they loved you.

How you structure the referral program is up to you. There are many different flavors of this. Dropbox has a referral program built into the product – they offered up to 16 GB of storage space for referrals. Many companies have referral programs that are simply discounts for both parties for a certain period of time. Some firms don’t have formal programs, they just ask for customers to refer others as a favor. Figure out what works best for you.

The key to making this work is to make it easy for them and to get them started yourself.

Take the time to create suggested LinkedIn posts, Facebook posts, or Tweets for them. In the suggested posts, use the language that they themselves used to describe you. It will resonate more with them and make them more likely to share it.

When they do share, Like/Retweet it, and engage in (another) conversation with them online.

4. Make It A System

You should systematize this process in your company, moving new customers to becoming happy customers to becoming evangelists. In the process you’ll gain insight into your customers, create great content and testimonials, and ultimately, get more referrals.

Your B2B Prospects Want to Binge Your Content

b2b-content-binging-house-of-cardsB2B marketers are often focused on their industry competitors when they think about social media and content marketing, but that is frequently the wrong way to think about it. It also is not the best way to consider their prospects. They should not worry about a competitor poaching their prospects, or even their customers. They should focus on attention. Their prospects are not just watching Twitter, reading blogs and following influencers and companies on LinkedIn, but they’re watching Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and all those shows that they have been DVRing. Timeshifting is only the beginning of what’s happening to their attention. It’s now all about binging.

Netflix and Amazon drop shows a season at a time. This is not by accident. This is based on viewers’ habits in watching old shows. Since your customers and prospects are staying up all night watching full seasons of “Must See TV,” these platforms decided that there was no reason to continue the idea of appointment television on a streaming platform. If someone wants to watch all 13 episodes of season 3 of House of Cards, there’s nobody to stop them. This is part of what it means for the prospects and customers to hold the power in the relationship.

Are your prospects responding to cold calls? Are they responding to your generic blast emails? Or are they doing their own research about your company and your solutions before they ever want to talk to you? It is a very clear No, No, Yes. And according to research from SiriusDecisions, “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” Again, they hold the power in this relationship by seeking out the information that is most helpful to their journey.

So what about your content? Daily blog posts? Check. Monthly ebook? Check. Quarterly webinar? Check. But can they consume this content on their own terms? Sure they can read all the blog posts they want at anytime day or night, but what about those things behind forms? You’re creating educational content that they can download, but each time they have to fill out the form. Sometimes that form is auto-populated with their information, which is cookie driven or browser driven, but your prospects still have to submit each time to get each piece of content. And depending on how your marketing automation system is set up, those downloads might happen in the browser or in email. This seems quite contrary to how your prospects are consuming things in other parts of their lives.

Let’s look at each of these challenges that B2B marketers face when approaching content marketing.

1. Competition for Attention

The best way to compete for someone’s attention is to provide relevant, helpful information in an easy to consume form. Can you teach your prospects how to do something? Can you help them solve business problems? Can you make it quick and easy for your customers to solve issues related to your product? They are used to customer experiences like Amazon’s website and hotels where they are greeted by name. Would you wade through all the outdated pages on your website to find an answer? If there’s too much friction, prospects won’t bother. And this has nothing to do with how good or bad the product is. This is all about having little time and less attention, and when things are too hard to find they move on.

2. Buyers Setting the Terms of the Relationship

This is not a new idea, but many B2B marketers are still coming to terms with this. How well do you really understand your personas? Do you really know what their problems are? And how they like to consume information? And where they look for it? The way to make sure that you are part of their consideration set, or even just ensure that your content gets in front of them when they are looking, you must know how and why they are looking. Can you anticipate their questions? Insights into your own customers can give you some guidance in knowing more about your prospects. Using the word relationship to describe this is not accidental. You must be attentive to their needs if you want them to stick around.

3. Binge Consumption

Let’s assume that you are creating great content that your prospects want and you are using social media, search, influencers and advocates to drive awareness to your content. Every blog post has a call to action that leads to a deeper dive piece of content. And your prospects love it. But what if they are getting on an airplane and they want to read six of your ebooks and watch two recorded webinars? You have created successful content, but you are not all the way there. You must make it easy for people to download more content. If you are using landing page forms for an ebook, you can have related ebooks on your thank you page. If you send the ebook link via email, include related content there. In either case, you must make sure your system can track these additional downloads without filling out a form again.

