Part 1 of 4: Content Marketing for B2B Companies: An Interview with Jeremy Durant
Content Marketing is a big topic, especially for B2B companies looking to ramp up inbound leads. In a recent interview by the SD AMA, Jeremy Durant of Bop Design was asked about content marketing and applications for B2B companies.
All interviews were conducted by Jimmy Page, Vice President of Content and Analytics at the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association for the segment, This Week in Marketing powered by wsRadio.com. All recordings are available for listening on the AMA website.
Jimmy: We’re going to talk to you today about content marketing as it relates to business-to-business and even further how it relates to the sales process and the funnel. From top funnel, more awareness-style content, all the way to bottom funnel, closing-style content, and talk about the way that you approach content all the way through the process in a longer sales cycle. Why are people investing in content marketing?
Jeremy: Prospects are inherently skeptical as they’re shopping around. They may have three, four, five different options of people they’re looking to hire or companies they’re looking to hire, and content helps break that skepticism. Really what you’re doing in the sales process is educating prospects, giving them educational content that helps build that case of credibility, so that that prospect transforms into a qualified prospect, then into a client because now they have the peace of mind through the content that you’ve provided to them, the peace of mind to commit to you over the alternatives out there. So content really just helps build that case of credibility and really build that trust to transform a prospect into a current client.
Jimmy: What do you see as being the differences between a business-to-business content strategy and a B2C content strategy?
Jeremy: Yeah, so B2B sales process is typically longer. You’re looking at certain B2B sales processes that can be years. Typically, you’re looking at least months. There’s also multiple decision makers involved, where you may have two to three buyers that all have different priorities and you actually need to have content that addresses all of those prospective buyers’ priorities. Your primary buyer may be a VP of sales, but then you also have a CFO and a COO that you need to cater too with content, so you always got to remember that sphere of influence in the buying process that you have that primary buyer and then those influencers that help influence that decision.
On the B2C side, it’s typically more transactional. Typically, there’s less time from discovery to commitment, so I just look at B2B, typically, content marketing where you actually see the bulk of content marketing happening is more on the B2B space just because it’s a longer sales process with many more influencers.
Jimmy: So you say it’s happening more in the B2B space and I think I see where you’re coming from there, but if you think about blogging as content marketing … Do you think about blogging as content marketing and is it fair to say that a lot of retailers are going there, and can I ask you why?
Jeremy: Blogging absolutely is part of content marketing. I always look at that as the center of content marketing. They’re doing that and they’re blogging day-to-day to be a thought leader in a particular space, so you may go to, let’s say, Oprah Winfrey’s website or a particular consumer brand who has a thought leader, a personality behind it. Absolutely that’s happening. Maybe I’m just too much in the B2B bubble; I do see more money being spent with content marketing agencies, more on the B2B space. Maybe I’m looking at more outsource content marketing versus internal content marketing where I could see that being more popular in the B2C space, particularly with a personality-driven brand. If you’re Ellen DeGeneres, if you’re The View, there’s going to be a lot of following there because of a certain personality of the content markets.
Jimmy: I assume a huge piece also of the motivation there is not just to establish yourself as a thought leader, but also for pure awareness purposes, as far as generating impressions like you would with a traditional broadcast strategy or something like that. I’ve seen companies like Demand Media who are huge in the content space and probably a little bit more on the B2C side, make the argument that over time you can actually get lower impression values with that kind of a strategy. So given the fact that that’s what’s happening on the B2C side, is that also something that happens on the B2B side in terms of awareness, or is it much more focused on an intimate relationship?
Jeremy: Typically, in a content marketing strategy one of the things you talk about a blog as, and I say I contend a blog definitely is part of content marketing on the B2B space, blogging is the number one most important thing from an on-page search engine optimization strategy.
