By Lane Ellis
How does authentic content help drive better customer experience?
And how does influence help optimize B2B content marketing performance?
Both of these are important questions for today’s B2B marketers heading into the uncertainty of 2021, where we face falling organic social reach and declining brand trust. To help guide the way we have gathered together the answers to these key questions and eight others.
Our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden explored the topics of authentic content and how influence can optimize content marketing performance during virtual presentations for the ContentTECH Summit and the IABC MN Convergence Summit, and we’ll share some of the top take-aways from his insight-filled sessions.
Let’s dig right in and look at Lee’s 10 pointers to create better B2B content with authentic influence in our age of the new normal.
1 — Build Brand Trust With Authentic Content Co-Created With Experts
Lee explained how in order to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers, successful brands should harness the power of authentic content co-created with experts — a process that when done right delivers stellar results and memorable customer experiences.
The pandemic has changed B2B marketing, however, with 72% of B2B events having cancelled their physical experiences (CEIR), and driven buyers to consume 50% more content (MFG), all while three in five CMOs say that marketing is more important than ever (The CMO Survey).
What can B2B marketers do in such a volatile and uncertain market?
Lee pointed out that B2B content preferences have changed significantly in 2020, and noted that smart marketers will need to factor in these changes for successful 2021 efforts.
The top content consumption habit that changed during 2020 has been an increased focus on the trustworthiness of content sources, Lee noted.
He cited a DemandGen study which revealed that 67% of respondents said they rely even more on content than they did last year to research and inform purchase decisions, and noted that 58% of B2B buyers don’t believe the claims made by the vendors they most recently bought from (TrustRadius).
The most successful types of content also changed in 2020, with the same study noting that the top content types were:
• 65% Video
• 60% White Papers
• 56% Blogs
• 54% Webinars
• 54% Case Studies
How can B2B marketers stand out in such a crowded and content-filled landscape with less trust than ever?
2 — Savvy Brands Differentiate with Powerful Customer Experience
With such a lack of trust in 2020, Lee encouraged marketers looking to differentiate their brands to focus on the power of customer experience in 2021.
What can help in this area, and what kind of experiences are you set to create in 2021 and in an eventual post-pandemic landscape?
74% of B2B marketers said that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand, according to our groundbreaking 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.
Lee said that it’s hard to create a great experience if customers don’t trust brand communications, and pointed out that trust is the gateway to influence.
It’s no wonder that interest in influencer marketing is high, as it allows B2B marketers and brands to co-create so many powerful types of content, including:
• Blog Posts
• Recorded Video
• Live Video
• Industry Presentations
• Case Studies
• Interactive Content
• Third-Party Analyst Reports
86% of customers said that authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support (Stackla), Lee shared, and offered four insights about what the customers of 2021 will want:
• Customers Want What’s Real
• They Want to Trust
• They Don’t Trust Brands
• They Trust Peers and Experts
3 — Learn From Brands Putting Authenticity into Action
Lee used real-world client success stories as examples of brands putting authenticity into action, starting with LinkedIn’s* use of authentic influencers.
LinkedIn’s social-first campaign focused on the personal stories behind influencers and their individual and unique marketing careers, which turned into an influencer community of 75, with some 2,000 brand mentions by the influencers and their networks, totaling a potential reach figure of 84 million, Lee explained.
Lee showed how IT service management software firm Cherwell Software* used trusted B2B influencers to achieve 342% better click-through-rate (CTR) on influencer content, with a potential reach of some 5.45 million from influencer shares, and how the firm was successfully able to use influencers to build trust around a topic they hadn’t previously been known for, resulting in 90% of all visitors being entirely new users.
Lee also shared how Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise* (ALE) co-created content with prospects which led to an award-winning program, with the successful IT Vanguard Awards program, using IT industry influencers as judges to honor prospective customers. The awards program facilitated multi-million dollar deals, and went on to win an award at the 2020 Content Marketing Awards, while producing:
• 52 Nominations
• 14,000 Micro-Site Views in 10 Weeks
• 3rd Party Media Recognition & Local Ceremonies
4 — Accelerate Internal Credibility
By matching internal influencers with external experts, B2B marketers can accelerate internal credibility, whether it’s executives, industry experts, analysts, stakeholders, media, peers, or sales, Lee explained.
Using an example from SAP* and its Tech Unknown podcast, Lee showed how the firm created a podcast show with an influencer host in Tamara McCleary, featuring both industry influencers and SAP executives.
This approach resulted in some impressive outcomes, including:
• 128M in potential reach from influencer shares
• 101% of industry average for downloads
• 66% increase in podcast downloads over the show’s previous season
A solution that applied a unified process and specific tools for efficient sourcing, production, and promotion was employed for the SAP Tech Unknown podcast, creating a successful storytelling format surrounding technology topics.
Accelerating internal credibility is just a part of the overall trust equation, however.
5 — Double Down on Activating Customers
Another step for building trust with authenticity in content marketing is to double down on activating customers, Lee explained.
It’s important to identify both the customer roles and the brands that are most influential — information that can then be applied when leveraging for reviews, testimonials, case studies, as well as a variety of contributions to brand content, Lee noted.
An example Lee shared came from SAP’s Success Factors, a resource for customers that includes both customers and industry influencers alongside employees, to explore the universal issue of wellness versus well-being.
Using brandividuals — a term Lee uses to represent those influencers who have reached the level of being their own brand — along with industry experts, employee experts, and customers, SAP Success Factors delivered:
• 66% landing page conversion rate
• 85% of all views driven by organic social (contributors)
• 69% of all conversions drive by organic social (contributors)
The power of customer activation takes on even more important role when external influencers are included in the credibility mix, however.
