An unspoken, yet fundamental law has reigned over the world of #content marketing: B2B is boring.
Last month that law was repealed when Content Marketing Institute named Velocity Partners as the first B2B agency of the year. Read more
It’s no secret that buyers are more educated and have access to more relevant information than ever before. Most B2B marketers anticipate that their buyers will be well into the consideration phase before they ever make contact. That’s why savvy marketers are putting so much emphasis on creating top-of-funnel, educational content. They understand that their prospects are out there, hungry for relevant information and research, and providing nourishing, quality content is the best way to stand out.
But what about, as David Dodd calls them, the “casual learner”? Casual learners aren’t actively seeking a solution to their business problems, but they are educated, voracious consumers of industry-specific content and publications. They stay abreast of industry trends and hot topics; they keep their finger on the pulse of what’s new and innovative. They may even encounter a solution to their business problem before they knew they had one. If marketers wait to engage until casual learners enter the formal information-gathering phase, they may be too late.
That’s why establishing #thought leadership in your industry is crucial.
Put yourself in their orbit by placing articles in the publications they consume. Provide content that sparks their interest, and maybe it might also solve a problem they didn’t know they had.
Why B2B Marketers Should Care About “Casual Learning”
Much of the conversation in the #B2B marketing world over the past several years has revolved around the emergence of empowered and independent buyers. A wealth of easily-accessible information now enables buyers to perform research about business issues and possible solutions on their own. The most widely-discussed result of this development is that many – though by no means all – buyers are postponing direct interactions with potential vendors until later in the buying process.
Information abundance has also led to a dramatic increase in what I call casual learning. As I’m using the term, casual learning refers to learning and information gathering activities that occur before an intentional buying process has begun.
Most traditional models of the B2B buying process assume that the process begins when a company’s leaders or managers recognize a need or problem, and decide to address the issue in some way. These “buyers” then gather information about the need or problem and possible solutions, they evaluate the available options, and they may or may not decide to purchase a product or service to address the problem or need.
So our traditional view of buyer behavior is that most information gathering occurs after an intentional buying process has started. Today, however, information is so abundant and easily accessible that many business people routinely consume information about business issues long before they have formed anything close to a “buying intent.”
In their book, Absolute Value, Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen call this type of information gathering “couch tracking,” and they argue that couch tracking is one of the major emerging trends in consumer decision-making. The same abundance of information that drives couch tracking by consumers also fuels casual learning by business decision makers.
The growth of casual learning has important implications for B2B marketing, but the significance of casual learning isn’t fully appreciated by many marketers. Most B2B marketing tactics and programs are designed to identify business people who are ready to begin a buying process, or to encourage those already involved in a buying process to move toward a buying decision. At any given time, however, most of your potential customers aren’t likely to be “in-market” for the products or services you offer, and most of your potential buyers are more likely to be “casual learners” than “active buyers.”
Creating relationships with casual learners is important because the impressions they form during casual learning remain influential when they become involved in a buying process. Therefore, if a company can build and nurture relationships with casual learners, it will have a competitive advantage when those casual learners turn into active buyers.
The bottom line is, B2B marketers can’t afford to ignore this important group of “embryonic buyers.”
We are working on a new B2B technology offer for our clients. In the presentation we are creating we have put our buyer at the center of the story. This approach is logical but not easy to execute. In this article, Kylie Lobell shares Google’s approach to creating content. Empathy is one of the tenets that the article explores. Yes we agree that intimately understanding your buyer is critical to creating content that attracts the audience.
As veterans in the b2b technology space, we understand the unique challenges of #partner marketing. When technology partners go to market, they want to tell a unified story, but also each maintain their unique brand and identity. We help our clients deal with those challenges; bringing partners together to tell a unique story that rings true to both partners’ voices. Theresa Caragol of thewhir.com sets out a few best practices to meet the challenges of partner marketing.
We are in the golden age of #content marketing. With the proliferation of marketing automation tools we can engage like never before with hyper-targeted audiences. Advanced analytics deliver in-depth insights to us in real time. But sometimes we get caught up in our shiny new tools and lose sight of the most fundamental content marketing wisdom: humans crave compelling stories. In the past we’ve written about the power of stories and how to humanize content. This week, we’d like to share some wise words from econtent magazine’s Andrew Martin on how to bring the art of #storytelling back to #b2b marketing.
At the advent of digital marketing, companies poured millions for dollars into digital ad campaigns all in the name of acquiring new “leads.” But with the introduction of #big data tools like Hadoop and advanced data science and analysis, why are so many marketers still investing in old-fashioned campaigns that convert at just fractions of a percent? Jason Alumbaugh explains how the buyer’s journey has transformed over time, and demystifies dwindling click through rates. He goes on to paint a picture of how B2B marketers can effectively reach an empowered audience who tends to make buying decisions by committee, and leaves a rich digital footprint across the web.
Read the full story for more.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been examining PR for B2B from a variety of perspectives and speaking with experts in the field to get their reflections on what does and does not work. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several #B2B marketing experts about how to assess the effectiveness of your #PR strategy.
#Public relations is a term that covers the wild west of different types of firms doing vastly different things to help their clients. If you are a startup or a growing company, you may wonder if or when you need to use a #PR firm. In this first blog in our #tech PR series, we will discuss what PR means for the tech industry, and how it is different from and connected to marketing.