Content marketing starts with the target audience—but the target is evolving. For example, the IT industry’s target audience was historically the IT manager and decision-maker, like the CIO. But over the past few years, with the development of cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more of the budget for IT related offerings or services is being decided by the business users outside the technology domain. Now you have not just a technical audience where the content style is very technology and features based, but an audience that is more business based and is more interested in the business benefits, total cost of ownership, efficiency gains, and how the technology will enable and innovate the business. If the audience includes the CEO, the interest is around growing the business, making it more profitable, or how to internationalize or globalize the business. The “conversation” is more business oriented with the strength of the technology being an assumption.
"It is important for the content marketing to be relevant to where the buyer is in their decision-making journey"
Content marketing is only successful if it engages its target audience—which now requires content that is of value to both the technical specialist and the business decision-maker. Plus, with the ease of searching and finding content digitally, it must be relevant AND timely, i.e. it must be important and valuable to your audience right now. To succeed, the content marketing function must use all the tools at their disposal—marketing and data analytics, internal collaboration with business subject matter experts, and leveraging the product and service development teams to develop content that is relevant to business users and capitalizes on opportunities to create brand exposure for products and services.
More and more, the conversation starts online and the buyer moves through several stages of their journey before they engage with vendors. The buyer researches the market, educates themselves, and considers input from other buyers and/or users—all without face-to-face interaction. Brand awareness and trust is built through digital interactions in the beginning of the decision-making process. To capture the buyer’s attention during this phase, it is important for the content marketing to be relevant to where the buyer is in their decision-making journey—i.e. are they in the early stages of understanding, or have they already identified a short list of vendors to explore further. But content marketers aren’t completely in the dark—through marketing data and analytics, content marketers can gain insight into where the buyer is in the sales cycle.
The social media trend is also now infiltrating B2B, though it is not as strong and dominant as in B2C. But again, the lines are blurring. B2B buyers are also consumers which is creating consumerization of the B2B world. Historically, it’s been believed that B2B decision making units, buying centers, and people were all very rational. They are doing their job, they work for a company and they decide what's best for the company and that is how content has been driven. However, more and more, one realizes that these people are not purely rational employees of a company, but human beings with emotions and feelings. They engage in social media, they interact with their peers and sometimes it is business related and sometimes it is private. Social media technology can be used to increase outreach and live interaction as well as gather data on the “stickiness” of content. As a human being, the buyer is engaging with a brand throughout their day—through all types of interactions and media channels—and are forming their view of that brand. Therefore, social interaction is becoming increasingly influential as well.
To be competitive, you must have responsive web designs, web presentations, and user experiences online that cater to the device that your audience is using so …when I access the content on a smartphone, website, tablet or the desktop—it must all look appropriate.”
Essentially, the analog world is becoming digitalized and this is creating digital disruption. The ability to capture data is becoming pervasive.
I believe digital disruption is huge and will probably be as big—maybe bigger—than what we have experienced with the Internet.