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Content meets the B2B buying process (part 2 of 2)

5 Proven Principals of Content Development and Marketing (continued)

In part 1, two principals of content development and marketing were detailed.

  1. Alignment to the Buying Stage and Buyer’s Needs
  2. Creditability

But before I dive into the next three Principals, a post script on Creditability deserves mention. Just a few days after part 1 was published, a study from Advertising Age was released titled No One Trusts Advertising or Media. Here are the results on what sources are most trusted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         % Trust

Editorial content written by experienced and established experts               32%

Company or brand press release as part of a news report                          14%

Social media links                                                                                           9%

Press releases from a company or brand                                                      8%

Company spokesperson answering questions                                              8%

Content written by an industry organization                                                   8%

Company spokesperson apologizing                                                              7%

Branded content sponsored by the brand                                                      4%

It’s a bit discouraging that only 32% of people trust seemingly objective and creditable expert sources, but the real shocker is that only 4% trust content from the brand or company. This certainly reinforces the value of using objective industry experts as mentioned in Principal 2: Creditability, even though it’s lower than we would want or expect. Outside third party experts beat all other sources by a wide margin as evidenced by this survey and others.

Now onto the next 3 Principals of Content Development and Marketing

  1. Relevancy Trumps All

The most important element for any communication to break-through the clutter and engage the audience is the degree of relevancy to the reader. Relevancy has several levels, or as one might say a “relevancy hierarchy.”  In B2B, the hierarchy I have used to produce greater than average response is listed below, and moves from the Level 1 (weakest) to Level 6 (highest) degree of relevancy.

  • Level 1: Name of individual, title and company name
    • These common data elements used for personalization are expected, and really don’t make an impact now. The problem occurs when they’re wrong, or worse yet seem to be in a format that is obviously a mass communication. The other day I got an email that started out, “First name/last name!” I deleted it within a second. Update your database frequently to insure accuracy.
  • Level 2: Size of company
    • Smaller firms: When communicating to smaller firms it is tempting to refer to them as “small businesses,” but do this at your own peril. Owners of smaller firms do not like to be called “small.” If you need to send a message to them, use the phrase “emerging businesses” or “entrepreneurial” as they will better identify with that description.
    • Larger firms: For large firms, the relevancy is not about the actual size, but rather the logical conditions or situations that exist in these sized firms, such as different locations, multi-decision makers/influencers, complex processes, etc.
  • Level 3: Industry of the company
    • It’s common to try and establish relevancy by mentioning the firm’s industry. Not a bad idea, but two problems can occur. First, many companies are in two or more industries, and their primary SIC or NAICS code only represents the dominant one. Secondly, most response or survey forms only list 2-digit description, and that is too broad  Enhance your database to the 4-digit SIC or 6-digit NAICS definition.  For example, SIC 28 is Chemical Products while SIC 2813 is Industrial Gases. The more specific the industry or business reference, the more the communication will break through and engage.
  • Level 4: Job Function of the individual
    • When developing a marketing and sales database the title and function fields should be separate. There are many titles today, and some of them are very hard to accurately use in identifying the function the individual occupies. It pays to map both titles and functions to your selling process and develop content accordingly. Content related to ones job or function is highly engaging.
    • The way to employ the function field is to address typical issues and/or needs these individuals face within the company based on their role. For example, we all can agree that content supporting the financial impact of the purchase (economic buyer) vs. the benefits the user will experience (decision maker or influencer) are quite different even though it’s the same product or service.
  • Level 5: Trends or recent information about the industry or company
    • Here is a content strategy that is not only highly relevant to the individual, but is very smart to use in lead nurturing communications. Two good sources of information are Factiva (company specific) and Ibis World (industry specific). LexisNexis is another source. They all require subscriptions, but they’re worth it.
  • Level 6: Recent Behavior of the individual
    • Recent behavior of the individual such as trade show booth visits, webinar attendance, white paper downloads, etc., are all indications of interest. People generally remember what they do, and expect you to as well. Time will dull the memory particularly if the behavior is not very involving, therefore speed of follow-up is critical to capture their interest. As an example, attending a trade show is much more memorable than downloading a white paper.

When planning your content development and marketing strategy, try to move up the hierarchy to better break through and engage. An accurate database combined with the ability to digitally change the copy enables the delivery of relevancy. The higher the degree of relevancy contained in the content and communication, the higher the responses and results – guaranteed!

  1. Variety is the Spice of Content Delivery

The next principal is obvious to most marketers. Simply plan to deliver communications and content in different media and formats over time. We all have heard that people learn differently – the seven learning styles are visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary. Individuals have different learning styles. Use this to your advantage, and offer content in as many different forms as feasible to better connect with the different learning styles and thus a larger audience.

Recently, reports indicate that video is winning the engagement battle, and is the now the preferred media format. Personally I would rather read (solitary) than watch, so video (visual and aural) is not my learning style. In a recent blog from Bob Bly, he promotes text email over HTML. Who’s right? No one! If you polled 100 people on the way they would like to receive and consume information, a wide range of responses would result. I don’t have any percentages of how many people fit into each learning style, and I’m not sure even if we did they would be accurate across different segments – engineers most likely differ from marketing and sales people.

This principal might lead you to offer the same content in different formats such as Audio (podcasts), visual (video/aural) and solitary (white papers).  Food for thought!

  1. Immediacy of response

With all the communication clutter out there, combined with our busy lives, our memory banks are loaded. As we get older the problem gets even worse. In fact, I now tell my friends that I have Half-heimer’s: it’s not “alls” yet, just half! Therefore the speed of follow-up is even more critical than ever before to capture interest and turn that into a lead, or even a sale. The ability to remember does vary based on the type of action taken by an individual. We certainly remember phone calls longer than attending a webinar, and certainly more than reading a white paper. Structure your response time in concert with the type and frequency of contact media, plus action taken by the individual.

We now expect auto-responders when we sign up for a webinar, and a human response to a website inquiry within 24 hours. Are you meeting these expectations? The more immediate the response to content requests, the more likely the individual will remember, but there is one caveat. Do not call when someone still is on your website, as it will come across as real creepy. That’s my opinion, although it may not be shared by others.


Content marketing is here to stay (duh), so the only question is how to make your content marketing work for better by breaking though the content-clutter? Hopefully, one or all five of these content development and marketing principals has given you some new insight and possible actions to take. Feedback is welcome by emailing me at

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