In Content Marketing, It’s Not What You Know — It’s What You Know About Your Audience

Marketers need to know something about their target audience and they need to know how to paint an accurate picture of their ideal customers.

Our crazy upside-down world offers plenty of evidence that, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But while that might get you $26 million worth of Instagram endorsement deals, in content marketing, you have to know something — as well as someone.

In fact, you need to know something about someone — specifically, your target audience. With that in mind, it’s worth considering the tools and techniques we use to paint an accurate picture of our ideal customers.

Established Client Interviews

Though you’ll hear many an expert talk about prospect personas as the ideal starting point, for most of us, it’s easier to establish a baseline by interviewing our existing clients to find out what motivated them to seek out a solution. You’ll also want to understand what differentiated you in their minds from your competitors — and from other possible solutions.

That information should form the backbone of your content marketing efforts, your broader marketing efforts, and even your sales team’s approach.

Interviewing Prospects and New Clients

Naturally, you’re going to want to start your interviews with your best clients. That makes sense on one level, because an established and long-standing relationship will make the ask easier and a positive response more likely. But low-hanging fruit has its limitations, including faded memories of long-ago meetings not necessarily being as useful as we’d like. It’s worthwhile to look deeper into your client pool.

As you talk to newer clients, the goal of each interview should be to determine

  • What pain the client is experiencing
  • The (negative) impact that pain point is causing their business
  • The risks posed by trying something new
  • How they perceived you vs. your competitors

These are also great questions for prospects who you have lost, assuming you forged enough of a relationship during the courtship to gain a few more minutes of their time. In fact, you should encourage your sales team to ask lost prospects  questions around, “Why not us?”

Prospect Personas for Content Marketing

All of this interview information can be combined with basic knowledge you have about your clients, prospects and targets to create the outlines of your prospect personas. This will include things like target industries and typical roles for your prospects. The rest of the persona-building process is a topic for a separate article, but you’ll certainly want to flesh out your ideal prospects in as much detail as possible. Which brings us to our next critical layer: the human element.

The Human Element in B2B Content Marketing

The human element is, arguably, more important than any other consideration. We’re not talking here about the smarmy tendency of some salespeople to research individual prospects’ alma maters and open a meeting with something along the lines of, “How ‘bout them Huskies!”

There is value in connecting on that very individual level. But first, we simply want to remember that our prospects, even though we are B2B marketers, are human. They have human concerns in the office, just as they do at home and on weekends. Getting too personal can be creepy, but I’m not sure there is such a thing as too human. Strive to make that human element a part of your marketing.

Don’t Forget the Data

It might seem a hard shift from the human element to data, but quite the opposite is true. Data is what gives us the ability to focus our marketing much more tightly than our B2C brethren often can. And that focus is another way we can humanize our message. We’re not trying to be all things to all people. Let the data guide you toward the areas where you can be more human and connect more completely with your audience’s needs and their (perhaps unexpressed) concerns surrounding risk and reward.

Data can take the form of general quantitative data, like how popular was a particular piece of content we’ve created. And it can take a more personalized form in basing upcoming touchpoints with prospects based on the content they’ve interacted with most recently. You’ll want to combine as many data sources as possible to fill in both the foreground and background of the picture you’re painting.

The Insider’s Guide to Strategic B2B Webinar Campaigns

Webinars have been increasingly used as an interactive, visual form of content marketing, both educational and promotional. In fact, about 60% of B2B marketing teams make webinars a key part of their content strategy, as it’s easy to control the message that is communicated to your customers. That’s where strategic B2B webinar campaigns come in.

Webinars have been increasingly used as an interactive, visual form of content marketing, both educational and promotional. In fact, about 60% of B2B marketing teams make webinars a key part of their content strategy, as it’s easy to control the message that is communicated to your customers.

However, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is working; engagement rates for most webinar watchers are pitifully low, dipping to 15% in some cases. Getting your audience interested and invested in your message has always been a challenge, but capturing their attention is essential for growing conversion rates.

