By Josh Baez, Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing
It’s no secret today’s buyers are overwhelmed. The average consumer experiences tremendous marketing fatigue, and with the proliferation of available marketing channels, content formats, and competition, buyers are bombarded from every angle—and the experience isn’t always a positive one. When 70% of buying decisions are made before ever talking to a salesperson, are we, as marketers, enabling those decisions or hindering them?
The differences between companies are growing narrower and narrower, and organizations can no longer rely solely on their features to push a decision forward. These days, experience matters more than ever. And the onus of that experience is beginning to lean on marketing far more heavily. At the same time, marketing is continuing to take on more of the buyer’s journey than ever before, and today, marketers spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to get the attention of the buyer. But have the outcomes justified the cost? How are marketers encouraging engagement? And what happens once they capture it?
New research from Heinz Marketing and Uberflip uncovers how today’s B2B marketing leaders think about content, perceive its importance in their organization, and how the most successful marketing professionals utilize content to accelerate the buyer’s journey.
To better understand how today’s B2B marketing leaders accelerate the buyer’s journey with content, Heinz Marketing and Uberflip conducted a research study in June 2019.
The following response data comes from 283 B2B marketing leaders. The respondents hold a variety of different marketing responsibilities; come from a variety of industries, including financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing; and their companies range in size from SMB organizations to large enterprises.
In our research, we uncovered the following insights:
- Content remains highly important for demand, but it’s widely ineffective. 82% of B2B marketing leaders agree content is important to achieve their marketing goals. Yet 1 in 2 respondents believe their content is ineffective. This is a concerning finding considering all of the channels we use as marketers (email, paid ads, social) lead to content.
- Personalization is a priority for marketing leaders, but most efforts to personalize have not been executed effectively. 70% of B2B marketing leaders report it’s important their prospects receive personalized content. However, personalization has been tricky. Over 50% of respondents believe their efforts to personalize their content have been ineffective.
- While all roads lead to content, often the journey is cut short. 42% of marketers see good results by suggesting additional activities for a lead to take once they land on their site. Unfortunately, the vast majority of respondents see mixed results and varied levels of implementation. A whopping 20% of marketers don’t currently make any suggestions.
- Creating digital content destinations is challenging for marketing teams. Only 1 in 2 marketing leaders say they are able to create landing pages, blog posts, webpages and other digital content destinations easily. 36% report they can create digital content destinations, but doing so takes time or the help of IT. And 8% can’t, but would like to.
- Marketers crave better data to improve the ways they personalize content, create new content, and manage the entire content experience. Data drives everything, yet it’s the third most deficient capability in today’s marketing programs. However, 1 in 2 marketers wish to improve their current data capabilities, and 1 in 3 wish to add new, greater capabilities altogether.
Most Content isn’t Effective
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the effectiveness of your content? While 82% of B2B marketing leaders agree that content is important to achieve their goals, when asked how effective respondents’ own content is in helping them achieve their goals, 1 in 2 respondents report that their content is just somewhat effective or not effective at all.
The Technology Industry Sees the Widest Content Effectiveness Gap
Of the four primary industries that we surveyed, the technology industry saw the widest gap between importance and actual effectiveness of -43.1 points—also showing the lowest effectiveness score of the sample (29.3%).
Why could this be?
The technology industry is one that is incredibly fast-moving and noisy. Trends come and go in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, the content you’re writing about now is already old news by the time it gets published.
Where financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare move much slower by comparison, technology content can and needs to be written, produced, and utilized more quickly in order for organizations to stay competitive in an increasingly over-saturated industry.
Money Alone isn’t a Sure-Fire Solution
It’s easy to think that simply spending more money to generate demand is enough to bridge the effectiveness divide. But in reality, money has little relevance over the effectiveness of your content in your demand generation program.
When asked what percentage of the marketing budget is typically spent generating demand, respondents came back with a variety of answers. 41% of all respondents spend between 51% and 75% of their marketing budget generating demand, but, when looking at respondents by level of content effectiveness, a much more interesting story appears—one that indicates that success can be found at all levels, so long as the right strategy is in play.
More isn’t always more
We saw that a minority 4% of respondents with effective content spend less than a quarter of their budget generating demand. On the other hand, nearly 1 in 5 respondents with ineffective content spend over 75% of their budget to generate demand.