If this is not possible, consider pre-packaged bundles of content. When a prospect comes to a landing page for a single ebook, give them the option to download the bundle instead. This gives them multiple pieces of content without multiple form submissions. Don’t let the technology drive your decisions. Consider the customer experience and the websites you interact with. If you are already sharing content, you have the data to determine if your prospects having binging habits. If so, consider developing connected content that meets those consumption preference and create the infrastructure to match.

The more you understand about your prospects and your customers, whether through well-developed personas or not, the better you will be able to create and share content that speaks to their interests and their habits. Again, that sounds like a relationship to me.

How B2B CMOs Can Turn Social Media into Social Storytelling

b2b-social-storytelling-cmoFor the CMOs of B2B companies, the to-do list is never-ending. Provide more original social content. Engage your target audience. Attract new followers. Create ambassadors. And these tasks can appear monumental given the lack of time and the fluctuating gap in social skills, which require an understanding and communicating on multiple social networks, each with unique style, form, and community.

To be successful requires more than a social presence. It requires continuous social storytelling. Original stories are now one of the most strategic marketing deliverables B2B companies can create for engaging social audiences and communicating a company’s core positioning and value proposition. If told in a meaningful and engaging way, this narrative can become more than just story – it can become the blueprint for a B2B company’s entire social communication strategy.

But how to deliver effective social stories and content every day? Recognize that social media has created a new marketing lifecycle, combining social awareness, education, and engagement. CMOs must execute this new lifecycle within a digitally driven ecosystem against unrelenting competition to win buyer influence. Storytelling is at the speed of social.

In order to answer the challenge, you must have a team in place that shares your company’s vision and positioning. Form a story marketing team that is capable of telling original stories with clear roles, processes, and techniques. The goal for a story team is to make social storytelling part of the internal flow of conversation, to reach messaging alignment, and to deliver lifecycle organized social communications. Without clear storytelling management and workflow, your marketing team will be stuck in a world of one-off social media efforts. Here’s how to get started:

  • The story team members: product experts, customer experts, digital media designers, and experienced social marketing communicators. Select individuals from product marketing, product management, marketing communications, customer experience, and social media management.
  • The story team roles: story owner, collaborator, and viewer. Owners create and drive ideation and targeting. Collaborators add context and content. Viewers help share and communicate stories before, during, and after delivery. Consider a center of storytelling excellence to share roles across teams.
  • The storytelling process: story planning, design, and production. Planning is simple and fast. Ideate and organize ideas everyday. Design includes social targeting, social contexting, and social message testing. Production takes feedback from tests and completely prepares the final digital versions, the sequence, and schedule. Make sure these three phases become a standard lifecycle. Story is a deliverable so it requires a lifecycle process.

Delivering these original social stories that drive awareness and increase engagement by your prospects must be designed with the following key strategies and techniques in mind:

1. Know your rainforest

Your social rainforest is your target ecosystems and social connections. Entering social networks is much like wandering into a rainforest where everything is fundamentally connected. If you enter this ecosystem without knowledge of the power of its connectivity, extinction is eminent. Stories provide the link between your positioning, digital media, and target customers. They are that crucial connecting thread between your marketing team, your desired image, and your target social communities. In other words, the marketing team needs to be one with their target community. Aligning your employees and your story is the first step to telling it to the world.

2. Be authentic and helpful

Stop the vendor speak. Making an emotional and real impact means telling your story in an authentic, honest, helpful manner that is accessible to all parties. Worry less about impressing your audience and more about engaging them.

3. Find the stories within the story

Your story is just the beginning. Within that story are additional narratives, flowing together to help express your core beliefs and ideas. Think about it – every blog post, webinar, e-book, and customer experience has many related needs, tragedies, successes, and conflicts that can be shared on social networks to increase awareness and positioning. Finding and telling those stories will only enhance your overall story.

4. Arm your team

Social storytelling marketing teams must compete like sports teams. They need the best equipment. They need to create the strategies and they need to craft brilliant play books. They need experts in the right positions and, above all, they need experience playing the game.

