With Tricia Wiles Ruiz, Creative Content Manager, True Influence
Content is just a way to get your message across.
For B2B marketers who fret over every sentence, every word, of their content assets, that statement may seem a little glib. But when you step back and think about it, B2B marketing is really about having long-term conversations with buyers, and that requires more than just detailed business case justifications.
Your prospects have to want to talk to you. In many cases that’s as much about the customer experience as the information you provide. Successful B2B “content” has to find a balance between the two. And it begins with understanding that you don’t need to hard-sell a buyer every time you speak.
B2B Content is Message Plus Delivery
I recently spoke to Rachit Dayal, CMO, APAC, for Merkle, about how B2B enterprise marketers can learn quite a bit from B2C when it comes to engaging prospects with brief, enjoyable “content” experiences.
Merkle is a leading provider of customer experience platform (CXP) solutions, and so Dayal’s team often supports deals that take several months or even years to close. Dayal sees each contact with buying group members as important, but he also believes the value of that exchange can be both emotional and educational.
“We marketers have always known that the message is probably more important than the form,” Dayal told me during our conversation, part of our True Influence Accelerating Revenue series. “But we’ve also known from the Don Draper era that you can take something mediocre and package it well and get results … As long as the customers enjoy that experience, we can call that ‘content’ and that is a positive.”
Content as Defined by Your Audience
The first thing to understand when crafting successful content experiences, particularly for global markets, is that different audiences have different expectations, in terms of both information and delivery.
Dayal is based in Singapore, and in that “Westernized” market buyers expect to get decision-support information, such as whitepapers and case studies. In China and India, “content” tends to be viewed more in terms of in-depth exchanges, typically at live events. Many contacts actually are looking for job advice in those markets, Dayal says. Giving them what they want helps build affinity for Merkle that may tip long buying processes in its favor down the road.
“If you can change emotions, make the brand stand out a bit, that can be a win, particularly at the high funnel,” he said. “Just building a sense that they kind of like you can encourage further content consumption.”
Creativity, Consistency and the Big Picture
My conversation with Dayal covered a wide range of topics, from how to measure content wins to creative ways to tackle webinar fatigue. He’s a big thinker who embraces creativity and experimentation alongside measurement and execution. Dayal’s team typically works on very large deals, which can include 40 or more touchpoints, and he’s quick to point out that many of the innovations we discussed are tailored for that level of complexity. Still, I found a lot of what he said quite thought-provoking.
Leads Don’t Come From “Home Run” Content
Nothing you do in the early stages of a B2B relationship is going to get a key decision-maker to immediately ask for a sales call. So feel free to experiment. Dayal suggested treating your marketing concepts like a “growth hacker” – be open to all ideas, whittle the good ones down to a list of actionable tactics, then allow them time to build momentum. This point resonates with me particularly, since that’s what we’re doing right now at True Influence powered by MeritB2B with this video series.
Nudge, Don’t Push
Dayal says he’s not overly concerned with “content onslaught,” which has resurfaced as an industry talking point with the shift to digital channels during the pandemic. You don’t need to be in front of your prospects every day. Just engage with them in the channels they prefer, and then follow their lead when they tell you they want a little more information.
Quick Conversations are Good Conversations
Dayal is not investing heavily in long-form content these days. In fact, his team tends to create written messaging no more than two or three sentences long. Video clips last about 15 seconds. Classic long-form content is reserved for technical audiences at key conversion points.
Again, Dayal is quick to emphasize that this approach works for long-term campaigns – for shorter turn-around deals, you probably still want to invest in traditional content assets and measure direct response to them. He’s still a believer in A/B/C testing at scale in these use cases.
Measure the Little Things
Dayal says cross-channel attribution is absolutely critical for the modern B2B buyer. He does note that since many social media platforms are limiting the amount of data they share, his team fills in the gaps with other forms of intelligence, including sales and panel conversations with customers. In fact, he suggests that direct feedback from your best customers may be one of the best ways to pitch your out-of-the-box ideas to the rest of the company.
Never Stop Innovating
When webinar attendance began to wane after five quarters of the pandemic, Merkle held hybrid events where some attendees were online, while others gathered in a physical location. Interest was high, and attendees were excited by the change of pace. Dayal has also brought in futurists to provide content since many people are tired of talking about current events. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, he says, both from attendees and Merkle’s corporate partners.
Check Out the Episode!
Be sure to check out our full conversation with Rachit Dayal on your favorite platform.