The urge is insatiable in B2B. It is wired in B2B DNA. To sell. To market. To push. To blitz. To tell. To pitch. To present. It is like when you turn the key to off on a motor and yet it is still running from the residue fuel and fumes. To stop takes what seems like insurmountable restraint.
As much as we like to believe content marketing is an easy way to overcome the “pitch”, this insatiable urge is creating a candy coating over masked content marketing. In this case, when a buyer bites into a masked content marketing piece, he or she finds it distasteful.
Playing The Same Game By Marketing and Selling Content
Content marketing, although not a new concept, has taken on added importance due to changing buying behaviors. And, my recent series of buyer interviews indicates this 21st century phenomenon of rapid changing buying behaviors is a run away train B2B organizations are going to struggle to keep up with. The game has changed. Yet, B2B DNA may mean a good portion of B2B organizations are still playing the same game they have always played. To pitch. To tell. To elevator pitch. To present.
What recent buyer interviews have indicated is while B2B organizations may be adopting the new rage of content marketing; they are using it as another channel to do what they have always done. Pitching, presenting, telling, and in some cases – shouting in a megaphone to be the loudest. Engaging in the act of marketing and selling content itself.
Turning Off Buyers
Unwittingly and unknowingly, B2B firms may be turning off buyers in droves when they cannot distinguish between content marketing and marketing content. Mistakenly taking the rage of content marketing as a clue to market the heck out of their content filled with supplier-centric, product-centric, and good old fashion buying criteria-centric virtues of a product or solution. Playing the game of one-upmanship with competitors.
It usually starts with a mandate of – “we need to do more content marketing.” With the customary knee jerk reaction, marketing teams scurry to create and produce more content. And, to push it out with new investments in marketing automation. All with good intentions but mistaking the mandate for marketing content as opposed to content marketing. In some cases doing more harm than good.
Doing More Harm With Marketing Content
As B2B companies have rushed into content marketing, they may be off the mark. Some have done buyer personas yes – but in review they are laden with buying criteria-centric and supplier-centric language. Lacking in the true buyer insights research to guide content marketing efforts. Instead serving as a guide for marketing content.
What is happening is these very acts of marketing content is having an impact on buyer behaviors and mindsets. A sampling of actual buyer comments from buyer interviews conducted on behalf of helping several B2B companies recently tells us of this impact:
- “There is so much marketing material coming in my inbox I just ignore it all now.”
- “I am not sure what has happened but in the last two years, they have become like used car salesmen.”
- “I resent the bait and switch. Promising something worthwhile to read, downloading, and then finding it is nothing but the same old marketing junk.”
- “It is too much and too pushy. I don’t believe in any of it. So, now I just rather call the salesperson to come in and talk with us.”
If these sound like they could be your buyers right now, I would be very concerned as well.
Breaking The Marketing Content Habit
How can CMO’s today get their teams to break the habit of marketing content and get focused on content marketing? More importantly, how can CMO’s prevent the shift in buyer mindset, which can occur from marketing content? These are important questions. Here are a few suggested steps:
Gain real insights into what matters. What the above comments indicate is B2B are lacking in insights on what really matters to buyers. Still playing a guessing game and not devoting time to buyer insights research. It is time to take a stance by committing to insights-based research as part of modern marketing DNA.
Research the right things that matter. The above is about committing to insights-based research. This point is about researching the right things that matter. I have seen much research heavily weighted on what sales already may know, should know, and can help with. Priorities, initiatives, buying criteria, and buying process. And, both marketing and sales need to reconsider the oft used and inappropriate “pain points” thinking buyers have moved on from. What matters more today than ever is insights into goal-based business and personal values and the contextual scenarios buyers must live in.
Stop treating buyer personas as a checklist item. I have seen this checklist mentality in response to tactical efforts. Buyer personas are a reflection of the research. Do it expediently and poorly – then – your buyer personas will be poor. And, when your buyer personas are poor, your content is poor.
Identify the right topics and content that matter. Content and topics must be relevant to the goal-based business and personal values of buyers. They need to indicate contextually how and why what your organization can offer fulfills the gaps, which exist in fulfilling these goals. Otherwise, you run the risk of bait and switch.
Center your team on the holistic brand experience. If the team is focused on marketing content and not content marketing – you are destroying the brand experience. With the commoditized nature of buying criteria more evident, the brand experience will be a powerful and influential factor in decision-making.
Get The Right Order Of Words
For CMO’s today, there is a lot at stake when it comes to the order of these two words. There is powerful meaning in both words. But, the order matters. The choice is to have your team focused on either marketing content or content marketing. Making the right choice will matter.