B2B marketing relies on good content to communicate the values of a brand and set out the business market vision. However, B2B marketing has been described lately as boring, unengaging and lacking creativity. Indeed Tyrona Heath, from LinkedIn’s B2B Institute, says that B2B marketing needs to appeal more to human decision-makers who are influenced by the same factors as any other audience.

Effective marketing has become more important than ever as B2B salespeople find it increasingly difficult to contact prospects due to data protection rules, and due to the growth in home working which makes cold calling more problematic. B2B marketing is traditionally very different to the glamorous, entertaining and fast-paced approach of B2C marketing (Digital Marketing Institute) even though a recent Gitnux blog suggested “at least 80% of B2B buyers are not only looking for but expect a buying experience like that of a B2C customer”.

Six key problems within B2B marketing and their solutions

1. Old methods don’t spark engagement. B2B marketing tends to be stuck in the past often using traditional channels, ROI metrics that don’t capture the full impact of marketing initiatives, and hackneyed product claims and long factsheets. To improve, it needs to inspire renewed enthusiasm by incorporating different perspectives and disciplines to reach the same goals. Deep-dive sessions which bring in new techniques and angles from B2C marketing are important, for example using social media influencers to create alternative ways of attracting new customers, and ensuring B2B marketing is representative of contemporary society.

2. Complex language is a switch-off. Brand messages get lost in complex and technical language. Executives in large decision-making units say they have less technical understanding and limited time to read and digest information. Prospects want to speed read easy-to-understand content. Younger executives favour quick, bite-sized messaging eg summaries, visuals, parts 1, 2 and 3 in socials.

3. Lack of authentic evidence challenges credibility. The cautious decision making that precipitated the famous dictum, ‘Nobody got fired for hiring IBM’ still needs to be factored. Beyond the brochureware, corporate video clips and standard sales PPTs, executives want data that supports a credible business case for investment. Content marketing is more persuasive if it’s authentic while case studies and testimonials are most valued if they make a realistic case for products and services. Buyers are often putting their careers ‘on the line’ when they choose a supplier.

4. Unstructured campaigns confuse buyers. B2B marketing campaigns need to structure their processes in a coherent manner. For example, quarterly campaigns which target prospects with relevant and up-to-date information provide the framework to achieve real business objectives around growth, service, sustainability, and diversity.

5. Too little independent data makes buy-in less easy. Too often the credibility of claims for B2B services relies on data that looks questionable or exaggerated to outsiders. Leveraging independent and tailored market research data within B2B marketing content, that is chunked-up and phrased in different ways, can be persuasive to buyers and their executive boards.

6. Long-form communication and engagement drives frustration. Sales and marketing professionals used to be taught to value time with buyers, the more the better. However, today’s buyers are much more comfortable with short, bite-sized information and interactions. This gives prospects time to process information, reflect on it and make the rational decisions that businesses prefer.

Powerful ways to reach B2B decision makers using content marketing

B2B content marketing is a highly effective way to engage with prospects in a world where sales teams are finding it difficult to contact new prospects directly. Content marketing should be:

Engaging. It needs a strong vision and perspective, relevant to today’s business problems, and communicated simply in bite-sized chunks. It needs to appeal to diverse audiences and personas within organisations, and be written using the language the customer understands. SEO is critical, but it depends on the right content being interesting to buyers.

Systematic. It needs a consistent and repeatable plan for on-going campaigns based around key issues. This involves goal setting, data collection, analysis, content development, communication and measurement, with new elements added to enhance each updated version. Measuring the impact with new buyers needs to respect the long buying cycles in B2B services.

Transparent. It needs authenticity and transparency. Prospects should be confident that marketing claims are backed up by authentic case studies and independently verifiable data and insights. By doing so, content marketing shifts to being meaningful and memorable.

The Davies Hickman Partners approach

Davies Hickman specialises in providing independent insights and data to drive content marketing strategies for B2B brands. Over the last 15 years we’ve empowered the marketing and sales leaders of many large global corporates and SMEs. Here are a few examples of how original market research insights can be displayed to appeal to B2B decision makers:

Impactful videos – moving images and short stories using key data
Concise infographics – designing business insight visuals from main research questions
Consistent socials – using brands’ authentic insights and stories consistently in social media
Engaging e-reports and white papers – showing detailed barriers and solutions that B2B sellers need to express logically
Persuasive case studies – addressing concerns, issues and crucial successes with considered messaging
Simple dashboards – displaying research results for further manipulation
Short summary PPTs – creating fresh ideas and decisive outcomes with innovative and strong story telling
Detailed PPTs – including all research results and insight details showing differences for markets, sectors and demographics
Business case enhancement – supporting brands’ proposals and RFPs with data and insights that are credible for decision makers in global business.

At Davies Hickman Partners, Content Marketing Institute Awards finalist 2023, we specialise in B2B content marketing and insight-based selling campaigns. We use our global expert, business and consumer panels, to create insights which drive our clients’ B2B content marketing for customer and prospect workshops, conference presentations, social media, webinars, podcasts, blogs, websites, SEO, internal communications, product development, partner marketing, PR & media articles, email marketing, newsletters and more.