An unengaged audience is not likely to convert into customers. So you need to ensure that your watchers are actually listening and interacting with your webinar, especially while it’s in progress. Here are a few strategic B2B webinar pointers on how to do that.

Understand Who You Are Talking to in an Audience

Knowing your audience through and through is always the first step to a successful marketing strategy, and it’s no different when it comes to webinars. Using a webinar as a B2B marketing tactic is going to be different than a traditional approach, simply because of the kind of people who will be watching.

B2B customers are not your typical day-to-day consumer. B2B audiences are more motivated by relationships with a business and the measurable value that a product or service provides than saving money or buying the newest thing in the market.

In many cases, the people you are marketing to are upper-level executives who are highly knowledgeable in their industry (and, therefore, less easily swayed by standard pitches). Additionally, you will likely have to appeal to multiple people within an organization, rather than just one, as you would in B2C marketing. It follows that your webinar content should be highly focused on providing top-notch information and clearly demonstrate how your product or service will have a significant impact on the customer’s business.

Invite Your Audience’s Active Participation

Webinars must be interactive if they are going to drive engagement. If your customers wanted to tune in only to learn more about your company, then they could choose to do so from umpteen other channels, the simplest of them being your website. They choose to participate in a webinar because it is one way to interact with your business on a personal level while contemplating whether your product would work for them.

According to Bizibl’s “2017 Webinar Benchmark Report,” the most effective engagement tool during a webinar is a Q&A session between the speaker and the audience. You can collect these questions before the webinar begins through email or social media, or in real time on the webinar platform, which probably lets the audience post questions via a live chat. Answering these questions spontaneously is akin to creating personalized content or providing individual customer service.

Credit: Bizibl Marketing

A webinar should not be the same as a seminar, per se. Just listening to a speaker drone on for an hour (even when they are an interesting orator) can get fairly boring. Webinars provide you and the audience with the opportunity to have meaningful discourse, so make sure that your program is set up to promote two-way conversation.

Show, Don’t Tell

In general, most people tend to be visual learners, especially when it comes to marketing. Eight out of 10 customers would prefer to watch a video demonstration of a product, rather than read about it on a website. Plus, studies have found that when people learn online using visual aids such as video, they are far more likely to remember the information shared therein.

Again, show your customers exactly what you are talking about with live demos, rather than just explaining what your product can do. A webinar solution like ClickMeeting lets you use real-time screen sharing, file sharing, polls, private chats with simultaneous translation, and various collaboration tools to help guide your customers through a step-by-step process that helps them achieve their goals.

Credit: ClickMeeting

By sharing insightful tips and techniques live on webinars, your business can establish itself as a credible resource and an authority in your industry. Top B2B decision-makers are highly influenced by this type of hands-on thought leadership; an Edelman survey found that 48% of C-Suite executives cited educational content as the reason they did business with a brand.

Have a Plan Before, During and After

The entire process of creating a webinar as a part of your marketing campaign must be carefully planned from start to finish. First, you must determine why you’re putting together a webinar in the first place:

  • Is it to establish authority by discussing a technical topic?
  • Does it aim to educate your customers by explaining a complicated process?
  • Is it focused on brand awareness and top-of-the-funnel growth?
  • Is it a push for higher conversion rates from already engaged consumers?

Once your goals have been established, there must be a plan in place to ensure that your webinar brings in positive results. The number of attendees can vary greatly depending on a few small details. For example, people are far more likely (Opens as a PDF) to watch a webinar in the middle of the week (Wednesdays and Thursdays are best). Also, more people will attend a live webinar if they are informed of it a week or so before, rather than further in advance.

Credit: ON24

You also want to monitor audience sentiment before, during and after a webinar. Tracking ROI from marketing campaigns in general is always a challenge, but measuring results from webinars is the most difficult of all. Be sure that your team knows how to properly translate analytical data from the event and that they have the right tools to do so. Look into audience development tools, such as AmpLive, in conjunction with Google Analytics and on-site event tracking software for a better chance at determining ROI from webinars.

