B2B Spending, Trending, Research and More

That’s the subtitle to AdAge’s just-released 2016 B-to-B Marketing Fact Pack. It’s an at-a-glance compilation of insights on spending patterns and trends across marketing platforms, as well as profiles of 25 top b-to-b companies, looking at their marketing leadership, ad spending, strategies and campaigns. The complete report can be purchased for $49 here. The report also lists top advertisers and largest agencies. Independent of the stories and facts about the ad agencies themselves—10 are featured in the guide—there are top-level stats under the headings of:

  • B-To-B Spending Trends
  • Content Marketing
  • Lead Generation
  • Marketing Automation
  • Mobile and Social Marketing

In reading through this, I noticed that content marketing permeated practically every trend and slice-n-dice of the research. Now to be fair, the definition of ‘content marketing’ can be a bit loose. After all, some would argue that everything is content. But according to the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

 

 

Content Marketing’s Challenge

So while the research shows that 88% of b-to-b marketers use content marketing and 76% expect to create more content than last year, they still face some of the same, persistent challenges, most notably at the top of the list: producing engaging content. And although the most used content marketing tactics are the ones you’d expect—social media, case studies, blogs, enewsletters, videos, infographics—marketers seem to remain luke-warm on rating their effectiveness.
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When I look at those findings and reflect back to the definition from the CMI, as well as numerous discussions with clients over recent months, it becomes clear that the challenge in today’s instantly connected and constantly distracted world is engagement. And engagement with content comes from expertly integrating those three core traits: valuable, relevant and consistent.

 

 

Human Storytelling

The underlying theme that runs through this content-focused report—including a profile of the B-To-B Agency of the Year, Gyro—is the importance of human, emotional storytelling. ‘Humanly relevant’ is one of the ways it’s described. I’ve written many posts about the shift to H2H, the importance of emotional branding and the value of brand purpose. All of these terms reflect the need for organizations to rethink their positioning, value propositions and key messaging platforms, and construct them from an individual client/customer/member/prospect perspective. Then, once the brand’s core messaging platform is fully aligned with purpose­—the ‘why’ of the brand: why you matter and why you exist—brands need to rethink and retool all communications, top down and bottom up. External and internal. Digital, print, video and experiential. By using this lens of human storytelling, brand communications will be more relevant, valuable, and yes, engaging.

One of the ways we infused human relevance into a communications campaign recently was for the CHEST Foundation. As part of a lung health public awareness initiative, we developed a ‘MythBuster’ tool for both asthma and COPD. By simply addressing public assumptions regarding these conditions, the information was delivered as if talking with a trusted family physician. (Read the case study.)

So in your ongoing efforts to develop and deliver relevant content—for any delivery channel—make it valuable to the individual, keep it real, and keep it human.

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