5. The right apps

Today, CMOs and their team improvise by patching together an ad hoc mix of marketing tools and unmanageable volumes of content without a blueprint for scaling people, technology, and processes for storytelling. Invest in integrated, social ware marketing applications that instantly guide users through creating the right story for the right ecosystem through the right content and network. Thus, the entire marketing team is able to focus on creativity rather than administrative tasks. Arming your team with collaborative, marketing intuitive apps for story planning, story component design, digital publishing, and story measurement allows your team to deliver empowering and compelling social stories every day.

Your story is your strategy. By creating a high performance storytelling marketing team for your B2B company with clear roles and processes you can begin to source and pipeline ideas and content from across your team, partners, and customers. Team consistency and alignment becomes the norm versus the project. Turning social media into social storytelling requires well-designed organization, digital content, and applications that truly orchestrate social story planning, design, and delivery seamlessly and successful from ideas to wins.

Interview: How IBM Leads B2Bs in Instagram Engagement

b2b-instagram-ibm-deskAs a follow-up to our list of top B2B Instagram accounts, I reached out to Katie Keating, Social Content & Engagement Strategist at IBM, to learn more about how this globally integrated technology and consulting company approaches a visual platform like Instagram.

IBM ranked at the top of the list of B2B Instagram accounts because we prioritized engagement over number of followers. This put the IBM account way ahead of larger B2B companies who are well-known for their social media prowess, like GE, Cisco and Adobe. What is your approach to Instagram, and does it focus on engagement versus growing your following? And what are the metrics that determine your success?

For IBM, engagement is the metric we put the most weight on when we assess performance of our social content on Instagram. Ultimately, our goal is to create and curate content that is intriguing to our audiences, that maybe teaches them something simple but useful, and builds trust among our followers. It’s not about the quantity of our followers but the quality. We don’t want to speak into a void but to an engaged, interested audience, so listening and gathering feedback is a critical first step before we publish anything on our channels.

Are you using the IBM Instagram account to communicate with existing customers, partners and employees or are you looking to connect with prospects to drive new business?

We have a number of key audiences that we think are interested in what IBM’s doing, and who may not be aware of some of the incredible innovation happening at IBM. IBM is a global company so we try to showcase the company’s innovation around the world. Employee engagement is a key part of our strategy–we always say that IBM is primarily experienced by the world at large through our employees, so it’s important to us that they’re engaged and feel empowered to share their experiences.

In the time period we looked at, some of your top posts were employee-submitted photos showing #viewfrommydesk. Is user-generated content, or specifically employee-based content, a key part of your Instagram strategy, or was this just a good idea that happened to work?

The #ViewFromMyDesk photo series was done in partnership with the IBM global recruitment team. The goal was to showcase that IBM employees come from all over and work in various types of environments. We invited employees to share photos of the view from their desk–be it a traditional office setting, their home office, office on the road, and more. As a result, we received photos from locations all over the world like Slovenia, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Norway, Venezuela, Taiwan, India, and more. Instagram is a highly global platform and IBM is an international brand, so we thought Instagram would be a great place to host a visually-driven series like this.

IBM has a broad, global business serving multiple audience segments. How do you balance that with one Instagram account?

b2b-instagram-ibm-designWe see Instagram a place to share “moments” at IBM–what it’s like to work in our offices, behind the scenes in our labs, or the process behind innovations-in-progress. We want to take our audience on the journey with us. Our photos come from all over: user-generated content, photos that employees like me shoot themselves, photos of teams collaborating, and more. We’ve even had employees “take over” our account for a week at a time and show us what it’s like to work at IBM through their own photos and captions. It’s really important that anything we publish stays true to the platform–inspiring, visually engaging imagery that tells a story, while being true to IBM. We’re not trying to fit certain messages into a box or follow a strict calendar, but instead we’re in a constant mode of discovery, curation and creation.

How do the Instagram photos integrate with social media posts on other channels? How important is visual content to the overall social media strategy of IBM?

We find that Instagram photos also drive engagement across our other channels, so we cross-post. Visuals in general are absolutely critical to driving engagement on our social accounts. I think audiences now expect that visuals should and will be part of the experience.

You seem to be experimenting with more branded video on Instagram lately? How does this compare to Vine or YouTube?

