Traditionally, the B2C buying process has been equated with emotions and impulses, while the B2B process resonates more with logical reasoning and business goals. At a recent Microsoft BizSpark event, Hillel Fuld, the CMO at Zula, gave a talk about marketing that refuted this long-held notion. Hillel, who coined himself a “Professional Noise Maker,” spoke to an audience filled with startup companies eager to learn about blogging, social media and marketing at large. Although he touched on all of these topics, the one piece of advice that echoed throughout was the need to provide value.

Why? Because value gives people a reason to connect to your brand. This doesn’t just mean using your product or clicking on one of your social posts, it means turning a person into a loyal consumer. As an example, Hillel remarked that a few years ago, an angry customer publicly tweeted (in CAPS-LOCK, nonetheless) about a technical problem he was experiencing with the product. Hillel publicly responded, tweeting his personal company e-mail, and quickly reached out to the technical team. Within minutes, the problem was resolved with a simple solution – following which the customer tweeted “Dear [name of company], you are my hero.” On a side note, said customer had 50,000 followers on Twitter.

Hillel summed it up by saying, “I took someone who needed my product and was angry, and in 10 minutes (and close to zero budget), I turned him – not into a user, but into an ambassador with an emotional connection to my brand. All I did was listen to and answer him, that’s it.” The point of the story was to show that social media is a listening medium. Platforms such as Twitter give you an ear to the world, and if you provide the right kind of value, consumers can easily end up doing your marketing work for you. In fact, social media is one of the most powerful ways to “hear” about competitors, industry trends, and what your prospects and customers need.

Nurturing a loyal customer is all about listening, and building personal, caring relationships. As B2B marketers, all of us have been warned about the risks of using social media to talk about your brand all day long. Promotional content may generate some interest or even a few clicks, but it won’t get you the value you need to provide. Your ability to listen – and the content you provide based on this, is your value. According to Hillel, your company’s voice is the foundation of creating solid relationships. Bringing the point home even further, he remarked that in a digital era like ours, “As an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to not produce content and provide value.”

The most recognized way to share valuable content with your audience is through a non-promotional company blog. This doesn’t mean that blogging is the only way to share your voice – you can create videos, conduct interviews or write white papers – but in most cases, these require much more time and resources. Apart from one or two call-to-action buttons encouraging people to sign up for your product, or even a link to your homepage, keep your content as non-promotional as possible. Successful blogging is not about “selling” your company; it’s meant to establish your brand as a thought leader in the industry, and to give people a reason to connect – not to be sold to. Don’t be afraid to introduce some humor into your writing, share an anecdote or write in first-person. After all, as a B2B marketer, you might be selling to another company, but people are the ones buying your product. These are just a few ideas to make them feel your content is meaningful.

Remember that blogging isn’t a one-off type of strategy. It’s something that you have to commit to – even if it means setting a number of blog posts every week that you have to post. It requires consistency, both in terms of frequency and the value provided, and lots of patience. Today’s consumers, B2B included, look for a personal touch when it comes to content. There’s a much higher chance that they’ll remain a life-long customer if they feel an emotional connection to your content. More than this, following Hillel’s suggestions, don’t just blog about anything – make sure it’s something you’re passionate about.
In any case, B2B marketing is treading away from a cold, disconnected approach, and is increasingly becoming more about emotional engagement. Despite this transition, marketers need to use inbound tactics as an opportunity to share their company’s story in a way that makes people feel connected, while still addressing challenges, pain points – and offering solutions and useful advice.