The Listening Game For Content in B2B Marketing

This article was originally appeared in Chief Marketer.

by Thomas Koletas

Determining what content will resonate with prospects and customers is a major challenge in B2B marketing. Traditionally, B2B marketers created content based on the products they wanted to promote. If the company needed to sell more widgets, the content simply had to be about how widgets could solve every problem.

Now that so much of the B2B decision-making process occurs online, content has to be more customer-centric. Today, B2B marketing content needs to be created based on what shoppers want and need, not what management dictates.

Of course, B2B marketers have been listening to the calls for “customer-centric” marketing for nearly a decade, But when it comes to content, many struggle to figure out what their customers actually desire. Looking at analytics helps a bit—marketers can see what kinds of content their customers are consuming and create more of it. But that isn’t enough

With content marketing gaining more momentum and its own set of best practices in recent years, marketers have begun using additional data for guidance. SEO insights have proven to be a good source of information. Using the keywords that drive prospects to your site as inspiration for content can be a reasonably good way to create more content prospects want. Even better, creating optimized content around the keywords for which you want to be found could potentially drive targeted traffic to your site, as well.

Social data can also be helpful. Identifying hashtags and trending topics in social media is another great way to inform content creation that was relevant and clearly necessary.

So with site-side analytics, keyword data and social data, marketers have that customer-centric content thing covered, right? B2B marketers everywhere are building libraries of incredible, optimized content, and now prospects will be banging down their doors, filling out lead-generation forms left and right, and loading up the sales inbox with RFQs, right?

Not exactly. While all those methods of researching content are helpful—and far better than the old school method of creating whatever the boss tells you to create—they’re not necessarily helping you create the B2B marketing content your prospects need.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the prospect to whom you’re attempting to sell, you’ll realize that the prospect has a very specific problem they’re hoping to solve. Whether that prospect needs to hire a new head of finance, to upgrade a legacy email platform, or find a new engineering partner, the needs are specific, and they’re looking to you to help make their job easier by fixing that problem.

Rather than create general content around your high-volume keywords, content marketers need to understand exactly what a prospect’s problems are and respond quickly. With intent data, that can be done with relative ease. Intent data can tell marketers exactly what prospects are searching for, with respect to that purchase. So, if a major investment firm is looking for a new content management system for all their global web properties, marketers can learn not only that the firm is looking, but potentially all the features they’re looking for, what problems they need the new CMS to solve, and even what server environments it must conform to. That gives marketers a lot of information for content creation! “The Three Questions Investment Firms Need to Ask Before Choosing a CMS,” for one. “The Best CMS for PHP.” “Five Content Management Systems That Even Your CEO Can Use.” Intent data, in combination with surge data, can help marketers create content calendars that can help drive leads, and potentially close sales.

The old school tactics of leveraging site-side analytics and SEO can certainly help guide content—to an extent. However, for many marketers, there simply isn’t enough reliable data to go on. Intent data can help marketers discover the topics their audiences seek, so marketers can stop guessing and start knowing.

Thomas Koletas is senior vice president of global media at Madison Logic.