July 15, 2019 Michael Mayday
Marketers have seen drastic changes to their field over the past several years. Social media and new digital distribution methods have increased both the volume and cadence of content available to prospects and clients alike. As a consequence, B2B content consumption habits have changed. According to Demand Gen Report research, 45% of B2B buyers spend more time researching purchases and use more sources to research and evaluate investments.
The same research suggests that this increase in time is also chaining how buyers expect to consume content. Buyers, for example, expect more personalized experiences. They also expect the vendor has experience or knowledge of their particular industry. In short: if B2B buyers are going to wade through more content when considering services, that content better damn well be relevant.
These digital-age demands put marketers in an odd position. They need to provide highly-relevant content that’s accurate, scales and addresses audience needs. Marketing teams, out of necessity, will likely need to operate more like newsrooms if they want to engage with clients. This doesn’t mean you need to invest in a press quite yet, but it does mean marketing teams need to rethink how they generate and organize content.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great examples of B2B organizations that provide news and content in a way that speaks to audiences. Let’s take a look at a few now.
HubSpot as a (News) Service
HubSpot provides a variety of services for marketing, sales and service teams. After all, the company made a name for itself as a leader in inbound marketing, where marketers pull audiences to their site through compelling content.
Since HubSpot orients itself around helping marketers generate and measure content, it has built a great model for addressing audience pain points. First, it runs and maintains HubSpot Academy, which trains marketers on the basics of inbound marketing. Second, it has a large library of research and guides marketers can use whenever they find themselves in need of help. Third, they have a dynamic blog addressing its core audiences (marketing, sales and services) in addition to its “News & Trends” category, which covers developments in the marketing world.
HubSpot’s blog content succeeds for two big reasons.
First, the company helpfully divides its content into four main categories — marketing, sales, service and “News & Trends.” These categories, matching to its main areas of expertise, help content writers focus pieces for specific audiences and, more importantly, guides readers to the correct category.
Second, HubSpot’s content succeeds because it acts as a newsroom. Its News & Trends section? It’s not just for show. It’s hyper-focused on marketing’s going-ons and tries to stay as objective as it can. It even has a disclaimer stating what readers can expect from the blog. By adopting the ethos of a newsroom, a company-driven blog can gain credibility with readers and cement itself as a leader.
Trend Setting with Heinz Marketing
Not everyone has the resources of HubSpot. But you don’t need to be a company the size of HubSpot to run a successful content program. Heinz Marketing, for example, runs its “Daily B2B Sales & Marketing Insights” blog (full disclosure: we’ve partnered with Heinz Marketing in the past). The theme? Well, insights for sales and marketing. Daily.
But it’s how Heinz Marketing manages its blog that makes it a big content provider. It runs a few blog series, such as “How I Work” and “B2B Reads.” It also produces a podcast, “Sales Pipeline Radio,” to pull in repeat visitors. Here, a constant, steady drip of content that has an assigned day helps bring in and retain visitors.
Another advantage the Heinz Marketing blog has is that it’s news with a view. Podcasts guests provide opinions. Bloggers curate marketing news and offer tips — such as apps suggestions and marketing best practices — they’ve found helpful. As a news center, it can summarize, inform and provide intimate perspectives that’d be hard for its audience to come by elsewhere – and there’s a lot of value in that.
The Data Nerd & Curator
Priceonomics is a few things. It’s a blog, but it’s also a content marketing tutor. It provides a variety of services, but it mostly helps organizations articulate great, gripping stories in the vein of FiveThirtyEight.
In addition to just being a pretty cool outlet, Priceonomics positions itself in two powerful ways. First, the company’s blog is, essentially, a demo. Stories are generated based on the company’s methodology and by its own customers. Second, the stories on its blog provide highly relevant, informative articles about topics that regularly filter through the news.
Ever wonder about the cost of IT outages? Splunk, a Priceonomics customer, provides the answer. Which state has the worst eating habits? ConsumerProtect, another customer, has the answer. Enabling and sharing those great customer stories is a fantastic way to inform, entertain and introduce your products and services.
The Fundamentals of Building Your Own News Machine
Right. So you have a few great examples of what’s possible when you put your mind to content. But how do you go from a typical business blog to news center? Well, there’re a few steps, and it’s going to take a lot of experimentation. Here’s how you can get started.
Draw up a mission statement
Yes, it sounds a bit cliché, but having a mission statement for your organization’s content production focuses your work on your audience’s needs, develops standards for your content and helps to guide decisions. A mission statement also fundamentally helps you to build trust with your audience.
Trust is a critical element for any content provider. If your audience doesn’t believe you, or is skeptical of you, then you have bigger issues at hand. It helps to set expectations, which is why HubSpot’s disclaimer for its News & Trends blog is such a good idea.
Explore a few content models
If you’re just starting out, or if you’re a small business, you’ll likely have limited time and resources to dedicate to a news center. And that’s fine. What you can do is focus on one aspect you want to build out and serialize it. For example, Heinz Marketing regularly produces podcasts — podcasts can be produced in advance and trickled out over time. Or, even, you can pick a day of the week when you’ll publish company news, updates or other items of signifgance.
Other models may be born out of the nature of your industry. For example, Valeo, an auto supplier, regularly produces webinar guides that educate its audience (mechanics) on the intricacies of new car parts. Other organizations, like Infopro Digital, need to keep audiences informed of new laws affecting their industry. They did so by bringing experts together to discuss breaking news, like GDPR. Just remember: you don’t have to break the news, but you do have to speak to industry changes.
Once you have a regular cadence of content, start experimenting. Go ahead and play with new techniques, mediums and posts to find those sweet spots your audience craves. Is your content primarily the written word? Try a podcast. Have a few insightful coworkers? Set up a panel webinar series.
Whatever you do, keep your audience in mind and make sure your content provides them with something valuable — whether that’s just simple information or a guide on how to improve your business’s practices. And also, realize on-demand content provides great long-term returns, especially if that content covers a niche pain point (e.g., HubSpot Academy).