Once your webinar is complete, you can make the videos available as part of a resource section of your website, as well as on your YouTube (or Instagram) channel. Digital marketing and competitive intelligence solutions can do this effectively. (Disclosure: the author works for SEMrush, which is one of these tools.)

Video marketing has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and the engagement numbers are staggering. Branded content video viewership has grown by 258% on Facebook, and 64% of consumers have bought an item after they viewed a video on social media. What’s more, webpages and social media posts with video will keep a user’s attention 2.6 times longer than those with just text or images, thus increasing engagement levels significantly.

Over to You

Webinars provide B2B companies with the unique opportunity to engage with audiences through an interactive and informative process. No other marketing platform can provide something quite this in-depth. However, this does not guarantee success: webinars require a lot of strategic planning.

Make sure that you understand who your audience is and the type of content they are looking for. Fully integrate webinars into your marketing mix. Set goals and put in place tools and systems that will help you achieve your target ROI. Remember, webinars should be informative and educational, but they should also be engaging and fun. Keep things interesting by soliciting and answering questions. And do throw in a liberal helping of humor while you’re at it.

Make Your B2B Content Marketing Better

If you’ve been underwhelmed by the results of your B2B content marketing, it’s time to re-evaluate your efforts. There may be relatively simple solutions that will improve your results dramatically.

If you’ve been underwhelmed by the results of your B2B content marketing, it’s time to re-evaluate your efforts. There may be relatively simple solutions that will improve your results dramatically.

Is Your B2B Content Marketing Spread Too Thin?

insight into content marketingIt’s always better to do fewer things well than more things poorly. So if you’re on every social media platform known to man, are you sure you’re doing all you can to maximize your return on each? (And it may be time to give up on that MySpace page, regardless …) If you’re not sure, consider picking out the one or two channels on which you’re strongest or on which your team is most comfortable, and doubling down. If you improve your results quickly you’ll know your wide net wasn’t as effective as it should have been and a more targeted approach will yield better results.

Of course, if you have the resources to manage all the channels on which you’re active, that’s another problem entirely, but one that should be dealt with even more quickly.

Are You Dancing as Fast as You Can?

Similarly, if every publishing deadline feels like a race against the clock, chances are the quality of your content isn’t as high as it could be. Slow down, publish less frequently, but publish higher quality content. Your audience will thank you — perhaps not literally, but they will reward you with much higher engagement.

If there’s no there there, your audience isn’t going to stick around just to be polite. Your content needs to address a need (theirs) and make it clear that you’re an expert in that area. If either of those elements is missing, or if you’re selling and serving your own interests first, you’ll never get the engagement you need for your content marketing to succeed.

Are You Talking to Me?

Or are you talking to everyone? If you’re talking to everyone, there’s a good chance that no one is listening. So create your content with one client (or prospect) in mind.

I mean this quite literally. If you have the budget and time, do proper persona research. If not, create content as if you’re in a conversation with one person. Answer their questions, address their specific concerns, and when you’re done, review the piece to make it more broadly applicable – but only broadly enough to apply to other prospects in the same position.

If you need to appeal to a broader audience, break your content development down by audience segment and create content specific to each. This doesn’t have to double or triple or quadruple your workload. Chances are you’ll be able to take the one piece you’ve developed and adapt it relatively quickly to speak to each audience segment’s needs.

Are You Working the Numbers?

Finally, don’t ignore your numbers. It’s so easy to gather great data from nearly all of our marketing activities that there’s no reason not to be making adjustments based on the trends you see over time. At the very least, you should have Google Analytics installed and be reviewing reports monthly.

If a formerly productive social media channel isn’t getting results anymore, use the data to try to understand whether that’s because if your content, because of your competition, or because the channel is losing currency. (Have I mentioned MySpace?)

A solid process won’t guarantee results and it won’t necessarily make B2B content marketing “easy,” whatever that means. But it will help you to work toward steady, incremental improvements in your results. With that as your goal, you’ll always be pointed in the right direction.