Latest Report: Why B2B Content Marketing is Failing B2B Buyers

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Tony Zambito

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The report is staggering.  After spending millions of dollars on content marketing, B2B marketing appears to have taken a few steps backward.

The report I refer to is the 11-page report, produced by the CMO Council and Netline, entitled: Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field.  While this report focused on new content ROI, it proves to be revealing in several ways.    As I read it, this report indicates a dismal failure for B2B Marketing thus far.

My basis for this assessment is by looking at the report from the buyer’s viewpoint.  Not the seller’s viewpoint.

Therein lies the core issue – there is a severe lack of understanding on how to connect with buyers.  Here are findings, which jump out as confirmation:

Buyers are “migrating to peer-based communities and new sources of trusted, relevant and credible content and conversation.”

“BtoB buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

“BtoB vendor websites are inadequate and hard to navigate”

“These sites lack the depth, objectivity and strategic context that buyers are seeking to inform and lead them through complex evaluation and purchasing processes.”

B2B Marketers “rely on poorly conceived content that doesn’t connect with customer needs and concerns.”

“..blatantly self-serving and promotional content is a major turn-off cited by 43 percent of respondents and exceeded only by content that comes with too many requirements for downloading (50 percent).”

Naturally, B2B CEO’s and their team of marketing and sales leaders should be concerned.  Here is a general perspective I offer:

The bad practices of content marketing, which existed offline, are now proliferating online through digital automation. 

Why is this Happening?

In my recent article, 4 Reasons Why Content Marketing Should Care About Audience Development, I offer 4 reasons, which suggest why:

      1. Skipping to the Solution: buyers confirm this when saying overly-hyped
      2. Product Marketing Focus: buyers confirm with mention of overly technical
      3. Sales-Driven Content: buyers confirm by statement of self-serving and lack of objectivity
      4. One-Size Fits All: buyers confirm by noting the lack of depth and content

You can read more about my thoughts on each of these areas in the article here.

What Should B2B Leaders Do?

Being relevant to buyers starts with first taking the time to understand buyers.  This means making the proper investment as well.  This is an investment well worth it – in light of this report.  Of the millions spent, how much content has been dragged over to the little trashcan icon on millions of Mac Books and PC’s?  Making the qualitative buyer research investment upfront can prevent this excessive waste.

The report does note what is valued.  Here is the quick summary:

“Research and papers from professional associations are the most valued and trusted type of content, cited by 67 percent of survey respondents. By comparison, just 9 percent point to vendor whitepapers as highly valued.  Other trusted types of content include papers from industry organizations (50 percent), customer case studies (48 percent), analyst reports (44percent) and independent product reviews (40 percent).”

Good information – but not enough.  You cannot build a strategy from the above.  It takes deep and profound buyer insights about your buyer’s story.

Buyer Persona and Buyer Insight Development Can Help – If Done Right

I recently reviewed the original definition of a buyer persona in this article: What is a Buyer Persona?  Why the Original Definition Still Matters to B2B.  I encourage B2B leaders to read it and truly understand what they are meant to be.  They can be a very effective communications platform, which conveys deep profound buyer insights, models archetypes of buyers and their buying behaviors, and inform strategies.  And, on this topic, provide guidance on what it takes to be relevant to buyers with content.

The qualifier is: buyer persona and buyer insight development have to be done right to be effective.  I have helped B2B leaders in conversations and works, to see the worst of cases and the best of cases on buyer persona development.  The worst could put you much further behind than you think.  The best cases have organizations operationalizing buyer insights and using buyer personas as a strategy guide versus superficial profiling.

Final Thought

I see this as a black and white situation.  Both you and your organization gets behind door number 1 – understanding buyers.  Or, door number 2 – irrelevant to buyers.  This report, reading between the lines, is buyers speaking loudly.  I don’t hear a passing grade.  Do you?

You can get the free report here: Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field

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10 thoughts on “Latest Report: Why B2B Content Marketing is Failing B2B Buyers”

  1. I received this comment via email from Michael Selissen, Founder and Chief Writer at Case Mountain Communications. Michael offers additional perspectives on this point of view and I wanted to share. Thank you Michael:

    The four factors you listed are spot on. But there are some things going on at the ground level that also contribute to subpar content …

    · Many companies don’t do a poor job of content or digital marketing. They don’t do it at all because they don’t believe it’s relevant to the way their customers shop.

    · Not only is content produced tactically, it’s produced on a “wait, then get it done yesterday” schedule, without allocating the time needed to plan, research, write and edit a quality piece. Strategy doesn’t exist.

    · Companies often look to writers to come up with the treatment. Creative briefs, if they exist, lack detail. So there is little continuity from piece to piece.

    · Agencies that should be providing guidance to their clients about the strategic value of content instead contribute to the problem by reinforcing the short-term, tactical approach. “That’s what the client wants,” they say.

    · More and more B2B content comes from content farms. They and marketing agencies that subcontract out are pushing rates down to subsistence levels. Cost over quality.

    And, there is little or no integration between the content campaign and the follow-up, which (if I may self serving) is something I wrote about this month:

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  10. Thanks for your insightful commentary. I am working on an presentation for a client about the merits of good content marketing. I would love to see some bad examples – just to compare and contrast. I have a ton of best case examples, but I would like to see a brand that is just not getting content marketing right. Any ideas?

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