Unifying content marketing and demand generation for strategic growth in B2B

B2B marketing is becoming more complex, involving more channels, formats and strategies.

Propeller’s Group Director of Growth Jody Osman was delighted recently to join a panel at Advertising Week New York to discuss the challenges in marketing and lead generation at a session chaired by Demand Exchange Chairman Justin Cooke. He joined Marilyn Mead Brutoco, Vice President Marketing at Winmo and Matthew Don, Chief Operating Officer at Doremus+Co, for a wide-ranging discussion –  some of the main talking points and insights from the conversation are summed up below.

Creativity is coming to B2B – but could speed up

B2B marketing can seem less innovative and much drier than its B2C sibling – may be partly due to smaller marketing budgets and so less freedom to experiment. But creativity and innovation is seeping through.

Using Winmo as its own case study Marilyn said: “What we try to do in addition to our always on demand-gen programmes is have instances that spark creativity and that sort of energise our audience to engage with Winmo.” She pointed to an ‘agency mock pitch’ exercise Winmo organised for new business development agencies where they used Winmo Personality Insights to pitch fictional CMOs, such as Marvel’s Tony Stark – and the exercise was judged by real CMOs.

Influencer techniques – now a huge staple of B2C – have been adapted. Jody explained how when visiting Cannes Lions this year Propeller had worked with a client to produce video interviews with high-flying CMOs and decision-makers. He said: “Immersing yourself alongside the influencers in the industry can create really compelling content.”

He also pointed out that while from a PR perspective the focus is often on the senior leaders within a business, Propeller’s own AWNY panel earlier in the week featured journalists who said they don’t just want to hear from the senior leaders, “so it’s key to find ways of involving different people in your content that will resonate with different target audiences.”

Matthew stressed the value of consistent creativity and brand building for B2B and said: “There’s never been a better time for the attention on the value of brand and B2B but I don’t see the traction coming through to be frank in terms of that ongoing, enduring commitment. All partners need to work together to drive that home and demonstrate the results and the success that can come of that.

Content and the path to conversion

Whatever the format, content needs to be designed to move prospects along the funnel to conversion. This means making sure the content resonates with the target audience of decision-maker and is appropriate for each of the touchpoints along the customer journey.

Jody explained: “If you look at demand-gen, ultimately there’s a sales focus of trying to get people to understand your product or service – and ultimately to buy it. But as a first step, you need to engage audiences with stuff that adds value and delivers real insight. Generally, we try not to put too much focus on the product – that comes once you’ve actually got the audience’s interest.”

Matthew explained that a deep knowledge of the decision-makers is crucial to understanding how to engage them. He said: “Understand the buying coalition and understanding the different constituents of the buying coalition, their pain points and how they come together to form decisions. “

The paths to purchase are complex and nuanced mapping is important. He added: “Think about the value chain for e.g. insurance you could be selling through a broker, so that’s a channel, or selling into a  risk committee and on to the CFO or a board? There are multiple different dimensions that you need to think about. When do you reach them? How do you reach them?”

Jody outlined how surfacing useful data and trends to prospects had to be done with deep knowledge of the specific audience – some prospects still need more basic A‑Z guides of a media, for instance CTV, whilst others are much more informed and looking for more sophisticated content.

This is where different formats come into play with shorter form articles to get the initial interest and longer form digestible reports, insights and exclusive intel when they are further along the journey of discovery.

Again, referring to Winmo’s own practices, Marilyn added: “If we put something on TikTok or Linked In that says ‘we’re a sales enablement tool for agencies or media sellers’ people’s eyes glaze over. That’s not really interesting to them in the same way Amazon doesn’t say ‘we’re a marketplace where you can buy things’.

“What we’ll do is look for the hook. What’s the hook that’s going to get people interested and that’s kind of what we form our content around. We’ll release something like’ 25 brands that just got funding that we predict will be launching ad campaigns in the next year’. And that’s the hook that gets people in. And then they wonder ‘What is Winmo? How could I potentially use this?’”

 Building best practice in measurement and retention

All marketers are under pressure to set clear goals, track the effectiveness of their investment and to be able to identify what has led to a successful result.

Matthew said that increasing customer lifetime value beyond acquisition and measuring this was incredibly important, while Marilyn added that from her perspective retention is driven by a mindset of  continual on-boarding.

“The constellation of decision-makers who bought the product might look totally different in six months than the initial buying committee. The question is how do we not just onboard not just once but continually – we call it ‘ever-boarding’.”

Jody emphasised the need to be thorough in tracking where a lead originated – something businesses are often poor at doing –  and evaluating how long conversion took, conversion ratios and mapping the journey through the funnel.

“It’s important to track every lead and the source of that lead. There can be a number of touchpoints from meeting someone at an event to engaging with a specific digital campaign, so you need to reference both the source and the journey they’ve gone on, to know how you can repeat this and keep repeating your success.”