Branded “micro-video” is something we’re definitely planning to do more of. It’s a great way to tell a story or create art out of the everyday, which is the sweet spot for platforms like Instagram and Vine.

And finally, what advice would you give to other B2B marketers who are looking to improve their engagement on Instagram?

First, spend time on Instagram. Really understand the community aspect of the platform and the caliber of the photography. Think about why your followers are spending time on Instagram. It’s an escape. It’s inspirational. It’s beautiful. Make sure that’s the type of content you’re curating and creating for your branded channel too. Use it as a place to show the real moments, to go behind the scenes, to give access and meaning to your brand. Don’t try to promote, sell, drive clicks (URLs aren’t hotlinked anyway). You will drive engagement and preference for your brand by being real and staying true to the platform.

Your 2015 B2B Social Media Predictions Are Totally Wrong. Or Maybe They Are Totally Right!

b2b-social-media-predictions-2015It is the time of year when bloggers dust off their crystal balls and try to predict what will happen in B2B social media in the coming year. I have done this for many years myself. Whether these predictions are based on recent data, anecdotal experience or pure conjecture, they are frequently wrong. Or maybe they are right.

But the best part of writing these blog posts is that nobody ever goes back and looks at last year’s post to see what bloggers got right and what they got wrong. It is a content creators dream come true: attractive headline, shareable content, no repercussions.

Anyone can predict the future if they are not accountable for being right.

These opinion pieces are just that. Opinions.

It is very easy to find a survey and say that B2B companies are increasing their social media budgets. The percentage of B2B marketing budgets spent on social media will rise from 9% to 13% in the next 12 months. It will continue to rise to 21% in the next five years. This single data point will let a blogger predict growth in social media budgets for the next five years. And this survey is updated every year, so this one can go on for eternity.

But nobody is checking up on the bloggers to see what really happened. Or the marketers.

Every year the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs release their benchmark report about content marketing. But in this year’s version they changed the definition of content marketing and the number of B2B marketers indicating that they used content marketing went down from the previous year from 93% to 86%. Does this mean that bloggers can use this study to predict the decline of content marketing? Of course they can.

But other parts of the report reveal that B2B marketers are spending more time and money on content marketing. These selective data points support a prediction of increased reliance on content marketing. A blogger can take their pick of the direction, based on their opinion.

And be right either way. Or wrong.

What about making predictions about mobile? Is this really the year that B2B marketers will finally embrace mobile? It’s very easy to predict. Even easier than it’s been for the past five years that bloggers, including me, have been predicting it. 58% of American adults have smartphones. The breakdown of that data is even higher when you look at groups that likely contain your customers. And that data is almost a year old.

Predict away about the impact of mobile, but B2B marketers will prove it wrong once again. B2B websites, white papers, ebooks are still designed and built for desktop computers. This is one of the biggest no-brainers for marketers in years. But bloggers can predict this until they are blue in the face, but it is just not happening.

Other areas that inspire prognosticating for 2015 are marketing automation, social media advertising, scaling of social media across organizations beyond marketing, measurements of success beyond chasing likes and followers and true executive understanding and adoption of social media.

But for every one of these data-supported predictions, there will be many B2B companies that just don’t follow the trend. And prove the predictions wrong yet again.

It is easy to sign up for a Twitter account, but hard for many B2B marketers to embrace the platform and share information that is of value to their customers. It is easy to pull a white paper out of the archives and say you are doing content marketing, but harder to build a content funnel that matches prospects’ interest and timing so it can all lead to sales. And yes, it is easy to look at your own behavior on your mobile device as a rallying cry to go “Mobile First,” but to get all the pieces in place to make this happen at most B2B companies is hugely challenging.

For many B2B companies 2015 will be the year of true social media adoption and success at many levels. Unless I’m wrong.

Photo credit: Flickr

20 Most Important Stats from the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report

The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs released their annual benchmark report on B2B content marketing. It is based on surveys of 1820 North American B2B Marketers across all industries and company sizes. This is the fifth year that they have released this report, and it continues to improve each year. The entire report is embedded at the end of this post.

The first, and most notable stat in this report is that number of B2B marketers using content marketing has gone down from 93% last year to 86% this year. That is because they changed the definition of content marketing to “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.” Apparently this helped some respondents realize that there is a difference between content marketing and just creating content.

