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Research, trends, insights and commentary on how B2B companies in niche markets use content marketing to raise brand visibility and generate qualified leads

Why Unbiased, Impartial and Objective Matter in B2B Content Marketing
Posted on May 24, 2014

Companies have always limited credibility when it comes to hawking their own wares. Even branded content that would appear to be informational and educational in nature will likely be assumed to have a hidden agenda.

It’s a different story, however, when the messages and content are coming from independent third-party sources.

That is certainly the case with B2B content marketing. The value of a whitepaper, eBook or other content asset naturally diminishes if it is perceived by the target audience to be nothing more than thinly-veiled marketing collateral. That explains why third-party gated content assets tend to generate significantly more downloads, and also produce higher-quality leads, on average, than company-branded content assets.

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That is not to say that branded content assets can’t be successful. Some companies have been extremely effective in utilizing in-house content creation to rise above the noise and fill their pipelines with qualified leads. The more high-quality content a company can produce and distribute the better, and marketers should strive to publish as much of their own relevant and compelling content as possible.

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Harnessing the Power of Precision Content
Posted on April 24, 2014

Precision is a word we often hear in the context of modern-day military operations. News coverage brings a continuous stream of commentary about “precision bombing” campaigns. Officials often boast about the “pinpoint accuracy” of bombs dropped from Nighthawk stealth fighters and Mach 6 spy drones. In fact, precision seems to be the defining word of any war in which bombs and missiles are programmed with the exact coordinates of their targets and guided there by GPS satellites.

Precision is the quality of being accurate and exact. Precision tools are used for accurate and exact measurements. Precision components adhere to a set of accurate and exact standards. Precision clocks keep accurate and exact time.

The bestselling business book Precision Marketing, which our CEO authored nearly a decade ago, explored how, by utilizing the right set of technology platforms and data analytics capabilities, companies can deliver “accurate and exact” marketing messages to consumers at a narrow customer segment or even an individual customer level. Precision marketing has since moved to the mainstream, with the enabling technologies having rapidly evolved and proliferated in the intervening years.

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Now with the growing emphasis on inbound marketing and content marketing comes a related concept. It’s one that we at Starfleet Media call precision content.

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Manufacturers Jump on the Content Marketing Bandwagon
Posted on March 16, 2014

When it comes to B2B content marketing for demand generation purposes, enterprise software companies have always been ahead of the curve. We should know. After all, members of our team have managed highly successful content marketing programs on behalf of hundreds of leading software providers. Our CEO, in particular, who on Wikipedia and elsewhere is credited with coining the term precision marketing (what we do best!), previously held leadership positions at Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE:HHS), and Gleanster Research. Both firms focus exclusively on the content marketing and demand generation needs of enterprise software companies.

Recognizing the growing effectiveness of precision marketing using content marketing and inbound tactics, as opposed to relying on traditional marketing techniques (advertising, trade shows, cold calling, etc.), companies in other B2B industry sectors have been playing catch up. Manufacturing is just one sector where companies on the whole have been shifting more of their marketing dollars to content marketing, publishing gated white papers, eBooks and other content assets to try to increase website traffic, raise brand visibility and generate qualified leads. They are not necessarily doing so as effectively as possible, however.

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A new research report, published by the Content Marketing Institute and sponsored by Oracle Marketing Cloud, looks specifically at how content marketing has been gathering steam in manufacturing companies over the past couple of years. The results mirror what we’re now also seeing in multiple other non-software categories.

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The report, called B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America, provides a number of interesting insights. It shows, for example, that when compared with other B2B marketers, manufacturing marketers are less likely to have a documented content marketing strategy (21% versus 44%). Manufacturing marketers also rate their companies lower in terms of content marketing effectiveness (30% versus 42%). At the same time, 70% of manufacturing marketers report that they are creating more content now than they did one year ago and nearly half (46%) say that they intend to increase their content marketing budgets over the next 12 months, compared to 58% of B2B marketers overall that plan to increase spending over the next 12 months.

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More B2B Marketers Customize, License and Repurpose Content Assets
Posted on February 19, 2014

Oracle Eloqua just published new research pertaining to B2B content marketing. One key finding revolves around the need to customize content marketing to different stages of the buyer journey and measure the results. According to the research, few B2B marketers currently excel, or are even performing sufficiently well, in these areas. The research suggests that marketers understand the need to improve their performance, however, and are working hard to do so.

The study further validates a trend that we’ve seen for many years and have also written about extensively in books (e.g., Precision Marketing: The New Rules for Attracting, Retaining, and Leveraging Profitable Customers) and articles: that marketers are leveraging technology with increasing effectiveness to deliver more targeted marketing content. According to the research, approximately 6 in 10 respondents are currently delivering content based on behavioral patterns. Of course, no behavioral pattern is easier to detect than when people search on particular keywords that speak to their desire to research – and, ultimately, make – a specific purchase decision. Serving up relevant content assets based on that search criteria is the basis for any inbound marketing strategy, and it is how Smart Decision Guides “get found” by the right decision makers.

