As a MarComm specialist and head of a marketing firm for several decades, I’ve worked with my share of marketing tactics — the tried-and-true ones as well as the “next new things.”
Along those lines, working with numerous B-to-B companies in their attempts to turn social media and blogging into significant sources of new business, the track records have been more often ones of failure than of success.
I think the issue boils down to something pretty fundamental: Unlike consumer products, where customers can fall deeply “in love” with particular brands, or at the very least develop feelings of brand affinity, in the world of business products and services, the brand dynamics are seldom “emotional.”
The reality is, business buyers are looking for products and services that will solve their problems and also provide all-important CYA peace of mind. Few B-to-B buyers are truly “excited” about these purchases, and they aren’t personally “invested” in the brands in question, either.
Instead, they’re looking for solutions that work. Ones that deliver on a checklist of criteria, and ones that don’t risk unpleasant developments down the road.
In such a world, the notion that buyers are waiting around to read the and interact with the next blog article or social media post that’s published by a supplier is fanciful at best.
News flash: The target audience doesn’t care about things like that. Business buyers don’t have time in their busy schedules to read the posts. The few times they will is when they need to satisfy a business need and are looking for information to help them make an informed buying decision.
But of course, it’s precisely then when content needs to be easily findable on the web. Brands that have published deeper and more relevant content than their competitors are going to be the ones that show up on search engine results pages (SERPs), because those are the websites the search engines reward with higher rankings based on the perceived “relevance” of the web pages in question.
This view of B-to-B audience dynamics isn’t just my personal one; survey research of B-to-B buyers reveals similar attitudes. For instance, market research and communication firm KoMarketing publishes an annual B2B Web Usability Report, and the findings they uncover are consistent:
- Most B-to-B buyers don’t think a blog adds much to a supplier’s credibility as a company.
- As for social media activity, three-fourths of buyers find such platforms irrelevant to their interests and concerns.
So, what is it that buyers are seeking?
It’s more “actionable” data such as sales contact information (who to call), a list of customers a supplier serves (addressing the credibility factor), plus customer testimonials, case studies and similar reports that help buyers “see” themselves in the experiences of other customers.
That’s pretty much it.
Which brings us back to blog posts in the B-to-B realm. Informative articles that center on customer testimonials and before/after case studies provide the best of everything: content that buyers will actually find useful, along with the “relevance” and “robust activity” that search bots are seeking in making their quasi-mysterious calculations on how high to rank a particular web page on SERP pages.
It dovetails with my typical advice to business clients:
- Don’t publish blog posts because you expect people to read them like they would a newsfeed. Publish them for relevance and visibility when your prospect is actually seeking out information and insights — which could be months or even years after you publish the post.
- Make sure each blog article addresses “problem –> solution” topics centered on the challenges your customers are most likely to face.
- Twitter or Facebook? Unless your marketing have plenty of time on their hands and nothing better to do, don’t bother with these social platforms at all — because the payoff is so mediocre.
What about you? Are your B-to-B marketing experiences different? If so, please share your perspectives in the comment section for the benefit of other readers.