How To Listen to Your B2B Prospects
If you talk to any B2B marketer about their challenges, you’ll no doubt hear about content marketing. Content marketing is essential to our lead generation efforts, but despite our best efforts only 30% of us claim to be effective at it, per the Content Marketing Institute.
There are many reasons for this: bad SEO, poor content distribution, ignoring or neglecting social media, not publishing regularly enough, the list can go on and on. The one thing we know it is not for want of content. Most content –60-70% of it according to SiriusDecisions– is simply unused. In other words, our target audience isn’t finding the content we create useful.
And why isn’t it useful? Because most of us are not listening to our prospects. Forrester data tells us that 77% of B2B marketers are still creating product-centric content, a sure-fire way of losing a prospect before they even move into the pipeline.
Listening to You Prospects: The Old-Fashioned Way
There are many resources a B2B marketer has for listening to their prospects, but don’t ignore the most basic: your sales team. It’s your sales team that interacts every day with your customer base. They listen to their pain points, challenges, problems, and celebrations.
These are essential things for a B2B marketer to know as they build a content marketing program. Schedule a twice-a-month meeting with your sales team so that they can update you on the conversations they’ve been having on sales calls. Use this data to inform your content development.
Listening to Your Prospects: The Data-Driven Way
A salesperson once told me a story about a prospect team who called him from a conference room. He wasn’t there to answer the phone, so the call went to voice mail. The client left a message, but instead of disconnecting the call, the client only took the phone off speaker and continued their meeting, enumerating the pluses and minuses of the sales person’s solution and the problems they hoped it would solve.
All this was recorded into my friend’s voice mail. When he called his prospect back, you better believe he could address their pain points. They had essentially bugged their own conference room. Armed with the info the prospect revealed, my friend got the sale.
But even though it might work, we can’t spy on our prospects. There are, however, other ways to listen.
Search Engine Optimization
Google has been and will remain the dominant search engine for the foreseeable future. As such, Google searches can tell us much about what people are looking for when they search topics around your products and solutions. That’s why an SEO tool like Google Trends can double as a content marketing tool.
The tool ranks search terms based on their popularity with the express intention of help you create an SEO or SEM strategy. Plugging in the terms most important to you allows you to better understand what to emphasize and what do deprecate for your next white paper.
The website wordtracker.com is another SEO resource that content planners will find useful. Instead of telling you how specific keywords are performing on Google, wordtracker.com shows you terms and phrases related to your topics of interest. While some of this can be dross, insights can be gleaned from these reports.
Whether you know it or not, your site is a powerful resource when it comes to content creation. Usually, the most active part of a B2B website is its blog. With original articles, syndicated content, videos, etc., the activity on your blog can help you understand the content that is popular.
But, here, don’t be fooled by page views. The more impressive metric for content marketers is your bounce rate. A bounce rate of 0-40% signifies that the reader was engaged enough with your content to pursue more information. Anything higher than 70% did not engage your audience and topics around it should probably be avoided.
Additionally, if your site has a search resource, take note of the words people are searching on your site. This is a record of the exact terms your prospects find most important.
Social Media Listening
For B2B marketers, social media is a marketplace of ideas, and since Twitter entered the picture, we’ve been provided a way to understand exactly what ideas are being discussed: the almighty hashtag.
Using sites like hashtagify.me you can plug in your keywords and discover other topics in its orbit. When you know these are the conversations people are having around your core capabilities, you can develop the tangential content necessary to capture your share of the attention.
Ritetag.com is a similar site where you can plug in hashtags and discover related topics. These topics differ from hashtagify.me in that they build on the original search term.
Intent Data/Surging Topics
All the above can give you an impression of what your prospects are researching, but the insight is broad, impossible to apply to specific accounts. In short, these resources amount to little more than a well-informed guess.
All data gleaned from these sources –search, web analytics, social—can narrow the focus of your content, helping you align your content to macro trends. But as B2B marketers continue to embrace Account Based Marketing (ABM), we must narrow our focus further, creating hyper-relevant content for each account.
Creating hyper-relevant content requires more than swapping out company name and changing industry references. Hyper-relevant content is content that aligns with the pain points of specific accounts. Luckily, we now have data that is robust enough to tell you when accounts are engaged in research for products and services like yours, and what terms they’re using to conduct that research.
Below, you’ll see Madison Logic’s surging data for a specific account. We have awarded high “surge scores” to the topics that the account is currently using to research the subject of content marketing. It also marks those that are receding or those with low surge scores.
This is crucial information for successful account based marketing. Because a savvy ABM program is a combination of digital advertising and lead generation tactics, surge data can inform both, allowing you to customize your messaging for each account.
All these tactics will help you create relevant messaging and content for your target accounts, but it’s the application of surge data that will drive more engagement than content created by those who fail to listen to their audience.
Stay tuned for the second installment of this blog post where I’ll break down how you distribute this content once you’ve created it.
Image Courtesy: Ky Olson
To learn more, download Madison Logic’s whitepaper, How To Capture Your ABM Audience.
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