Dennis Syracuse, CMO of Madison Logic, explores how B2B marketers can tune into the needs of their customers and prospects

A recent survey revealed that 77 percent of B2B marketers rank content marketing as essential to their practices. At the same time another study revealed that only 36 percent of B2B marketers feel they are effective at content marketing. What’s happening here?

The problem might very well lie at the core of the marketing practice. Marketers have stories to tell and their content reflects their stories. Often, however, marketers become enamored of their own messaging and forget to listen to the needs of their prospects. It’s important to realize that, as marketers, we’re not as much in the talking game as we should be in listening mode.

But how can we do this? Obviously, the numbers show that many of us have turned a deaf ear to the songs our prospects are singing. Here are a few ideas that can help us better tune into their songbook. Consider the “See Me, Feel Me” section of The Who’s 1970 masterpiece, “Tommy.” There’s more than one reason the section precedes “Listening to You.”

Hear Me: Social media

Keeping an ear open to topics discussed in social media can indeed help you understand what’s important in the marketplace and help you sculpt an appropriate message. Hashtags, trending topics are a great way to inform content creation.

See Me: Seach engine optimization

Online tools like Google Trends grant rich insight into the topics your prospects are actually searching. It allows you to parse topics such as Human Resources into more granular buckets, allowing you to discern the popularity of varied terms based on actual Google searches. For example, in a recent report comparing the terms “Recruiting Technology” to “HR Technology,” the latter was unquestionably triumphant.

Feel Me: Site-side analytics

Your own analytics can also be instructive. What are the terms people are using to arrive at your site? What are they doing once they’re there? Are they downloading or interacting with content or is your bounce rate higher than that of a tightly stretched trampoline? Be responsive to these numbers. If people are downloading, pat yourself on the back. If they’re jumping ship, you’ve got work to do.

Touch Me: Intent Data

The listening tactics above are great ways to form a hypothesis of what’s going on in the marketplace and by extension, what’s going on with your ideal accounts. Intent data, by contrast, can pinpoint exactly what topics users are researching in the marketplace. With this information in hand you don’t want to create content about the “finance,” instead you can focus on the terms “investment software” and “online and mobile investing” which are surging in the marketplace.

Intent data is doubly powerful because it not only reveals the surging topics, it reveals exactly what accounts are doing the research that’s causing the surge. By combining intent data with tactics such as account based marketing, content syndication and/or targeted advertising you can reach exactly the right prospects as they’re moving through the funnel. Google research has shown us that B2B users will do 50 percent of their research before reaching out to a salesperson so this is a crucial time to reach them.

Social, SEO, site-side analytics can inform content, but in some sense these tactics amount to your most informed guess. By employing intent data alongside them, the listening game opens the deeper soundings of the marketplace. In other words, intent can build a sort of alarm system alerting you to what’s resonating in the marketing place and who it’s resonating with, allowing you to create content that harmonizes with these trends.