6 — Work with External Influencers to Build Credibility
Working with external influencers is also a key step in building credibility and trust with authenticity in content marketing, especially as marketers increasingly face what Lee has called a content attention deficit.
This is especially important today, as 77% of B2B marketers say prospects rely on influencers for information, and 63% believe they would have better marketing results by having an influencer marketing program — two revelations Lee shared from our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.
B2B is behind on influencer marketing, however, as just 19% of marketers run ongoing influencer marketing programs, and 60% say they don’t have the knowledge to execute or have the right skills in-house, according the the report.
Lee showed an example from monday.com* in which the remote team management firm significantly boosted brand trust using relevant industry experts.
Content that monday.com co-created with industry influencers added credibility, trust, reach and engagement, leading to impressive results including:
• 1,700% above-goal social reach from influencer shares
• 17.9M potential reach from brand mentions by influencers, topping a 1M goal
• Over 300K organic impressions on social media
• Nearly 3K video views of a live-stream featuring industry experts within the first week
Lee also showed how monday.com successfully utilized B2B influencer marketing to partner with remote work leaders, driving discussions via live-stream that resulted in exposure to thousands of potential customers.
“With content attention deficit and information overload, buyers can easily be distracted. It’s important for B2B brands to stand out and stay connected with findable, credible content that delivers an experience.” @LeeOdden
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7 — Create a Content Collaboration Ecosystem
An additional step for building trust through content marketing authenticity comes when B2B marketers work to create a content collaboration ecosystem.
Lee shared a powerful example of such an ecosystem in the Adobe* Insiders program, a diverse group of over 60 influencers that includes leading executives, industry leaders, major media correspondents, contributing journalists, technology pioneers — including Lee.
Adobe utilized its influencers and activated its industry experts for the Adobe Summit event to create a variety of content types — from social shares and live-stream video to blog posts and articles in major publications including Forbes and CMO.
Lee showed how the Adobe Insiders worked together to provide a cornucopia of content creation, resulting in:
• Millions in social reach from brand mentions and earned media by influencers during and after the event
• A Twitter DM channel for influencer communications that’s had daily posts since 2019
• Individuals to sub-groups of influencers continue to be activated
8 — Optimize Measurement to Customer ROI
Another step in the content marketing authenticity equation comes by taking the time to optimize measurements to customer return-on-investment (ROI), Lee showed.
• By attracting, marketers reach new audiences
• By engaging, they improve content consumption
• By converting, they gain subscribers, downloads, trials, demos, leads, & sales
• By retaining, they increase community participation
• By advocating, they inspire brand love and referrals
Lee shared an example of how these elements can successfully come together, from Dell Outlet*, which used each to optimize for trust using influencers.
Dell Outlet took a small-to-medium-sized business audience and used industry influencers to combat an initial lack of brand awareness and trust, while also increasing the perceived value of refurbished technology.
Working to build awareness and credibility, Dell Outlet partnered with SMB influencers, and achieved a Finny-award-winning program that saw:
• Awareness: 425k additional reach from influencers
• Engagement: 693k video views and 1,350 hours watched
• Purchase Influence: 175% over goal in traffic referred to product pages
9 — Harness Technology to Help with Influencer Marketing
Smartly harnessing an ever-expanding array of software technology can take a good influencer marketing program and make it great, and Lee shared how B2B marketers are using technology to help with influencer marketing, with data from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report showing uses including:
• 76% to identify influencers
• 69% to monitor influencer social network activity
• 65% to qualify influencers
• 63% to measure and report on campaign or program results
• 43% to manage influencer campaigns or programs
• 41% to manage and nurture influencer relationships
• 35% to activate influencers
In the latest episode of our new Inside Influence series, Lee also took a close look at how B2B marketers can help maximize their return-on-investment (ROI) with data-driven influencer marketing software, exploring the issue in detail with Pierre-Loïc Assayag, CEO and founder at enterprise influencer marketing platform Traackr, in “Inside Influence EP07: Pierre-Loïc Assayag from Traackr on Influencer Marketing Technology.”
Traackr is one of several powerful B2B influencer marketing tools, Lee shared, with a sample including:
• BuzzSumo — For social, author, and influencer search
• Onalytica —An enterprise B2B influencer marketing platform
• Traackr — A B2B & B2C enterprise influencer marketing platform
• CreatorIQ — A B2C enterprise influencer marketing platform
• BuzzStream — An outreach tool
• Pitchbox —An outreach tool
• Nimble — A social customer relationship management (CRM) and influencer engagement tool
• GroupHigh — A blogger and influencer discovery and outreach tool
• Keyhole — A social listening and influencer discovery tool
“The pandemic and the strain on budgets in companies…really forces everybody to face the music and stop focusing on vanity metrics and start focusing on results.” @pierreloic
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10 — Achieve Content Marketing Success with Purpose, Relevance, Reach & Resonance
Through the smart use of each of Lee’s steps we’ve outlined and shown examples of here, B2B marketers can achieve content marketing success that is rich in purpose, relevance, reach, and resonance.
Sharing a quote from Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman — “In this time of turmoil people are turning to brands as islands of stability,” — Lee urged marketers to ask themselves two important questions:
How will the world be different after you’re successful doing what you do?
How does that narrative translate into your marketing?
To bring greater relevance to your content marketing efforts, Lee urged marketers to use data to understand and create authentic content experiences, leverage the voices of your customers, prospects, and those they trust, in order to add credibility and context to your message.
To maximize your reach, Lee recommended that marketers look to “be the best answer” for your customers with content that is easy to find and exists in context wherever buyers engage.
Finally, to increase resonance, Lee said that B2B marketers should seek to understand the motivations of their audience throughout the entire buyer journey, to better inform the creation of messaging that truly “clicks,” and inspires the type of action and makes a concrete and measurable business impact.