Technology marketers are making steady progress in the art and science of brand storytelling – aka content marketing. In the B2B tech edition of the Content Marketing Institute’s latest study (sponsored by IDG), 75% of tech marketers say their content marketing efforts are more successful than they were a year ago. Nearly half (49%) believe they’ve reached either the mature or sophisticated stage of content marketing.
But there’s always room for improvement, right? Here are three areas where tech marketers can separate themselves from the pack.
1. Nurture buyers along the purchase path
Enterprise technology purchases are complex, and this trend is continuing as the traditional walled-off data center morphs into an increasingly diverse and distributed mix of cloud services, on-premise infrastructure, and entirely new classes of connected “things.” As the traditional IT architecture evolves, technology budgets are increasingly shared between IT and business functions including sales, marketing, operations, and HR. As a result, buying teams are spread across those functions – and those teams are growing.
IDG’s 2019 Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker study finds that the average “buying committee” for enterprise tech purchases consists of 21 people – 11 from IT and 10 from line-of-business functions. That’s a big jump from 16 tech influencers cited in the 2017 study. The buying teams are even larger for newer categories like Software as a Service (24 on average), data/analytics (23), and cloud (23).
Such a diverse group of buyers requires marketers to move away from cookie-cutter content to more nuanced assets that target not just different buyer personas, but also where they are on the purchase path. In the CMI study, 68% of tech marketers admit they’re challenged with creating content that appeals to multiple roles within an organization.
Marketing teams that invest in persona- or buying stage-based content have found it to be a differentiator. Among the CMI study’s “top performers” – respondents who characterized their organization’s overall content marketing approach as extremely or very successful – 90% said they always or frequently create content based on specific points/stages of the buyer’s journey, vs. 62% of all respondents.
This approach aligns with IT buyer preferences for personalized content. More than 9 in 10 buyers in IDG’s 2018 Customer Engagement study would like content tailored for them, with customization by industry, existing technology platforms, responsibilities, and company size leading their preferences. Worth noting: Among business management stakeholders, content based on purchase stage was a top-3 preference.
2. Expand your perspective
Marketers have benefited significantly from a data-driven approach to capturing insights about their customers and prospects. These insights are essential to guide content development. Consider, however, that the top four techniques tech marketers use to research their audiences are very inward-focused:
Feedback from your sales team, customers, and website visitors are absolutely critical sources of information and insight. But over-indexing on existing customers or visitors to your website misses an equally important outside perspective: IT buyers who have never purchased from your brand or visited your website but are very much interested in your solution space. Here, techniques such as social media listening and primary research can provide invaluable insights, but just half of tech marketers say they use either of those two methods to research their audiences. And just 27% say they frequently leverage partners’ audiences to expand their reach.
If you’re not listening in (or participating) on social conversations, conducting primary research, or tapping into third-party research or audience segments, you’re likely missing out on deeper insights about your target audience to help inform your content strategy.
You’re also bypassing a big opportunity to engage at the earliest stages of the purchase process with buyers who may not know your brand. Just under half of tech marketers in the CMI study purchased sponsored content on 3rd party websites last year, and just one-third launched a native advertising program. For a comprehensive awareness campaign, balance display ads with other methods.
3. Diversify your content
Great content marketing is not a collection of individual assets; it’s a well-constructed mix of different content types and formats that, collectively, deliver a compelling narrative. It’s important, therefore, to experiment with that mix regularly to see which formats perform best for your audience segments, personas, or stages of the buyer journey.
The CMI study found that the majority of tech marketers are increasing investments in three tried-and-true content types: audio/visual content (videos, livestreaming, webinars), written digital content (articles, blogs, eBooks), and images (infographics, photos, charts, GIFs).
In addition, 65% increased their use of social media for content marketing. That’s a good sign, considering that 93% of tech buyers in the IDG 2018 Customer Engagement Survey use social media for business purposes.
An additional opportunity ripe for the taking is podcasts. Just over one-third (37%) of tech marketers in the CMI survey said they increased investment last year in podcasts and other audio-only formats. But 62% of ITDMs in the Customer Engagement study said they had listened to a business-related podcast in the past three months. It may be time to tune into a podcast strategy for your brand.