Stand out in the digital landscape and with the right content to attract attention and create an online community.
The average attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. Seriously, scientists calculated that it was down to 8 seconds in 2015, from 12 seconds in 2000.
It seems our love affair with mobile devices and multi-screening is to blame. We are subjected to more information now than ever before. This gives marketers a new headache: how to engage increasingly fickle digital audiences.
Then there’s the proliferation of social media channels. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook used to be the go-to channels for engaging with B2B audiences. Now many argue that Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp are the new ones – or will be soon.
Negotiating our way through this shifting digital landscape while capturing the attention of our target audience is enough to bring on a full-blown migraine.
Build your own establishment
To meet the challenge, let’s go back and focus on the customer as our number one priority. According to Marketing Think, 81% of B2B decision makers used online communities and blogs to inform their purchasing decisions.
This is good news as it proves that customers are keen to connect with others and hungry for useful information. So how do we use this insight to grab their attention in today’s noisy digital world? By providing the right content to create our own online community.
Here’s our six step guide to achieving this…
1. Seek the community that connects to your values
Online communities are about people not brands. They exist to share experiences and solve problems. Where are your business customers going to do this? Are these communities open or closed? Listen to the conversations that they are having about your business to make sure that you are addressing the right subjects and talking their language. But most importantly ensure that the community members can identify with your values as much as your products, this will help you to be successful in monetising the audience.
80% of B2B decision makers visit vendor-independent communities, vendor-sponsored forums, and LinkedIn at least monthly for business purposes.
2. Produce high-quality content in the right context with meaning and purpose
Offer focused and relevant content that informs, solves problems, and helps your audience avoid pitfalls. Use expert views, give a heads up on latest developments, and tell them something new or unexpected.
Help your audience learn and you’ll earn their trust and be seen to as someone to turn to for help. Creating a hub of useful resources, targeted at your specific audience will help you build your own online community.
Think about different types of content at different points in the buying cycle. Crucially, where and when exactly should different types of content be presented for them to have the most impact? And what device are your consumers using? Are they mobile, tablet, or desktop users? The right content, in the right context at the right time in the sales funnel can increase conversions and traffic.
The B2B “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP) is dead: 86% of B2B buyers see “no real difference between suppliers”. “Features, functions and business outcome” marketing has a 21% lift in perceived brand benefits. But “Professional, social and emotional benefits” marketing has a 42% lift.
3. Choose content formats carefully – it can affect performance
What is the best way to communicate with your customers online? Which subject is a blog post and which a longer eGuide? Consider images, infographics, SlideShare presentations, video and animations as different ways of communicating information. The performance of your content will be affected if you choose the wrong format.
According to a report by DemandGen the most popular types of content used in the past 12 months to research B2B purchasing decisions were:
White Papers (83%)
Case Studies (67%)
Blog posts (56%)
The DemandGen Report shows the content types business buyers share with colleagues the most are:
Blog Posts (40%)
White Papers (35%)
Case Studies (33%)
According to the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, the top 5 content marketing metrics are:
Web Traffic/Visits (63%)
Lead Quantity (42%)
Lead Quality (39%)
Social Media Sharing (36%)
4. Optimise content for the whole customer journey
Never underestimate the power of search, but remember to optimise all parts of the customer experience from awareness, through research to transaction with a compelling narrative and clear next steps.
5. Think channel first
Design your content around the channels first, then spread the word about your content using those channels that best fit your content and its objective. Choose your tactics carefully – awareness content needs volume but thought leadership will be better targeted at key influencers.
6. Interact with your audience with opinions that count
Engage with your audience but be clear about why you are doing it and what you want to achieve. Do you want to learn more about how to solve your customer's’ problems? Or gauge their views about new developments? This is much easier to do if you have your own online community rather than using other social media channels which are more about mass communication than one-to-one contact.
The benefit of building your own online community is that you develop a direct long-term relationship with your customer. Interaction is often easier and more coherent than other social media channels allowing for deeper and personal communication. It can be an effective way of adding value to your products and getting customer feedback and it offers a mutual benefit for customers as they can interact with their peers facing the same challenges and access experts in your business quickly and easily.
This close connection offers benefits to the whole business but particularly marketers as it will inform and deliver marketing activities to a targeted audience. It also puts you in an even better position to weather the changes in the digital landscape – so even if channels come and go, your online community will remain constant.
By putting the customer at the centre of your digital marketing plans, you can use a more focused approach to your digital marketing with precise messaging to grab their attention and build connections focused on relevant information.
In an era where potential B2B buyers who feel a “high brand connection” are 60% more likely to consider, purchase and even pay a premium than “low brand connection” competitors (according to research by CEB/Google). It’s more important than ever to capture attention and build those connections.
B2B decision makers are searching out information before they buy - make sure you provide the relevant content to attract their attention.
Create different types of content to suit different buyer personas and for different points in the buying process.
Content that helps to create online communities will help you target your audience more effectively through search and influencers.
By developing an online community, you’ll be in a better position to deal with a shifting digital landscape and develop a more direct connection with your target audience.
Discover how a thriving B2B community can prove substantial ROI for CMOs and inbound marketing activities.