It’s mid-December and you’re on a road trip through Florida. A man stands on the side of the highway, holding a sign and pointing his thumb skyward. “To Jacksonville,” it reads, plainly indicating his intentions. Without a second thought, you keep driving and think of the hitch-hiker not once again.
What if the scenario instead played out like this?
It’s mid-December and you’re on a road trip through Florida. A man stands on the side of the highway, holding a sign and pointing his thumb skyward. “To Mom’s for Christmas,” it reads. Suddenly your heart swells, filled with memories of your own cherished holidays past, and somber thoughts of families around the world kept apart.
Overcome by the emotion, you press the brakes and pull over on the side of the road, waving him in. Or maybe you still decide not to let a stranger in your car, but the memory of that man and his sign sticks with you long after.
A few different word choices can make a massive difference in how your message or offer is perceived. This contrast, as depicted by a classic ad from Crispin Porter, highlights the tremendous impact of storytelling, even in its most minimal form. And it also points us toward unlocking the secrets of creating impactful B2B content experiences today.
Revealing these secrets was the subject of TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden’s recent session at Content Marketing World 2022 in Cleveland. Here’s a rundown of the recipe.
3 Secrets to Creating B2B Content Experiences that Connect
The good news is that it’s not so complicated. Mounting data surfaces three critical, and rather straightforward, priorities that must take center stage if you want your B2B content marketing programs and campaigns to thrive in the modern marketing environment.
Facts tell, stories sell
This is the core content marketing directive illustrated by our hitch-hiker sign dichotomy. B2B marketing has long been stuck in the mode of serious business: Selling with facts instead of stories. Pitching features instead of outcomes. Focusing on ourselves instead of our audience. We’re kidding ourselves if we think sales is the only side guilty of this.
There is of course a place for getting across the important details and promises of what your company provides, but in an ultra-crowded content environment (eMarketer once estimated there are 4.6 billion pieces of content created each day) you’ve got to earn the right to make buyers care, via experiences that break through.
Stanford University found that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts. Is it any wonder that, according to the latest Content Preferences Survey from Demand Gen Report, 41% of B2B buyers seek content to share that tells a strong story and will resonate with the buying committee?
Not only does using stories as the framework for your B2B content help make the substance more cohesive, memorable, and shareable, it also – when done well – helps your audience relate and connect to it. “Storytelling is the language of emotion,” wrote Rooster Punk founders Paul Cash and James Trezona at MarketingProfs recently. “When you tell a story, you invite audiences to be in touch with their feelings, to get personally invested and to be swept along in the narrative. Great brands, like great stories, explore what makes us human.”
Indeed, research by Think with Google and CEB showed that B2B buyers are 50% more likely to make a purchase if they connect to a brand on an emotional level.
“Use emotion, storytelling, and soundtrack to grab attention in a way that will resonate with all category buyers and make the most of that earned attention by conveying a message that will link your brand to a specific buying situation,” advises LinkedIn’s Tyrona Heath*, whose B2B Institute has conducted eye-opening research and analysis around the measurable impact of emotional messaging in B2B marketing.
Third-party content can be extremely powerful for planning
When it comes to shifting focus from your brand’s solutions to your audience’s wants and needs, there are obvious challenges at play.
How do you truly know what they care about? How do you deliver legitimate value and add credibility to your message?
According to Lee, the key lies in OPC: Other People’s Content. Tap into existing tools, topics, and experts to elevate your brand beyond its own platform and resources. For example, you can:
- Find topics your customers care about with Semrush.
- Discover questions your customers want answered with StoryBase.
- Identify industry experts on those topics with Traackr.
- Partner with experts to answer buyer questions with Nimble.
- Create an experience combining expert and brand content with Ceros.
- Inspire experts to share stories where buyers are influenced with SparkToro.
Through the melding of your brand’s expertise with respected influencers already known to your audience, you can create easy-to-find best answer content that inspires. Best of all, you can do it scalably.
Without proper promotion and amplification, it’s all for naught
This doesn’t seem like much of a secret, but apparently it is — because too many marketers haven’t gotten hip: You’re wasting tons of energy and resources on content creation if you aren’t backing it with a sustained, strategic promotion plan.
Consider these findings, via the Converge B2B Content Amplification Report:
- 93% of B2B marketers say content amplification has had a positive impact on their content marketing strategy, BUT…
- 75% of B2B marketers say they don’t spend enough time on content amplification.
(Lee Odden, Ann Handley & Joe Pulizzi at #CMWorld22)
Jenn VandeZande, Head of Digital Engagement Strategy for SAP Customer Experience says: “The greatest content in the world won’t get clicks unless you consider ALL aspects of that content when it comes to organic sharing: The image, meta data/social copy, and of course, SEO for long-term views. (Assuming you’ve already made sure your content offers value and drives to a helpful next step for the reader).”
TopRank’s campaign with B2B telecommunications firm Mitel exemplifies the impact of a thoughtful promotional strategy behind valuable content. Boosted via sponsored influencer placements, their “The Now of Work” ebook reached millions through organic earned media.
Feeling inspired to learn more about the secrets to creating B2B content experiences that elevate your brand and forge lasting connections with your audience? You can click here to download Lee’s full CM World 2022 presentation, and we’ll even toss in the full 2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Report.
* Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is a longtime client of TopRank Marketing