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Another relevant trend includes the repurposing of existing content assets, with 63% of survey respondents reporting that they engage in this practice. According to these marketers, the average content asset gets repurposed 2-5 times. With perpetual licensing rights to a Smart Decision Guide, marketers can repurpose the content in blogs, newsletters, social media and through multiple other channels.

Approximately 44% of survey respondents indicate that their biggest challenge with B2B content marketing is actual content production. With both quantity and quality being a major challenge, it’s not surprising that a growing number of B2B marketers are becoming increasingly reliant on commissioning or simply licensing third-party content assets – which, as is the case with Smart Decision Guides, have the added benefit of providing increased credibility, given the unbiased nature of the content, typically resulting in significantly more downloads (and higher quality downloads) than internally-produced, company-branded eBooks and other content assets.

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Calculating the ROI on B2B Content Marketing
Posted on January 15, 2014

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” the management guru Peter Drucker famously observed. Much has been written about the need to measure the ROI on content marketing. The challenge of doing so can be significant, however, particularly in the world of B2B.

One problem is that content marketing campaigns can take many different forms, have very different objectives, and be measured using many different performance metrics. Another problem is that the results of the campaigns are often spread out over time, and not all performance outcomes (e.g., brand awareness) are easily quantifiable.

Last week, Forbes ran an interesting article entitled Will the Content Marketing Trends Continue? It Depends On Proving Your ROI. The author offers a useful example of a ROI calculation on — in this case — a white paper. The example (reproduced here) shows some of the costs a B2B marketer is likely to incur as part of the investment on the front end as well as the expected ROI in terms of the metrics that would seem to matter most.

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The calculation seems reasonably accurate. Having created and run inbound marketing campaigns around dozens of white papers, we know that $23,500 is a good ballpark estimate on the cost side of the equation. For smaller companies, that represents a hefty investment, however, and it’s more money than many of them are willing to gamble. And while a 2.3x ROI is certainly nothing to sneeze at, we think B2B marketers can do a lot better.

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How “Vendor-Neutral” Content Influences B2B Purchase Decisions
Posted on December 20, 2013

A new benchmark report, The 2014 B2B Buyer Landscape, came out this week. The report focuses, in part, on how content assets like eBooks, white papers and infographics influence buyers’ purchase decisions.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (82%) of senior executives who took the survey that served as the basis for the research said that content is a big driver of their buying decisions. The report also found that two-thirds (66%) of buyers agree that the winning vendor in a competitive buying situation provided higher-quality content than did the others. Most survey respondents also agreed that the winning vendor’s content was more conducive to building a business case for making the purchase.

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According to the report, winning vendors deliver a better mix of content appropriate for each stage of the purchasing process. “This variety enables the vendor to touch on as many issues as possible that may capture a potential buyer’s interest in a solution,” write the authors, who note that vendors have to “hit the right chords with potential buyers” when it comes to content production before those buyers are willing to take further steps.

At the same time, however, nearly half of survey respondents neither agree nor disagree with the statement that the winning vendor provided more content during the purchasing process. This finding suggests that when it comes to content assets, it isn’t necessarily a case of the more the merrier.

In truth, quality trumps quantity. Companies should strive to feature at least a couple valuable pieces of content on their websites, and more than half of respondents said they viewed 2-4 pieces of content from the winning vendor. That said, one completely unbiased and highly relevant content asset like a Smart Decision Guide is all that is required to fuel a successful content marketing campaign.

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New Research Highlights the Need for Outsourced Content Marketing
Posted on November 15, 2013

A new research study further validates what those of us who have been in the B2B content marketing business for many years already know: that 1.) Content marketing is becoming the primary workhorse for building brand awareness and generating qualified leads; and 2.) A majority of B2B companies are struggling to create content assets that their prospects actually want to download and read.

According to the joint study, conducted by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, 93% of B2B companies now rely on content marketing, including eBooks, whitepapers, infographics and research reports, for much of their brand-building and lead generation activities. In fact, B2B companies are now spending an average of one-third (33%) of their marketing budgets on content marketing, up from 26% in 2011, and 54% of them plan to increase their content marketing budgets next year.

According to the research, the most successful B2B marketers are spending a much larger percentage (39%) of their budgets on content marketing than their less successful peers (16%).

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For most B2B companies, a primary goal of creating and distributing compelling content assets is to grow the sales pipeline. In fact, some 93% of the most successful B2B content marketers cite lead generation as the goal of their content marketing efforts, compared with 64% of their less effective peers. The study cites brand awareness, customer acquisition and thought leadership as other top goals of B2B content marketing.

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