While well-written white papers, case studies and other marketing collateral are essential for effective content marketing, the scientific side is often overlooked in the process. At Demand Gen Report’s Business-to-Business Content to Conversion (B2B C2C) conference in Manhattan, which wrapped up yesterday, May 7, speakers touted the logic behind each piece, including matching content to specific buyer personas and analyzing metrics to better inform content marketing strategies for B2B companies.

Andrew Gaffney, publisher of Demand Gen Report, took the stage first, and right off the bat, attendees were introduced to the cold, hard statistics behind content marketing. The importance of content that tells a good story cannot be underestimated, as 75 percent of executives rely more on content today than they did just one year ago to make decisions. Additionally, 64 percent of these same executives said that vendor content significantly impacts their decision-making, according to Gaffney.

In fact, customers are buying differently – and the story is not about how B2B companies are marketing or selling differently, according to Brent Adamson, co-author of The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation. Customers are 57 percent of the way through the buying process when they finally decide to contact vendors, and during that time is when companies can teach – or “unteach” – the customers, breaking down their established way of doing things that doesn’t work and introducing them to solutions that will, Adamson said. This requires great content and great research.

That hidden sales cycle, where great content fueled by great research prompts customers to contact the company, content success requires three “F”s, according to Trip Kucera, vice president of client success and CMO-in-residence at Harte Hanks’ data and content solutions group. These Fs are:

  • Fine: content that is beautiful, smart and highly creative;
  • Fit: has utility and fits with the buyers’ needs, which makes the buyers a mental user of the solution; and
  • Findable: Google and other search engines are able to find it.

Content that fits is tailored to buyer personas – and buyer personas need to be active tools that companies revisit regularly to inform marketing, according to Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc. A persona is a composite sketch, not a real person. “There are all kinds of Harrys, Sams and Davids, but what do they have in common?” she asked. That is where the persona is.

Matt Papertsian, research director, demand creation strategies at Sirius Decisions, took the science a step further with what he called “deal forensics.” Using analytics readily available in most organizations, companies can identify buyer touch points from first contact to when the deal was closed, reconstruct the buyer journey and use that to inform which collateral will be used with future buyers. Content is aligned to the buyer and lined up with buyer personas, he said.

The only disappointment – and disservice – to SMBs on a budget came in the form of Pam Didner, global integrated marketing strategist at Intel. She advocated finding budget freelancers, but this is dangerous for any business, as you do get what you pay for. Small businesses in particular would be harmed by this advice as they do not have the resources to fix what cheap, mass-market freelancers may have produced and wind up losing credibility before they even enter the marketplace.

Overall, though, B2B C2C provided excellent content marketing education to large and small businesses alike, offering actionable advice that B2B companies can use to better market to their customers.