Tim Lozier, marketing director at ETQ, gives his insights into the future of content marketing, why webinars will become more critical, and how storytelling marketing has changed the software industry.
The market of software technologies is one of the most rapidly changing industries nowadays, and we at ETQ recognize this. Clients are no longer passive consumers — they want active results and real answers to solve real problems. If you’re not thinking about how customers and technologies are responding to current market trends, then the software industry will fall behind.
It’s about working hard on creating valuable content marketing, and at the core driving awareness and interest to our company’s services and products. B2B buyers must understand how you will help them achieve their business objectives, and that can only be realised by investing in the emotional relationship between the client and vendor.
1. B2B customers will review you — not just consumers
Don’t be fooled into thinking that reviews are left for the hospitality and service industry. Customers are savvy, and will be researching your company (on sites such as G2 Crowd or Capterra) to find a solution that’s right for them. This could be either one-to-one plan, or even peer reviews on your company in order to see what other customers are saying about you.
It’s fine to craft content to elevate discussion, but it’s important to understand these types of people on their level and how they consume information. Throwing up ads and compelling creatives just isn’t the same as connecting to your customers. It’s all about creating excitement and personal value that will give a reason for your customer to continue to do business with you.
2. Emotional connections are vital for any piece of content
There’s a dozen or so software companies out there who all do the same thing, so I find it immensely important to allow our content to have a form of emotional storytelling. Sure, you’re putting a significant investment into that software, but the software alone is not really what’s going to solidify that relationship. It’s going to be the partnership between the vendor and the client.
Marketing must elicit feelings of trust, reliability and credibility. To do that, content has to reflect customer pain-points and concerns. That way, they can see us not just as a software company, but a software solution or a partner in the customer journey.
3. Marketing has focused on ‘buyers’ perceived and unperceived needs
There are a lot of companies in our space that are trying to sell on features and functions, and while that provides an instant level of engagement with a client, it only focuses on an immediate need at that one point in time. Instead, by broadening the point of discussion, and pinpointing common challenges faced in our industry, we can gather both clients who have an immediate need, and clients who are peripherally engaged with us.
It’s a meaningful way and value-driven way to get your brand out there. For us, it has resulted in more contacts; volume; and a larger pool of potential clients to interact with. It’s key to remember that these clients are not lost opportunities — they’re opportunities for the future. Because when they do eventually come around, at least we’ll be on top of their mind.
4. Webinars will become more important for B2B lead generation
The dynamic of buyers has changed. Some prefer written content. Others prefer more media-orientated content. Responding to this need and diversifying our content helps us to attract customers and to build up authority in our industry.
One way we achieved this was to change our approach to webinars. They’re seen as a big commitment for a passive ‘top-of-the-funnel’ engagement, but we promoted them in our campaigns as a piece of content that people could access whenever they wanted to. It converted way better than any of our other assets did.
We also realised that our content often goes through cycles. One strategy we have developed to overcome this is to take our older content and repurpose it. That way, there will be content that is fresh, but rather than making our older content redundant, we have given renewed life to it. So while you’re not gaining traction from a lead standpoint, you’ll still retaining exposure and the organics to attract potential leads.
It’s also worth noting when to ditch some content strategies altogether. For us, giving away free software with the intention of marketing a premium service for paying customers didn’t resonate well. Content must be able to adapt to market trends, and be able to respond to customers wants and needs.
5. A marketing department needs the right people
Having a team that is self-driven to take the lead in contributing their own ideas, and who also know current trends in thought leadership, content, and campaigns is vital for any marketing leader. It takes the pressure off you to be able to step back and devote your attention to the wider questions or debates within the marketing world.
As a leader in the marketing department, I’ve always said, ‘Take 20% of your week and think about what’s next: think about something out of the box. Don’t work on existing stuff, go and do some research, see what’s out there and come back to the table with something different’. Not every idea will be great, but giving yourself and your team that breathing space to expand on these ideas is crucial for any marketing department to progress forward.
6. Marketers need to be aware of being too complacent
If you’re not thinking about how customers are buying now, how technology is changing to adapt to whatever’s new, and trying to build out a program for it, you’re going to miss out and let opportunities slip by. One such opportunity we utilised was ‘rich snippets’. It’s a term used to describe data that site operators can add to their existing HTML, such as images or reviews. Rich snippets provide a great way to enhance your listings in Google so they stand out from the competition, which will ultimately bring more qualified users to your site.
The goal is let customers find the information they are looking for with ease. A lot of software websites will often advertise the same products. This is just one way we wanted to step ahead of the game. It resulted in an increase in our organic traffic onto our website. If we didn’t take this unorthodox approach, then our competitors would have taken advantage. It’s about keeping the pulse on what is exciting in marketing, what can attract clients, and ultimately, what will drive sales.
7. Leverage the customer’s voice — not buzzwords
Customers and businesses can spot when you are being overly buzzword-centric. You have to be genuine with the meaning of your content, and the way your voice is tailored to that content. They’re not trying to find the five different buzzwords that align with their pain point, they’re looking for real answers to solve real challenges.
Whether you’re building a content strategy or an inbound marketing strategy, having that genuine voice becomes such a powerful tool. It’s not about trying to talk over people, or talk above people, but talking to them. Your relationship with your customers should be one where the customers can say to themselves: ‘Yeah, this is a company that I would have a beer with,’ or ‘I would want to hang out with them and talk shop with them,’ and that kind of thing.
8. Tailoring your social media accounts to different audiences is key
Even though we are a B2B company, we try to tailor our social media accounts to different audiences. We recognize that not everyone wants to see adverts for software solutions alongside their kids’ pictures on Facebook, but equally, we understand that discussing business or a thought leadership program will translate much better on LinkedIn. Or, directing a sale with tech-oriented companies would be more suitable on Twitter.
One way which we have utilized social media is to promote our company culture through Facebook. This could be us elevating our company as a ‘cool’ company showcasing our colleagues at voluntary events or attending different conferences — not just your usual posts.
Want to find out what other marketing leaders think about the future of content? Read The Future of Content Marketing: 10 interviews with leading CMOs on the trends they’re using to disrupt in 2019.