How B-to-B businesses fail to engage customers with content marketing and three ways to change that

Have you ever been to a party and been cornered by another guest who talks incessantly about himself (or herself)?

The person drones on and on about their job, their vacations, their kids, and never once asks about you or your family! You might even know each other – and still, the person does not ask one question about you. Not one!

We’ve all been there at one point or another.

How irritating! You vow never to be cornered by that person again.

According to Forrester Research, most companies in the b-to-b space are doing the same thing: talking about themselves, which leads to little engagement with customers or prospects.

What do they talk about in their content marketing? Advertising Age interviewed Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester. She says that the majority of the b-to-b content is centered on the company, its products, services and the awards they’ve won.

Hark back to my example of the cocktail party and being cornered by the annoying guest. Do you think it’s any different for prospective buyers and customers?

Online content that does nothing but talk about the company, its products and awards does not speak to the issues that customers and prospective buyers are attempting to solve (it also does not help the company’s SEO).  Sound familiar?

Forrester conducted a review of 30 b-to-b websites within six industries including technology, software, investing, medical products, manufacturing and services. The report is based on their findings.

This report should come as a wake up call.

A recent guest post by Jake Ludington (on our blog) referenced this observation as did a response by Aaron Paxson on his My Teneo blog. Both posts are worth reading.

The problem? Most b-to-b companies are too busy talking about themselves rather than trying to help prospective buyers solve problems. They talk AT prospective buyers and customers rather than establish a dialogue.

But what about all those case studies companies publish on their web sites? Surely those are useful?

Not quite.

As Forrester found, most are not compelling and don’t tell stories about customers, especially of customers who overcome obstacles. These tend to be the most interesting and informative. Many of those that do talk about customers are thinly disguised opportunities to brag.

So what’s the solution?

Forrester highlights a couple of companies (Cognizant and Morgan Stanley) that are doing some positive things to engage prospective buyers including sorting through articles by strategic goals or using video to tell customer stories and how the company helps them.

But so much more can be done and without great effort. Mostly, it requires a change in perspective from talking “at” prospective buyers to talking “to” them.

How is this done?

At Ivy, we talk about this a great deal in our book, Social Media Judo, and how to leverage current marketing programs to good effect. Here are three things any b-to-b company can do.

First, put your customers first by talking about them rather than about your company, products, etc. Talk about how you help them solve problems — and allow them to tell the story themselves if possible.  Get them involved.  If you have case studies to publish, make them about the customer rather than about your company.

Second, start using video to tell how you solve customer problems. Don’t create more advertising videos as those are counter productive to engaging prospects and customers. If possible, include customers in those videos and make sure the story is about them and how their problems were solved albeit by using your product or service.

Lastly, and here’s where the “judo move” is found that we talk about in our book, Social Media Judo, encourage third party influencers to generate blog posts and videos by enabling them to meet and talk about your customer success stories. When someone influential, outside of your company, writes about a customer success story, it has more credibility and adds weight to the story.  Word of mouth trumps most other forms of marketing.

Don’t know any third party influencers? Go and find them. They exist in nearly every category that you can think of and it simply requires some effort. Once you identify some influencers whose content you like, reach out and start a dialogue.

See if they are interested in learning more about your company, your products and services. Perhaps they would appreciate a visit to your facility to learn more, maybe they’d like an online briefing to better educate them about your company and what it specializes in?

Ask if the influencer is going to a trade show where you will be present. If they are, see if they would like to attend a session where you are presenting or to go to dinner, stop by your booth, etc. Get creative.  But the point is, you need to reach out and ask.

Or you can contact us.  We can help you determine your goals and put together a strategy and plan to leverage third party influencers for your marketing.

Whatever you do, stop talking “at” prospective buyers and start engaging them. Only good things will come of it for you.

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