rubix cube

As B2B marketers, we know that online content plays a critical role in B2B purchase decisions. In an increasingly cluttered and competitive marketplace, the right content can help B2B buyers make more informed decisions about the products and services they need and the companies best suited to provide those solutions. A recent report from the CMO Council, which examined the current state of B2B content marketing, found that a whopping 87 percent of B2B content seekers believe online content has either “a major or moderate impact on vendor preference and selection.”

Not too surprising then that the report also found B2B firms are spending over 25 percent of their marketing budgets on the development, delivery and promotion of content to drive business leads. Marketers are becoming publishers, striving to create content-driven marketing programs that build brand awareness and fuel sales efforts.

Yet, despite increased spending on content marketing, the CMO Council found that too many companies are still engaging in “random acts of content development,” implementing programs that lack a cohesive strategy and often fail to provide buyers with engaging, consultative and relevant information. “It’s no longer about putting a brochure or thought leadership piece in the mail and presenting at a conference,” Laura Beslaw, CMO for global consulting firm, Alix Partners, said in the report. “The content strategy needs to be part of a comprehensive integrated marketing program.” In other words, before developing a single piece of content, marketers need to make sure their content strategy is properly aligned with their overall brand and marketing strategy, identifying those topics that are most credible and unique coming from the firm and deploying them in a synchronized fashion across all relevant touchpoints.

Complicating the matter are two major trends that are transforming the marketing landscape: the proliferation of digital, social and mobile channels, and the diversification of the B2B decision maker in today’s enterprise, especially in industries like technology where buying power is spreading around the C-suite. Against this ever-evolving backdrop, the requirements and resources needed to develop and deploy valuable, relevant, accessible and engaging content has become increasingly complex.

Marketers are taking different approaches to addressing this challenge. For example, LexisNexis holds customer discovery and innovation groups to ensure content is fresh and meaningful to all decision makers. According to LexisNexis CMO of the Research and Litigation Solutions division, Steve Mann, the groups help the firm “understand what [customer’s] articulated and unarticulated needs are in terms of products and the types of content they want to see come out from us.”

Other marketers are focusing on how to most effectively deliver content in a digital world. For many this means repurposing traditional reports and long form whitepapers into shorter, more digestible pieces of content in a variety of digital formats. According to Colleen Albiston, CMO for Deloitte in Canada, “reaching and influencing business audiences requires shorter, more accessible formats, including video and multimedia. While larger reports still have a place, the ideas they generate need to be offered in a wider variety of easily consumable media types.” Providing mobile access, in particular, is becoming more important as smartphones and tablets continue to be embraced by B2B audiences as a research tool for business purchases.

While getting this content equation right can be difficult, it’s worth the effort: valued content is not only highly influential in the decision-making process, it’s also widely shared by B2B buyers. In fact, the report found that 28 percent of respondents share content with more than 100 colleagues and 59 percent forward content to more than 25 people. And it’s this peer-reviewed content that decision-makers trust the most. The CMO Council found that “peer-powered content, delivered through professional communities and industry associations” had the most influence on buyers compared to content that came from bloggers, social media channels, print trade publications and vendor websites. This means that valued content has the most potential to become viral content.

As technology continues its rapid evolution, these channels of influence will likely shift. However, companies that are able to continuously create engaging and meaningful content – and serve it up in easily accessible and consumable formats – will successfully increase visibility, build stronger connections with buyers and forge ahead in the sales process.