If B2B content marketing has a problem, it's this: it's trying to bring a single-channel print mindset to a multi-channel digital world.
Brands produce lots of content, often at great expense. They use it to build loyalty and subscribers, attract and nurture leads, and ultimately generate sales.
They spend time and money working out who their audiences are, how they behave, what problems they need solving, and then produce content accordingly.
But all too often, what's created gives little back beyond a simple (largely unengaging) audience experience and basic metrics that offer precious little insight into customer behaviour.
We know that B2B buyers are consuming more content than ever. They're using it to become more informed about the issues facing their businesses, potential solutions and find the companies that could solve their most pressing challenges.
Weightier guides, reports and thought leadership content help brands demonstrate clear differentiation in their markets. This is the content that potential customers and clients use as a way to road-test a possible relationship and short-list vendors.
But most B2B content marketers still rely on PDFs for this kind of content. And PDFs are poorly suited to the multitude of devices people use to view content today: 50% of B2B search queries are now made on smartphones. Research by Boston Consulting Group back in 2017 predicted that figure would rise to 70% by 2020.
Beyond poor responsiveness, PDFs have limited tracking, take up too much space, and struggle with anything beyond simple words and pictures. PDFs are an old technology adrift in a modern world.
While an unresponsive PDF report sitting behind a form will give some macro-level detail on the reader – and an email or phone number we can hand off to sales – it will not inform or enhance the approach used by those following up on leads. In fact, there's no way to know if that expensive PDF was ever actually read or was simply filed away for later. It's no wonder salespeople eternally complain about the quality of 'leads' they get sent by marketing.
But what about video? Or podcasts? Or webinars? While there's no doubt these are more engaging, they still bring a mono-channel approach to a multi-channel world. It's video or podcast, webinar or PDF – where it needs to be video and webinar and infographic and report, all in a format where audiences can choose the media that works for them without getting stuck in a predefined content silo.
That's why the next stage in the evolution of content marketing needs to move away from something that is simply a printed piece on screen or a single video on YouTube and become about creating engaging, useful and effective content that gives more back (both to audiences and to marketers).
Brands could be embedding interactive surveys with live results into pages of text. They could include their latest podcasts and webinars and add embedded calls to action. Videos could be surrounded by additional elements that offer deeper context. Reports and whitepapers could house live chat tools that connect readers to sales teams instantly.
This will enable audiences to consume content in a format that works for them, on the device they choose and engage in a way that makes sense for their individual context.
The tech is already at our fingertips. Today, we have the ability to produce flexible, responsive, engaging content experiences and rich insights into what customers actually want. But this will only happen if marketers abandon the static, siloed approaches that are holding them back.
Here are three great B2B content marketing tools that do the job:
- Prolific builds content on a fully-responsive platform that works on any device and can embed everything from text, images and animated charts through to full HD video, on-demand webinars and interactive quizzes. It enables clients to see performance page-by-page. Because it's a fully managed service, they'll also write the copy, however complex the subject matter, for a fixed price (based on size) and with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- Uberflip is a one-stop content hub solution that enables brands to offer a wide variety of content types. It makes it easy to manage the ever-increasing amount of content most B2B marketers are creating and, more importantly, delivers an intuitive content experience for customers and prospects.
- Path Factory enables marketers to structure their content assets into intuitive flows – an approach they describe as a kind of Netflix for content. This means marketers can adapt and evolve their approaches to content marketing beyond the passive approaches that have largely been the norm to date.