The Marketing Strategist:

Connecting with Customers: The Four P’s of Content Marketing

March 2, 2017

  • Content & Communication

Amid the challenges of B2B marketing, ITSMA’s recent How Buyers Consume Information study revealed some good news: Buyers want our content! They’re hungry for new ideas about how to succeed in the connected economy. And they’re looking to us, the providers of innovative B2B services and solutions, to point the way forward.

2016 HBCI report cover

The catch, and there’s always a catch, is that the bar is quite high. Buyers’ patience with irrelevant or poor quality content is virtually zero. Even our good quality material competes for mindshare with similarly useful content that our competitors promote on a daily basis.

In this environment, the new Four P’s are emerging to guide the most effective content marketing.

  • Personalized. Personalized marketing today goes far beyond addressing an email recipient by name or adding a few references to industry or role. True personalization is  based on deep insight into the business context, challenges, and imperatives that our buyers face. The data from our latest study is clear: Buyers need to see content that demonstrates providers know who they are, their industry, and their specific business issues. Interestingly, buyers are quite willing to provide personal information if it helps providers create more relevant and personalized content.
  • Proactive. It’s not enough to respond to buyer needs and questions. We need to be more proactive in bringing new ideas to our clients and prospects–at every stage of the relationship, from initial conversation through the sales cycle, and into delivery and trust. Proactive solution providers manage the customer experience by adding significant value at every relationship stage. Marketing’s objectives shift from generating leads and add-on sales to being genuinely helpful with educational and thought-leading content. Performance metrics change counting leads to evaluating engagement. Proactive marketers track buyer behavior and predict what they will do next. Proactive marketers also set goals, monitor performance, and make regular adjustments to optimize performance.
  • Peer Influenced. Professional peers have always been an important source of referrals, references, and best practice sharing for B2B buyers, although their importance seemed to wane a bit in recent years compared with other sources, such as solution provider SMEs and analysts. In our 2016 study, however, we see a resurgence in the importance of peers as a critical source of information for buyers to help cut through the noise of overwhelming content. The resurgence is stronger among business buyers but also significant with IT decision makers. For marketers, the implication is clear: Work even harder to integrate peer-influenced content in your portfolio and to bring clients and prospects together with their peers through customized events, professional networks, community initiatives, and one-to-one connections.
  • Proven. Buyers have always been interested in a solution provider’s track record. Can they do what they say? Will they deliver on their promises? ITSMA’s 2016 buyer research revealed that quantifiable results and a proven track record are among the top selection criteria. In the past, proof points were limited to testimonials, references, and case studies. But now, as more of our engagement with customers is digital, we are seeing more data-driven metrics and benchmarks. Post-sale, buyers and solution providers alike want to maximize and document value realized. Metrics and proof points are becoming even more important for managing adoption, utilization, retention, and expansion.

The new Four P’s put great pressure on marketers to create and disseminate high quality content at scale. Generic content is virtually useless and marketers need to invest in insight, innovation, and collaboration to ensure content that truly connects. Cracking the content code with the new Four P’s, however, promises significant reward.

Interested in more details from our buyer research? The full report is available at no charge to ITSMA members and for sale to others. A complimentary abbreviated summary (PDF) provides highlights, as well.

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