The beginning of the year is an appropriate time to take a stand about the payoffs of commitment in B2B marketing strategies. The beginning of the year is when a lot of B2B companies look at what they want to accomplish this year as a clean slate. Almost like you’re starting from scratch. Kind of an “out with the old, in with the new” type of mindset.
Drivers for this lack of commitment come to mind, including:
- VIPs come up with new “themes” they want to see tackled.
- Company objectives shift due to market fluctuations, board consensus, or the CEO’s new hyper interest.
- A new channel looks like a big opportunity for extending reach. Everyone’s starting to jump on board, and you don’t want to miss out. But that means something will have to go to make room/budget for it.
- Regulation’s shift, opening a new market.
- Quotas go up.
- A new product is launching.
- And everyone’s favorite: Budgets get slashed!
Change is normal for businesses — and not just at the beginning of the year, as the last two years demonstrated. But, unless your B2B content marketing strategy and programs sucked last year, taking a clean slate approach is not the best idea.
Buyer Expectations Aren’t as Fickle as Marketing Campaigns
This shouldn’t be a news flash > Buyers are driving and they’re choosing the open highways, rather than the vendor-operated toll roads.
B2B buyers overwhelmingly want control over a simpler, convenient experience unencumbered by pushy tactics and self-interested vendors. This is one of the main reasons why self-service and self-reliance have taken precedence over talking with salespeople. Buyers expect consistent, helpful interactions that build confidence in your organization—and in themselves in relation to solving the problem. They expect commitment.
One of the most common memories of B2B buyers asked about their last buying experience is how complex, overwhelming, and difficult it was. They also want buying to be faster.
But here’s the rub. Buyers don’t know what they don’t know. They may not understand the root cause of their problem. They also may not know all the stakeholders they need to involve based on what crossovers to other departments solving the problem may entail. And more…
This puts marketers and sellers in the role of mentor or guide. You need to help them orchestrate their progress in solving the problem by making sure there are no potholes along their route. The entire route. This requires a commitment to stay the course.
While you weren’t looking, your buyers began expecting their experience with your brand’s story to be a continuum. Not a jerky, stop and start, switch horses in mid-stride, confusing one. If you can’t make a commitment in B2B marketing, how do you build trust and become a brand they feel they can rely on?
This means your content marketing strategy needs to follow suit. If it’s built around the distinct value your company provides to the specific markets you serve, then it’s primed to scale, shift and morph without need to start over. Room for adjustments exists.
And never forget that if your campaign is shorter than the buy cycle, you’re abandoning your buyer with a dead-end. You’re actively encouraging them to search for someone else telling the story they need to hear. It takes time and repetition of ideas for someone to invest. What I often see is just when people get interested, the commitment to the campaign ends – along with the story that was helping them gain momentum.
Balancing Internal Changes with Content Marketing Strategy
Before you start tossing stuff out and bringing in new stuff, determine why you’re making those choices.
Just because your company decides to change a few things doesn’t mean your buyers’ needs, preferences, and problems have changed. If you start making shifts to your content marketing strategy without considering the potential gaps between what your company wants vs. what your buyers’ want, you could be tossing away more than one marketing approach vs. another.
Ask the following questions based on the internal change you’re reacting to:
- Has something about your persona (buyers, customers) changed?
- Has the problem your persona is trying to solve changed?
- Has the way the industry approaches that problem changed?
If the answer to any of those is “yes” – now you have some work to do to realign the foundation of your strategy in relation to your buyers.
If the answer is “no” (which will be true in relation to most internal corporate changes) then the next step is to consider the change relative to your buyers and customers.
- What parts of the change will be visible to your markets and how is it relevant to them?
- Does this change invalidate anything you’ve said/done in the past that would create a fragmented experience for your markets? How can you narrow that gap?
- To achieve this new objective, what really needs to change? Why? This could include things such as process, editorial calendars, talent, timing, channels, programs, etc.
- Given your current marketing strategy, can you holistically integrate the change? Where does it fit the most naturally with what you’re already doing?
- How will you measure, validate, and report on the impact from the change?
Make a Long-Term Commitment to Your Buyers
Content marketing strategy is a continuous process that lives and breathes the brand story as a distinct value to buyers and customers. As such, you can tweak, and tune based on shifts to corporate objectives without jeopardizing alignment with your markets.
B2B marketers must stop thinking about “campaigns” in response to change. Instead, we need to think about how the change shifts the overall story in relation to what’s most relevant to our markets. Commitment in B2B marketing takes dedication and focus.
Outside – in. Not inside – out.
Buyers are counting on you to get them from A to Z. They may have more exposure to information, but they still need your help and guidance to assimilate it in relation to solving their problem. And until all their “jobs to be done” are complete, there’s no sale.
If your content marketing strategy is based on buyers (not product) – then stick to it. This doesn’t mean things don’t shift. But when they do shift, it should be based on how your buyers shift, not because you’re bored, or your VIP had a brainstorm, or to rave about a new product feature.
It’s about commitment in B2B marketing. Your buyers really need you to stay the course.
Continuous and consistent. Not one-off campaigns.