An effective B2B content strategy needs more than eBooks, blog posts, infographics, and videos to take off. It’s not uncommon for businesses to commit millions of dollars to producing these assets. It’s also not uncommon for companies to lose a lot of money.
The problem that B2B content teams encounter is that the path from creating great content to an end goal—transactional ROI—is not always clear. Potential buyers will engage with your business at multiple touch points, along a buyer journey. But that buyer journey is not always predictable.
Let’s say that your company is in B2B financial services, and your product is a data feed and interconnected web of analytics technology. Customers may use your data to make their sales processes more efficient. Imagine what it takes to shepherd that sale. You need to:
- Make your prospect aware of your business and product
- Convince your prospect that your business and product are the right fits with their needs
- Get stakeholders aligned around the value of your company
- Make it through a thorough vetting process, potentially with multiple C-level executives
- Offer up a value proposition that is distinct from your competitors
- Help your prospects see there is a better way for them to do what they are already doing
This entire process can take multiple years. That’s why sales and marketing teams at B2B companies are investing so highly in account-based marketing (ABM) models. A successful B2B transaction, especially one that spans many years, requires education and communication at multiple touch points.
That’s the role that content serves in a company.
Get the alignment with your revenue model right, and you’ll save money. Take a misstep, and you’ll end up losing money and creating sales-marketing inefficiencies that never needed to exist in the first place.
B2B buyers, especially, need content that speaks to specific points in their decision cycles. That means, as a marketing or sales leader, you need to understand these audiences so well that you can put yourselves in their shoes. Personalization means having messages that speak to your key accounts one to one.
This definition of personalization is very different from what you might see, for instance, in the world of programmatic advertising. In the targeting world, personalization involves the process of using data and technology to reach people with unique messaging.
With content, you should be thinking about groups of people or key accounts, rather than the technology that you’re using to reach them. For that reason, you can think of the personalization process as a coin with two sides:
- Content that reaches many people on a personal level
- The distribution techniques that get that content to people one on one, often incorporating data-driven targeting capabilities
These two sides together influence transactional outcomes. Well-constructed personalization coins have immense value in facilitating an end goal (i.e., a conversion rate). Your most effective content will be relevant and applicable to multiple distribution channels.
At the heart of B2B marketing, in general, is the idea of momentum. With every iota of messaging that your company puts out in the world, you’re nudging people towards new milestones in your sales process. Personalization is one of the most efficient ways to shepherd people and keep your demand generation process organized.
The best way to get started is to identify the topics and themes that resonate with people on an individual level. Start with the question—what do people in your audience need to do their jobs successfully? The answer to this question depends on your company’s product or market fit and why your business exists in the first place.
Here are a few steps that you can take:
1. Figure out What to Say
Identify themes that prospects care about during the sales process. You can gather this information from your sales team.
2. Define Your Audience
Understanding how you need to present your information means looking at attributes like voice, tone, and style. You need to communicate your story in a way that ultimately resonates with people one to one. A good starting point is to understand specific points of friction in your sales process.
3. Graph the Experience
Study the needs of your audience, and gain an understanding of the steps they followed to interact with your business. Create diagrams of this process, sketching the different stages of these groups’ buyer journeys. Figure out points of friction that slow down your sales cycles. Use this analysis to figure out how content fits into your overall strategy.
4. Segment, Segment, Segment
Group your audiences into distinct buckets or segments. These groupings will form the basis of your user personas. The fewer groupings you have, the better. You can use this structure to create a pathway for developing your content.
5. Keep it Evergreen
Figure out the details that are the most timeless to your sales cycle. This approach will help you create a long-term strategy for keeping marketing and sales in alignment.
6. Assess Strategy and Evaluate Coverage
Identify gaps in your messaging so that you can continue to make incremental results in your personalization strategy over time. If your messaging misses the mark with a particular segment but is successful in another, you may need to build out new marketing campaigns: new content for new segments.
Personalization means delivering the right message, at the right time, in a way that is relevant to your target audience. Once you get your messaging and communication strategy down, you can build up your targeting, data, and technology operations. Starting small will help you build the strongest possible foundations.
Building up a personalization strategy is more straightforward than what you might anticipate.
Understand the needs of exactly who you’re targeting. Pick a few personas to focus on first. Start testing your messaging, and then build up your distribution channels. Keep building upon your program until it is a full-fledged campaign that you can run on an ongoing basis. Then, extend your strategy to additional personas.
Eventually, you can create sub-segments in your targeting list. As your campaigns become more profitable, you can devote higher levels of advertising spend to reach people on a personal level.