Let’s say a firm decides, “Hey, we’re going to blog four times a month,” and it’s all wrapped around particular key word phrases they want to target. “Hey, we want to target web design every month,” or, “B2B Web design is one of the key words we want to target, and we want to actually put together four blog entries each month around the topic or the key word phrase of ‘B2B web design’.” If you’re doing that, let’s even say it’s every three months you’re doing that, so over the year you have sixteen blog entries related to web design on your website. That’s sixteen pages of keyword-rich content that Google’s crawling and indexing for helping drive traffic to your website through organic traffic, making sure that you’re rising the ranking for that targeted keyword, and as you’re driving that traffic that’s building awareness, you’re building more traffic on your website.
It doesn’t all need to be targeted where you’re basing this on, “Hey, we have this market we’re going after, we’re going to take this particular content and try to niche target that particular audience.” It can be just as a pure, on-page SEO play to drive general traffic based around a keyword phrase to your website.
Jimmy: When you see people making mistakes in content marketing, and as an agency I assume you’re probably working with a lot of companies who’ve either tried it themselves or worked with other agencies and haven’t made it hit yet and they’re coming to you to make it work. If you could characterize some of the main reasons why you see content marketing not being successful for companies who tried it, what are they?
Jeremy: One of the primary reasons for failing at content marketing is companies cannot control themselves in just putting out company propaganda. Basically, all they’re trying to do week-to-week is talk about the new client that they’ve brought on, new office space. No one cares about that. Also, another big failure is people are way too guarded with their content, and the content they know it’s not that special. They’re really guarded by it and, “Hey, this is proprietary information.” Meanwhile, typically you can find that same information on another website. I always contend to all of our clients, “You’ve got to give 25% of your expertise away for free, because then giving that 25% away for free is going to allow you to sell that other 75%.” You’ve got to give it away because if you’re not giving it away, they’re going to go to another website, a competitor, and find it there, and contact them because they built that case of credibility.
Last is, I actually think, a major failure with a lot of companies with content marketing is perfection’s the enemy of progress. I always want to caution them with that. They want every bit of content to be a home run. They’re not going to settle for singles or doubles, they want every piece to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’re looking for that, you’ll be lucky if you can produce one blog entry, one content piece a year that’s that (quality). I always think that it’s about doing it all the time and not over-thinking it, because if you over-think it than you are going to hesitate and that content’s not getting out. In some ways I hate to say this, I mean you still need to have quality content, but it’s almost quantity is just as important as quality because you need to keep pushing it out every month.
Jimmy: Love it. Just a couple of minutes left here, let’s talk about the Bop Design approach to content strategy for B2B businesses, it’s what we’re going to be focused on for the rest of the conversation here. Can you talk about how you think about the buying stages at a high level and we’ll dive more into it in the rest of the conversation, and how that applies to content strategy?
Jeremy: You really have four stages in our content marketing process. You have discovery, consideration, decision, and measurement. You look at the discovery stage you want to take control of the conversation as a content marketer. You want to supply that prospect with the right questions to not only ask you, but to ask all your competition. Right at that point, you’re just really educating, and there can be a lot of misconceptions about your product or service, take control of that conversation. You don’t want to have the blind leaving the sighted, because typically a prospect at that point has a lot of misconceptions, and allow them to become sighted in that discovery process. If you’re the one dictating the conversation over your competition, guess what? You have a distinct advantage because you’re the one that’s controlling the questions, and if you’re the one controlling the questions that means you have the answers for them. That’s very important.
I know we’re going into this later with the consideration, decision, measurement phase, but what we want to look at here is you’re driving people from the top of the funnel to the mid-funnel, to the bottom of the funnel, and there’s appropriate content for each part of that buying stage.
Jimmy: Is this something that you at Bop Design created, or is this a typical model?
Jeremy: It’s a typical model. It’s funny, once again, going back to, we were talking about clients thinking everything’s proprietary and they have the secret sauce, this is a tried and true process that I think works very well, and we have proven success stories from B2B firms.
Read more about content marketing and how it relates to the sales funnel in the upcoming Part II of this interview on content marketing for B2B firms.