Simply spending money isn’t enough to dictate whether your content will be effective. To reliably find success, content needs to be created, produced, and utilized
Deficiencies, Improvements, and New Additions
When respondents were asked about the most deficient or lacking capabilities of their content marketing program, we saw these four challenges as the most popular responses:
- Our content isn’t personalized (50%)
- We don’t have enough content to support our marketing program (36%)
- Our content lacks variety (32%)
- We lack actionable data and insights to know what content is being engaged with (32%)
The ability to personalize was then ranked as the number one capability respondents wish to improve. This is followed by the need to improve data and reporting capabilities.
Lastly, we asked respondents what feature or capability they most wish to add to their current content marketing program, and of the five options available, the need for greater insights and data rose well-above the rest.
Data Drives Everything
Modern marketers rely on data above all else. Better data allows us to act smarter, faster, more strategically. It helps us make better decisions and gives us the insight to know what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do to improve.
While a greater need to personalize ranks as the most deficient and most desired capability to improve, greater data is the most desired capability to add. This enables organizations—not just marketers—to more effectively personalize their content, create new content, and promote that content to their audience in a meaningful, impactful way.
Data drives everything. And for organizations looking to improve, understanding one’s own data capabilities (and limitations) is a great place to start.
Without Data, Effective Personalization isn’t Easy to Find
Personalization, like any other tactic, isn’t always easy to do effectively. Lacking the right resources, time, technology, or expertise can make efforts to personalize much harder to scale and much more difficult to execute. Just 46% of respondents believe their personalization efforts have been effective.
Personalization is Worth the Investment
As marketers, we’ve always been told to “know our audience.” And when you make the effort to truly know and understand them—to place yourself in their shoes to understand where they’re coming from, what they’re looking for, and what they want to achieve—the success you find will come back to you in spades.
Personalization facilitates relationships. It shows your audience that you not only know them, but that you care about their outcomes. Today, successful sales and marketing relies on knowing your audience to a much greater degree—to understand where they’re coming from, what they’re looking for, and what they want to achieve. And today’s buyer has come to expect that same level of attention.
Modern Buyers Expect a Modern Experience
The differences between products are narrowing. And today, buyer experience matters more than ever. While organizations race to beat their competition to market, they put the experience of the buyer, of discovering and consuming content, by the wayside.
Just because you build it, doesn’t mean customers will come.
With services like Amazon, Netflix, and Google putting personalization and experience at the forefront of design, B2B buyers (who, we tend to forget, are also consumers of these, and many other, B2C solutions) have come to expect a similar experience from B2B organizations. And as buyer expectations continue to rise for a personalized, intuitive experience, B2B organizations have fallen short—unable to keep pace.
The Content Experience Relies On Strong Foundations
By now, we’ve discussed a number of factors related to finding content success; and from importance and effectiveness, to budget and capabilities, to experience and personalization, to data and reporting; it’s clear there’s no singular make-or-break point for a successful content marketing program.
Instead, these pieces are built atop each other—foundations laid one over another—and when one piece is in need of repair, it can cause a ripple effect throughout the rest of the content experience structure.
Content is important—that much is true—but for it to be effective, marketers must be able to give their audience more. And successful marketers know it’s not just about money spent or content topic or level of personalization alone. Instead, to find success, marketers must look at their entire content experience holistically to identify where they’re strong as well as where they’re weak so they can continue to add to what they’re good at and improve what they’re lacking.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The new marketing standard is all about the buyer experience. The new standard is centered around a buyer experience that’s built around ease of access and discovery, frictionless consumption, personalized and relevant suggestions, and curated engagement paths—a buyer experience designed to delight, engage, enable, and empower better decisions.
By now, nearly anyone can write about nearly anything, and as the differences from one organization to another continue to grow narrower, the experience of the buyer is becoming the key point of difference. Buyers are growing increasingly overwhelmed in a landscape saturated with competition, and now, the onus is on marketing to enable them with the content they need to make better, smarter decisions faster.
Success relies on marketers being able to think differently about their buyers and their experiences; to think differently about how and where content is utilized in the buyer’s journey; to think differently about the various tools and technologies at their disposal.
Because marketing success isn’t simply about capturing the attention of the buyer—it’s about what happens next.
If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to learn more, download the full research report here. And be sure to let us know your own experience with content in the comments!