What is inbound and content marketing and how does it differ from traditional B2B marketing? The profile of inbound marketing has grown rapidly over recent months and many now believe it is the most effective way to raise a business profile. This post set out to define inbound and B2B content marketing and its potential advantages for businesses in B2B markets.
Traditional marketing is based on pushing the message out to prospects and customers. It involves building close relationships, delivering presentations, advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, Email marketing and a number of other means to push the chosen messages about the business, the brand and the benefits of the product or service
Inbound vs Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing still works well for some but others have noticed increasing customer and prospect resistance to these techniques. There has been a shift in consumer behaviour to collect the information they need to make a purchasing decision themselves (pull) rather than wait for it to be delivered (push). There is an increasing break down in trust of advertising, telemarketing and other push marketing techniques.
The alternative is pull marketing where it is not about the messages the business may wish to deliver but about the needs of the customer or prospect. Pull marketing is based on delivering the information potential customers need to make an informed purchasing decision and guiding them appropriately. B2B Content marketing is a key element of the pull marketing process.
B2B Content Marketing Defined
There are many definitions of content marketing but one of the better ones states ‘it is a mechanism to engage with existing and potential customers, build credibility and trustworthiness and ensure the business is front of mind when any opportunity arises’. Potential customers spend more and more time researching suppliers and their products via the internet. It is important to ensure any business has an appropriate internet presence that services those information requirements, builds credibility and ensures the business is front of mind when the time comes to purchase.
To run a successful pull marketing campaign requires quality content delivered on a consistent basis but where does that content come from? The problem can often actually be there is too much content rather than too little and the issue is filtering what is available and placing it into an appropriate order to match the marketing plan. The main challenge is often converting the raw information available into something that reads well, is useful and relevant to prospects and customers.
Existing Sources of Content
Many businesses in B2B markets sit on a large amount of information that may be useful to customers. Any business should have a view (perhaps controversial) of the market it operates in, changes to that market, legislation and trends, all of which may be of interest to prospects. There will often be thought leaders within a business with a relevant view.
There may be information readily available to help customers improve how they use the product or service. Or information in house that can be converted to allow prospects to make informed decisions but not a sales document that will destroy trust in an instant. It could be useful application or quality information is available.
Pull marketing obviously requires well written information but it also requires detailed research into how that content may be engaged with by customers and prospects and how is it best delivered. There is little point in putting significant effort into preparing engaging and relevant information if nobody will read it. A wide range of marketing expertise is required to implement the delivery (copywriting, website build, blogging, social media, Email marketing etc) via the most appropriate channel.
B2B Content Marketing Tactics
A recent survey of B2B businesses showed the most popular content delivery tactics were social media (other than blog), articles on own website, e-newsletter, blogs, case studies, followed by in person events. To give an indication of the complexity the survey lists 26 different tactics and indicates businesses utilising content marketing use an average of 12 different tactics to reach their audience.
The above is only part of the story as the survey also shows the businesses surveyed rate in person events as the most effective tactic, followed by case studies and blogs. Social media does not rank in the top 10! Another report shows that the delivery channel used is critical to the level of engagement. It shows that customers trust case studies and information delivered by professional associations and trade groups more than any other.
Of the key objectives of inbound marketing customer acquisition, lead generation and customer retention not surprisingly all rank in the top 5. The survey shows the top challenges of content marketing are producing enough content (64%), producing engaging content and producing variety of content.
Inbound marketing then can be both complex and challenging but the long term reward of a consistent supply of quality sales leads can justify the effort. In addition implementing good quality content marketing can have SEO benefits, boosting the profile of the business website. Search engine optimisation has changed dramatically over the past 18 months. Good SEO is more about delivering valuable and engaging content than it ever was in the past, which fits perfectly with a content marketing strategy.
The use of content marketing, as part of a inbound marketing process, continues to grow in B2B markets. There is little doubt the process has some real advantages over traditional push marketing but there are also some significant down sides to be aware of. A content marketing process is resource intensive and it requires expertise in a wide range of marketing disciplines. There are challenges associated with generating enough of the right type of content in sufficient quantity and delivering it via the appropriate channels.
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