The Power Of B2B Branded Content
Author: Jack Dyson, Global Head of Content Strategy at SAP Customer Experience
All content is designed to persuade. Authors want you to love their storytelling, comedians want to make you laugh, movie makers want to transport you (and make you come back for the sequel). It’s the same in marketing and advertising. ‘Push’or ‘pull’, you’re using it to build a relationship with your customer that sees your brand acting as their trusted companion.
With branded content, whether that’s a journey to business success or giving a consumer confidence because they’re wearing your brand’s Watch/Perfume/Underpants etc, your persuasion point is that you can help them achieve their goals quickly, effectively and feel good doing it. You’re tapping a slightly more complex, emotional set of keys.
This isn’t new. The Ancient Greeks had a goddess, Peitho (Suada to the Romans), who personified persuasion, seduction and the gift of the gab. But what has changed is the fantastic number of ways to reach an audience – and the fact that the audience itself is evolving ever quicker.
Building A Connection
Thanks to the smart phone, we can all do effective price comparisons without even getting out of bed. We don’t switch off our ‘consumer’ heads just because we’ve opened Outlook and started work. Google and YouTube are still the first two ports of call for the overwhelming majority of searches – by some margin. So the challenge is to make a meaningful connection.
As a B2B marketer, it pays to take careful note of consumer insights. Three headline facts from PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey: 42% have either already purchased or plan to purchase a consumer AI device; 88% are happy to pay for same-day or faster delivery; and social networks are the number one source of inspiration for purchases.
How are these relevant? Because they show you where people make their decisions, how they search, and that convenience is (still) king. People research in ways that are convenient to them – and at their own speed.
In fact according to Forrester, 90% of a prospect’s journey may be complete before they reach out to a salesperson. For B2B, the trick is to be easy to find, to become a credible part of that ecosystem, to be where your customers are and talk to them at their level, in their own language.
If you can be the first to enable their research that simple emotional connection – built on trust – means your chances of rising to the top of the shortlist are way stronger. Recent LinkedIn research has 45% of decision makers saying thought leadership led to them giving business to a company – and 30% saying it has dissuaded them.
The Right Stuff
Trust is key. It’s a serious currency. If you see each touch point as an opportunity to build trust, then you’re not only looking at going from awareness and consideration to conversion, you’re building a relationship that will last – a customer for life. Mess it up, however, and like any poorly-handled transaction, you’ll break that relationship. Mangle your messaging, or come over too sales-y, and thought-leadership suddenly loses credibility.
So it’s not content that matters here, it’s the right content. It’s telling a story in the right way, on the right channel and at the right time. That’s how you reach someone and build an audience – and that also means it’s not a volume game. There’s a very necessary balance here between deluging an audience with identical messages and actually getting a message through simply and clearly.
The power here is in engagement, telling a story well. And that requires editorial nous, storytelling craft and confidence in what you are doing. To do it well, you have to be prepared to to create a great story first, something that stands up on its own regardless of the brand behind it.
The Looking Glass
It’s about amplification too. According to Social Media Today, leads developed by your employees’ social action (such as sharing something on LinkedIn) are seven times more likely to convert than other leads. If you engage employees in your content strategy, even if it’s something as simply as sharing one link a week, employees have the power to make a massive difference. Fundamentally, to do branded content well you need to understand the customer. Test your assumptions. You might find gated white papers a joy to read, they might even be super convenient to attribute internal lead success, but do they make sense to your customers? Branded content has evolved.
Not long ago, businesses still dithered about whether they should invest in social. Those that don’t find themselves out in the cold, nowhere near their customers. Now, many businesses are quick to talk about the channels they own and the content they produce.
Customers expect a certain presence – but not everyone can deploy an army of daredevils to be the next Red Bull or GoPro. And from a brand perspective, it might just seem like frippery. With B2B branded content, those customer touch points we looked at earlier are opportunities for you to support, enable and enlighten your audience as they seek to improve themselves and their businesses. With the right tools, you can also use these moments to find out about your customer and build a record that goes way beyond ‘they bought this so they might like that’. Instead develop insights on what they’re looking for – and create content that supports them in that research.
The Extra Mile
One of the most important things that good branded content can do is humanise a brand. Yet at its best, B2B branded content is so much more than the equivalent of a trusty handshake from someone you’re about to do business with. Asidefrom the obvious danger of making a rod for your own back, by creating a regular flow of good branded content, you are collecting an audience and identifying groups of people with common interests.
So the question becomes – if you’re presenting as an authentic, personable brand with a human face, what sort of human are you? This is where you can use branded content to stand out. By following a goal or tackling an issue – with authenticity – you have a chance to unite your audience. Whether it’s a series of films highlighting each of the UN Global Goals or the inspiring story behind your brand ambassador’s origins, this is what gives your brand texture and transports you beyond the competition.
Jack Dyson is the Global Head of Content Strategy at SAP Customer Experience. Jack is fascinated by strategies that blend creative concepts together with innovative tech and old-school marketing. Over the past 20-years, he has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and agencies, humanising their content whilst delivering targeted, successful and credible campaigns – for both internal and external audiences. He learned his craft from working directly with experts at some of the world’s best and most exciting brands. Jack’s speciality is helping tell a story in the right place and in the right way. Making content that works.