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Date posted: January 30, 2017

As we have produced both e-books and video scripts for our clients, we noted with interest a recent column on the B2B Lead Blog titled “Will Video Kill E-Books?”  We don’t think it will, but the post pointed to a number of things that augur well for video as a rising component of content marketing programs:

  • Video is changing how people learn.
    Research by eMarketer shows that U.S. consumers spent 5.5 hours a day watching digital video in 2015, an increase of 34 minutes over the behavior in 2011. This upward trend is likely to increase, and as Linda West, director of digital marketing at Act-On Software notes in the piece, “Video is a big part of how most people absorb stories.” B2B marketers have figured this out. West notes from her own clients that the number of people who go to live webinars is declining— while there is a rise in numbers of people watching on-demand webinars (i.e., video).
  • Video works.
    An Aberdeen study notes that marketers using video are growing 49% faster than those who don’t use video.
  • Video is increasingly less expensive to produce.
    The cost for tools for creating videos has dropped dramatically in recent years, a development accelerated by the rise of video recording on smartphones. West notes how easy it was for her company to jump into video production: ““We built a recording studio in what was a broom closet. We covered it in sound foam and bought a green screen on Amazon. We shot our first video with an iPhone. We hacked it together. And it worked.” (Act-On now does 90% of their video work in-house.)

While video is understandably taking a bigger part in content marketing programs, the fact is that successful programs will continue to have a diversified portfolio of content techniques to address customers and potential customers throughout the sales lifecycle. Traditional lead-generators like e-Books, case studies and blog posts will still be a part of the mix.

Two key factors that cross all techniques: the quality of writing and understanding of the business/product being marketed. When companies look outside to help their marketing efforts, those two factors should be at the top of their checklist.

 

 

Date posted: January 26, 2017

According to a post on the Marketing Insider Group, about 70% of internet users are now social network users— a figure expected to grow. As the roles of social networks and mobile devices grow side-by-side, they increasingly come into the purview of B2B marketers, particularly as new features and functions roll out at astonishing speed. The fact is that a B2B marketing strategy that doesn’t take social media into consideration is lacking an essential component.

A post on Webbiquity points to three practical tips for using social media in B2B marketing; they’re worth reviewing here:

  1. Employ someone who knows social media, not just your business.
    When making hiring decisions, it often makes the most sense to employ someone who is either already familiar with your business itself or at least knows your industry. While this is helpful for many of the other positions you need to fill, this is not always the best approach to achieving social media success. Because social media is such a unique area, it often makes sense to step outside traditional comfort zones and hire someone who’s a social media expert, even if they come from outside your industry. It will be much easier for someone to quickly learn the ins and outs of your business or market than to understand how to find success using social media.
  2. Use social media as a content springboard.
    Social media is good for far more than just sharing cat videos and witty comments about trendy topics. To set yourself up for B2B social media success, consider that social media is really the perfect platform to help you launch content in a whole new arena, According to Olsy Sorokina, a contributor to hootsuite.com, using social media as a form of content promotion can get your topic in front of people who wouldn’t otherwise find your website. And keep in mind that this doesn’t only pertain to blogs, although creating a blog for your business and using social media to showcase that blog within the right communities is a great strategy. You can also create any number of content assets, like videos or infographics, that may work better for your industry and the professionals within it.
  3. Understand that using social media is for more than just personal connections.
    Some B2B businesses are hesitant to fully utilize social media for marketing because they view social media as mainly used for making personal connections. While this is definitely one of the benefits of social media, Allen Narcisse, a contributor to the Content Marketing Institute, shares that professionals also use social media to get their news, keep pace with the market, and learn about new developments in their specific fields. The right social media channels could be the ideal place for your business to market and advertise, even if you’re not looking to reach millennial consumers.

 

 

Date posted: January 24, 2017

 

Spear Marketing Group recently published an infographic on the top types of demand generation content that caught our eye. A key point: there’s no one type of content indicated for every demand generation situation, so it’s good to have a portfolio to draw from to play specialized roles, depending on the audience and objective. This is underscored by the fact that 60% of B2B marketers cite producing engaging content as their biggest challenge.

Here are the top ten types of content according to the infographic:

  1. Infographics
    These are great for engagement— eye catching, easy-to-share— but typically are ungated, so they’re better employed when views are more important than leads.
  2. Free Trials
    Because they require a higher level of commitment than other offers, response rates to free trials will typically be lower, but the respondents tend to be serious prospects. This makes free trials ideal for late-stage offers or situations where lead quality is critical.
  3. Free Consultations
    Designed to create dialogue between your sales team and prospects, free consultations are also likely only to appeal to serious or committed prospects, so may be best utilized as secondary or optional content offers.
  4. White Papers/eBooks
    Ideal for establishing thought leadership or providing information to a very specific part of the sales cycle, these are versatile demand generation tools. Nearly 60% of B2B marketers say they are their top lead generators.
  5. Webinars
    Ideal as “next step” offers designed to re-engage existing leads and move them forward, webinars tend to produce fewer, but more qualified, leads than similar downloadable content. As they can be re-purposed for viewing on demand, they have a long shelf life. Today more than 60% of B2B marketers are employing webinars are part of their content strategy.
  6. Case Studies
    Ideal as mid-to-late stage content offers, case studies can powerfully illustrate a product or service’s real-life value. They’re the only content type B2B marketers rate highly for both popularity and effectiveness.
  7. Videos
    The fast riser in B2B content, videos are best used to engage early-stage leads or increase “stickiness” on landing pages and websites. Some studies now name video as the content most essential to B2B marketers.
  8. Surveys
    Surveys generate engagement at the same time they produce data that can be leveraged for other content.
  9. Buyer’s Guides
    A powerful late-stage tool, these guides appeal to prospects actively evaluating products in a specific category, as well as existing leads looking to take the next step in the process.
  10. ROI Calculators
    These provide the hard data and business case to move forward with your product— and as such, appeal to qualified late stage prospects.

