We’ve all learned that those who are most admired for their conversation skills are those who spend most of the time listening to the other person talk. People love to talk about themselves, and they love for other people to be interested in what they have to say.
It’s really not different in B2B marketing, as we heard from Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group, at the B2B Sales & Marketing Exchange in October. His terrific session, “Marketing in Times of Crisis: Embracing Empathy Is the Key to B2B’s Future,” delivered insights and real-world examples of how shifting our content messaging focus from our solutions to our buyers’ problems can result in a big ROI.
What's in It for Me?
One of my favorite lines from Brenner’s presentation was “Behind every bad marketing idea is an executive who asked for it.” I think we have probably all experienced this first-hand if we’ve been in the marketing business for a while. No matter how much we try to steer our product managers and executives towards a buyer-centric message, they always seem to want to creep back into talking about how great our products are.
But the proof is in the results, and Brenner gave specific examples of how brands used empathy—or focusing on the buyers’ problems and needs—to boost ROI. He told a story about his own former employer, SAP. The company reached half a million visitors it would never have otherwise and saw a 7X ROI on its Digitalist Magazine with traffic from organic search, social and referrals—with no promotion in the content.
The content on this site was all thought leadership, and it focused on providing information to help buyers solve their problems. In other words, they displayed empathy with the buyers.
“When all you do is talk about yourself,” Brenner said, “all you are doing is talking to yourself.” Instead, marketers need to turn this around and answer the question in buyers’ minds when they engage with content: “What’s in it for me?”
Know Your Buyers
How do you create content that demonstrates empathy and provides value to your buyers? It starts with comprehensive personas. You have to do the research to understand your buyers, to get insights into their personalities as well as their business challenges. That research can come from customer surveys, your CRM system, internal analytics tools and from your internal subject matter experts (SMEs) who have first-hand contact with customers.
Speaking of your SMEs, enlist your inside experts to help create content, whether it’s blog posts, white papers or other content.
This “army of marketing volunteers,” Brenner explained, is excited to share its knowledge and its passion for the topics with an audience. All we need to do is give them a forum to do exactly that—to share their knowledge and passion. Of course, helping them create that content can’t hurt either.
For a deeper look and data-driven personas, be sure to attend Content4Demand’s session on November 20 in the Strategy and Planning Series: “Data-Driven Content Strategy: How to Turn Survey Data Into a Treasure Trove of Insights.”
Make Your Buyers the Heroes
Content that addresses your buyers’ concerns is content that’s empathic. And showing empathy is all about making your buyers the heroes of your content. Address their personal concerns as well as their business pain points.
At Content4Demand, we always start with the buyer, and we create messaging that demonstrates we understand the buyer. We don’t start talking about solutions until the buyer is ready to evaluate options and make a purchase decision. That’s really common-sense content marketing. But we still get that pushback from clients who want to talk about how great their products are too early on in the buyer’s journey.
Show Proof of Your Strategy
The only way to convince management to shift to a buyer-centric strategy is to show the numbers. Demonstrate the increase in website traffic, conversions and revenue as a result of your content marketing efforts.
For a deeper look at data-driven personas, be sure to attend Content4Demand’s November 20th session in Demand Gen Report’s Strategy and Planning Series: “Data-Driven Content Strategy: How to Turn Survey Data Into a Treasure Trove of Insights.”
All 50+ sessions from #B2BSMX 2020, including Michael Brenner’s, are available on demand here. For a recap of five of our favorite sessions, check out our brand-new interactive experience, Planning Around Uncertainty.
Brenda Caine is a senior content strategist at Content4Demand. She works with B2B clients on content marketing strategy, personas, messaging and ideation; content audits, gap analysis and content mapping; blogs; content development and more. Brenda has a black belt in karate, and when she’s not immersed in technology, you can find her dancing in the ballet studio, lifting weights at the gym or strolling down the avenue in a 1930s dress with a smart hat to match.