Most B2Bs know that they must change how they deal with their content in order to not only keep up, but succeed in today’s marketplace. And although some may realize that if they don’t publish, they will perish, too many still don’t know where to begin. That’s because the company’s content ecosystem and the its brand can turn into a big content monster that needs constant feeding, care, and attention. This ‘always-on’ publishing is enough work on desktops, let alone on multi-screen tablets and smart phones. All of this should be part of the company’s lifeblood, but with more questions than answers; in some companies, B2B content marketing has now become a white elephant.

Asking how important it is to engage customers, generate leads, and make new sales is like asking how important is social media, content marketing, and brand reputation. This interaction is all mission critical! Inviting buyers using an open, social business attitude that fosters a ‘helping customers buy’ approach works much better than just making another sale. Why? Because today’s B2B buyers will decide to keep your company on their shortlist only if they find useful content that helps them discover you along their purchase journey.

Consider the following:

Listen to Your Customers

In this ‘human/digital’ experience, B2B sales and marketing teams must know how to listen to today’s customer, because the rules of engagement have changed considerably. Then they need to get properly outfitted to tell the company’s story in the right place, at the right time, on the right screen, in real-time.

Job number one has become communicating effectively. It will not work with one person with one voice throwing spaghetti at the wall. Those days are over. It requires having your own unique brand strategy for a content ecosystem and structure that is proactive and makes your work smarter, not just harder. This will be your best solution to beat content and team fatigue. A smart content strategy that gets everyone’s buy-in to work the plan together is easier and more cost effective in the long run. That’s why starting with buyer personas that target your key customers is more important than adding new tactics or tools that ‘automate content.’

Information Overload and ‘Under-load’

One of the issues we discussed in our last post is that some companies are struggling with their content because it’s so overwhelming. This is sometimes a HR issue, but more horsepower without direction just gets you nowhere faster. Understanding how to develop and manage the content that buyers are looking for is the key to getting started in the right direction and balancing your storytelling workload.

Having no plan (i.e., editorial calendar) for scheduling the right quantity of content and delivering relevant quality content in regular intervals is recipe for disaster. Today, you can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel. Fortunately, as it turns out, successful companies (e.g., SAP, Maersk, Cisco) have learned how to transform strategic interactions between themselves and their customers, paving successful roadmaps any organization can learn from, no matter how big or small.

By developing internal publishing and broadcasting units that build the company’s storytelling and news gathering resources, these ‘digitally mature’ pioneers are reaping the rewards of customers becoming brand ambassadors that regularly share their content with their networks. It’s word-of-mouth on steroids. Once again, you don’t have to be a large enterprise like SAP to succeed at publishing content. In fact, it’s easier to start small and grow by implementing the right strategy.

What Buyers Want

Today, buyers are being influenced and digitally nurtured online from vendors that publish useful, engaging, and trustworthy content from a variety of sources that help buyers make informed decisions. B2B buyers will (in general) still want to talk with a human before making a commitment to buy at some point in their purchase journey, but one thing is clear: If your company doesn’t show up during their digital content research, your company will not be considered. Only digitally mature vendors will be. That means everyone in your company needs to be part of the customer engagement and satisfaction department. Everyone in your company can make a contribution to help buyers become your satisfied and loyal customers. When you motivate and reward your staff, suppliers, customers, and, if applicable, shareholders to be proactive in your engagement model, then they will help identify gaps that will make your company better, your brand stronger, and digitally mature.

Buyers will continue to gain more power now that they control the buying cycle. This transformational shift is moving quickly and is permanently changing the way that business will operate now and into the future. B2Bs must be transparent, trusted, and totally engaged in listening to the “chatter”, not just about your brand, but also about your industry, innovations, insights, and other social business topics. I say again: Publish or Perish.

It used to be buyer beware, now it’s seller beware!

– Dan Pink, Best-Selling Author, To Sell Is Human

Remember this: Misleading, misinforming, and mistreating customers, or providing self-serving sales pitches, will turn customers away from, or even against your company. No business can afford that.

Is Content Really King?

We’ve all heard that “Content is King”. That is only partly true. In fact, it’s the creators of useful, trustworthy, and customer-centric content that are the real kings and queens because that’s the stuff that customers find and share. Look around the web. Notice how the leaders in any industry are engaged with their audience with great content in a variety of forms? It’s not rocket science. Putting your buyer at the center of your content ecosystem is a good start to any strategy.

Your Turn

Starting tomorrow, we are launching a new series of ongoing educational blog posts to continue the discussion on all things ‘Digital Maturity for B2B’. The goal is to share insights and know-how so that B2Bs can successfully bridge the content gap with tools to assist in balancing the workload for sales, marketing, and management teams. We look forward to your input into this conversation, and we’ll be listening for more ideas to promote why ‘being social with relevant content to help buyers buy’ is a critical next step for B2Bs to succeed in this ever-changing digital/human world.