This is a benchmark study, so it gives you something you can compare yourself to. The study also examines the habits and activities of the most effective B2B content marketers, so you can see how you are doing against those who report that content marketing is meeting their goals and driving business value.

1. 86% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing

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2. Only 38% of B2B Marketers rate their content marketing as effective

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3. 47% of B2B Marketers have dedicated content marketing groups

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4. 69% of the most effective B2B Marketers have dedicated content marketing groups

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5. Only 35% of B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy

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6. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy

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7. 55% of B2B Marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending in the next year

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8. The top goal for B2B content marketing is brand awareness

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9. 83% of B2B marketers use content marketing for lead generation

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10. 81% of B2B marketers use content marketing for engagement

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11. 70% of B2B Marketers have created more content in the last year

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12. 63% of B2B Marketers use website traffic as their metric of content marketing success

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13. 94% of B2B Marketers use Linkedin to distribute their content

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14. 88% of B2B Marketers use Twitter to distribute their content

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15. 84% of B2B Marketers use Facebook to distribute their content

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16. 54% of B2B Marketers see producing engaging content as their biggest content marketing challenge

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17. 50% of B2B Marketers see producing content consistently as their biggest content marketing challenge

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18. 49% of B2B Marketers see measuring content effectiveness as their biggest content marketing challenge

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19. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers publish content daily or multiple times per week

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20. 37% of the total marketing budget of the most effective B2B Marketers goes to content marketing

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Give Your B2B Customers Clear Calls-To-Action on Social Media

b2b-social-media-call-to-action2Sometimes B2B marketers focus all their efforts on creating the best content, the ultimate customer experience, the perfectly nuanced status update to drive traffic back to their website or blog, but they forget to provide a clear call-to-action for the visitor.

The other extreme is to create a complex series of Rube Goldberg-inspired steps to get a visitor to the right place that is very nearly personalized for their interests, industry and stage in the buying cycle. This is not a bad idea in theory, but an overcomplicated process confuses prospects and they may never convert to a customer.

I was on vacation in Alaska for the past week and stopped at Meier’s Lake Roadhouse to get gas (click the picture above to enlarge it). This remote roadside stop understands the difference between just telling their customers something and providing clear instructions what action they would like them to take.

“Meiers Lake Roadhouse is now on Facebook,” reads a simple printed sign (shown below).

As a traveler passing through, and unlikely to ever return, I would not gain much value from liking their Facebook page. But maybe it was the perfect spot in this remote area to get gas before running out. Or maybe I ate at their restaurant, stayed in a cabin or bought the perfect souvenir to remember my trip. Maybe I just enjoyed my interactions with this Alaskan independent businessman.

“We appreciate your reviews,” was the second and only other thing on this sign.

Liking their Facebook page is not the action they want you to take. It is just a means to get to the call-to-action. They are asking you to leave a review. If this was a good place for you to stop, then it might be a good place for others. And the owner of Meier’s Lake Roadhouse wants you to let others know about your experience. It is a simple ask, and it is very clear.

There is no need to beat this idea into the ground, especially since I am just back from vacation. Here are the two social media lessons from this Alaskan roadside business:

1. Make sure you give prospects, customers and visitors an obvious call-to-action, by telling them what you want them to do.

2. Make it simple and clear.

And even though these are lessons for social media and online activities, they definitely apply for physical interactions.

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B2B Sales Pros Need to Create Demand with Content Marketing

b2b-demand-generationI recorded another video conversation with my friend Tom Skotidas. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. We have been talking about the intersection of sales and content marketing for B2B companies. A lot of people call this social selling, but that really oversimplifies the process.

Today’s conversation is about demand generation. Tom smartly points out that no matter how much content you create or share, if you are not creating demand for your product or service, nobody will want to buy it.

Highlights of the Conversation:

  • Without demand, there are no buyers.
  • Use authoritative third-party content to create demand for your products or services.
  • Create hybrid content that “wraps” your own content in someone else’s authority.
  • Speak the language of your prospects and customers.

How are your sales teams using content to drive demand for your B2B products or services?

Photo credit: Flickr