One type of content not listed in the infographic that we believe is important is Blog Posts. These posts both retain a prospects interest over time, and also provide the B2B marketer a good means to stay “on-topic” with his or her product or market as changing forces (e.g., technology, politics, etc.) impact the business environment. And to the extent that the blog is well written, readership tends to come from prospects at all stages.

What do you think? What are your top choices for demand generation content? We’d love to hear from you.

 

Date posted: January 19, 2017

According to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of business-to-business (B2B) manufacturers in North America are using content marketing in some shape or form. What’s interesting is that while the usage of content marketing continues to rise, its effectiveness appears not to be. That same study shows only 18% of those manufacturers reporting that their content marketing was effective in meeting overall marketing objectives, a figure that has fallen from 26% and 30% in the two years prior!

Despite this, B2B organizations continue to increase their investment in content marketing, with only 3% indicating plans to reduce budgets in the discipline.

A post by Achinta Mitra on Industrial Marketing Today may provide some rationale behind the consistent support of content marketing.  Mitra points to six ways that manufacturing content marketing sets the table for B2B industrial sales:

  1. Visibility
    53% of engineers and industrial buyers spend six or more hours per week on the Internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%). Digital marketing with content aligns perfectly with how your target audience finds information.

  2. Capability
    Just publishing more content is not going to help you rise above the noise. The key is to identify and understand the challenges your customers are facing. Create content written by your in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to address these issues. This will get your knowledge and expertise to the forefront and set you apart from the competition.

  3. Credibility
    Engineers are impressed by credentials, standards, and professional certifications. Provide them the confidence to specify your industrial products because they meet their design parameters and/or to retain your engineering services.

  4. Reliability
    This goes beyond product warranties. Industrial professionals want reliable sources of technical content, not more marketing fluff. End-users and field people want easy and quick access to your knowledgebase. These people may not have much influence on the initial buy but can make or break your repeat orders.
  5. Expandability
    Increase the impact of your trade show investments by providing additional helpful content. Trade shows continue to be effective in industrial marketing, as multiple research studies have shown. You know those visitors to your booth are going to check out your website when they get back to their office. Make sure the content builds on the initial impression about your company.

  6. Visibility
    Product specifications and online design tools are valuable content assets because they save time for design engineers— helping them make quick decisions on the viability and suitability of your products and services.

As Mitra notes, companies build stronger relationships based on trust when content marketing helps meet these six objectives; and trust is key for facilitating and motivating conversation from prospects to the sales organization.

Justice Holmes once said, “Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.” That’s what B2B marketers appear to be doing with content marketing. What do you think?

 

 

 

Date posted: January 16, 2017

Software Advice, a warehouse management system consultancy, recently released its 2016 Supply Chain Management Buyer Report, with results particularly interesting in the warehouse management arena.

 “More businesses in our sample are looking to improve warehouse management than any other area of supply chain management, with 36 percent citing this goal as a motive for software purchases,” notes Daniel Harris, research associate for warehouse management system consultancy at the Gartner-owned Software Advice. “For comparison, supplier management came in second at 10 percent. This suggests that businesses are still struggling to escape the inefficiencies created by the use of manual methods in the warehouse (28 percent of our sample relies on pen & paper, and 18 percent relies on Excel).”

Among the key drivers of new software implementation— the desire to automate systems and improve integration, and the need to better accommodate and manage rapid business growth.

While 46 percent of businesses surveyed already are using some sort of commercial SCM software, respondents indicated a number of reasons they’re looking to replace it, including:

  • Overkill
    Having bought into an expensive ERP suite with many features they neither need nor use, many companies are looking to cut IT costs by implementing more modern, streamlined, and user-friendly software with the functionality they need (i.e., no superfluous functionality).
  • Underkill
    Companies using “light” enterprise supply chain software (e.g., basic accounting with inventory and warehouse management modules) no longer sustainable for their growing businesses are turning to new solutions.
  • Lack of support
    Unresponsive customer support can be a motivating factor in driving companies to look to new software vendors.

Growth Is Demanding Change

Nearly 20 percent of companies surveyed indicated enterprise growth at a level that was straining their current tools and processes. According to the authors, “In many cases, business growth has meant adding more warehouses or more vehicles to the fleet. While their current solutions can handle a single warehouse or a small (fewer than 10 vehicles) fleet, that growth means there are now more cogs in the machine to be mindful of… What this means is that more growing businesses are starting to tie their growth to improving their IT infrastructure—and as such, are positioning themselves for sustained growth over time.”

A Note on Survey Demographics

The survey sample was comprised primarily of manufacturers (60 percent), 3PL firms (32 percent) and other specialty distributors (8 percent). Eighty-three percent of the businesses were small (under 500 employees) or midsize (between 501 and 1,000 employees); seventeen percent were large businesses (more than 1,000 employees).

For a full copy of this B2B Software Advice study, you can go here.