These days, many B2B companies will at the very least claim to be customer-focused. Whether it's in their R&D efforts, customer service or their marketing, most believe they put the customer first. The truth, however, can be quite different.
While there are many areas in B2B content marketing that aren't new, one that can bring marketers up short is just how pathologically customer-centric it is. Everything is geared to discovering what the customer wants pre-sale, and then giving it to them in a helpful, accessible (even entertaining) way.
Of course it makes perfect sense: delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time is a core component of Marcoms 101. But all too often, companies focus on what they wish their customers want rather than what they actually want and need. As a result, their marketing lacks relevance and empathy – it gives the impression that they're simply not living in the same world customers are. And that's a direct route to poor effectiveness.
In a world awash with (pretty crappy) B2B content, brands that offer the best experience – delivering the greatest value when it's needed in the most easily accessible ways – will win. Yet the user experience (UX) of most B2B content marketing is often sadly ignored. Of course, across web development UX is now a pretty established (if evolving) field, so what can we learn from how UX professionals approach the customer? Here are 5 lessons for starters:
1: It's what the customer takes in, not what you put out, that's important
Effective communication is always about the recipient. What marketers want to pump out has little bearing if it is not what the customer wants or is ready to hear. It doesn't matter how eloquently you think you've articulated your value proposition, if the customer takes out something different, that's a fail.
2. Walk a mile in your customers' shoes
Empathy is critical to delivering a great user experience. Yet, too many marketers still focus on what they think their customers care about rather than what they actually care about. Sadly, wishing doesn't make it so. It's vital to park the corporate ego and focus on what really matters to your customers and prospects – what interests them, what they struggle with, what keeps them awake at night.
3. Focus on context
Different customers will have different content needs at different stages of the sales and marketing funnel. It's pointless focusing exclusively on products if the customer doesn't even know they have an issue. Likewise, it can be just as damaging to focus on a grand, all-encompassing 'vision' if all the customer wants is to be able to select the right product quickly and easily. So understanding and catering for variations in context is key.
4. Limit choices and distractions
Content cramming is endemic in B2B marketing. Ebooks that end up as a hodge-podge of various ideas. Landing pages that offer 15 things to click on in addition to the call to action we're being judged upon. Emails with several irrelevant calls to action battling for attention. In the real world, customers have neither the time nor the patience for this and will reward it by simply going elsewhere.
5. Make it easy for the customer to extract value
Customers have a default position that can be be summed up in the phrase: What's in it for me? So being clear about what your content offers and making it easy for customers to get what they need quickly and easily is fundamental to success. This will often involve taking a layered approach allowing the customer to go deeper as and when they want to. Having an easy, logical content pathway through the sales and marketing funnel will ensure customers can get what they need, when they need it.
We are, of course, only scratching the surface of what UX can teach today's B2B content marketers. But it's clear that by putting real customers at the centre of everything we do, we can ensure that our B2B content has greater relevance, higher value and increased effectiveness. And, ultimately, that's what it's all about.