The Future of B2B Marketing is Personal

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Let’s face it. B2B buyers are self-focused. There’s a gap between what buyers want and what B2B marketing content is giving them. There’s a reason that WIIFM has become an evaluation factor for content prior to publishing. “What’s in it for me?” –from the buyer’s perspective—has become a prerequisite for attention and engagement. Content may be the vehicle for engagement, but relevance is the driver.

As I get ready to go to Denver to share this perspective and how to address it with B2B marketing directors of the member firms of PrimeGlobal (An association of independent accounting firms), a few things come to mind…

Relevance is only the start; context and action are what drive intent.



Relevance is now table stakes. If your content isn’t relevant, it won’t grab the attention that leads to action. Without action, there will never be intent.

Intent is when your content has the capacity to get a prospect so mentally absorbed in the concept of solving their problem that they become hell-bent on working with you—buying what you’re selling.

However, action is tricky. It’s so much easier to sit in status quo and do nothing—even as your prospect nods his head as he ingests the ideas your content is sharing. This is where context comes in.

Context is when your content relates so closely to your prospect’s situation and perspective that it serves as a kick in the pants, creating the motivation for action.

Achieving this combination of relevance + context + action to drive intent means that we, as marketers, need to reshape our perspective. We need to make marketing personal.

B2B Marketing is no longer the safe haven of arts and crafts and company focus that it used to be.

It’s not okay that we can’t go to our executive team and say –

  • Here’s the impact our marketing programs have had on downstream revenues
  • Here’s how we’ve helped to shorten time to revenue
  • Here’s why our client retention rates have improved by X%
  • Here’s an untapped market opportunity and how we aim to capitalize on it—and how we’ll prove we’ve been successful
  • Here’s how we’ve built the firm’s brand in the community which has resulted in these referral clients

You get the idea.

Often, the reason we can’t have these conversations is because they’re an afterthought, not a planning principle. The better we know our prospects, the better able we are to start with a goal and back into how we’ll get there—including how we’ll prove our success.



The Path to Revenue Starts with Personas

The path to being able to show marketing’s contribution to profitable growth begins with how well you know your audience. Content that tries to speak to everyone ends up speaking to no one.

Let’s just take a look at needs. Needs for your prospects vary based on roles, industry, firmographics and the problem at hand that your firm can solve.

For example, research shows that the CEO of an SMB is looking for external expertise, responsiveness and industry specialization in their CPA. Two of her main needs are tax preparation and business planning.

In comparison, the CFO of an enterprise company is concerned about operational efficiency, business risk management and compliance fulfillment. He wants strategic decision support, external audit support and corporate tax planning.

Can you see that the same content will not speak to both?

Creating buyer personas provides the foundational relevance you’ll need to create content marketing programs that resonate. Discovering what prospects need to know to choose your firm helps you map the story that will persuade them to make the choice.

Journey Maps Create the Path to Intent—and Metrics

Once you know what they need to know, you can map how they acquire that information to their stages of decision making. This includes what channels they use and how they like their information presented. Do they want a little or a lot? Do they want new ideas or premises based on research and statistics? Do they need the higher-level view or the in-the-trenches how to? With journey maps, you have the framework for a cohesive story that will shift in context in step with your prospects as they work through making the choice.

The key to motivating action that becomes intent is to make sure “what’s next” is at the fore. There must always be a next step that makes sense, is simple and clear, and promises a higher reward than what they’ve just gotten with their current interaction.

If we plan our content marketing strategy in this manner, we can also build in the metrics that enable us to sit at the executive table and share our progress with the metrics and KPIs that grab their attention. Yes, it does require some technology and analytics, but you’ll have a plan to utilize them well based on what your firm cares about.

We have to make marketing personal. To do this, marketers must never forget that it’s about WIIFM for our prospects. And that’s where we must start to make to support our firm’s future goals for business growth.



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If you have buyer personas, but they aren’t helping you to create a content marketing strategy based on relevance + context + action = intent, then my B2B Buyer Persona Assessment may provide the help you need to make that happen.

3 COMMENTS

  1. interesting article Ardath. However, I would argue that the intent (to buy) is often already there when the content is accessed. So, ideally the content that is created has the right content, timing, context, and is ideally personalized. With context and personalized I mean that it should relate to the (buying) situation of the customer/prospect. This makes relevance a bit harder to achieve, though.

    Cheers from Down Under

  2. Hi Thomas,
    Thanks for your comment, but I have to disagree about when “intent” happens. There’s a difference between interest and intent. Especially in complex B2B buying processes. You can be considering something without having the intent to actually change or buy. This is why people do research – to decide whether or not intent is warranted.

    And, if intent was there when people accessed content, there wouldn’t be lengthening buying cycles (provided the content gives them what they’re looking for).

    As for context and personalization, I agree they are necessary. And, yes, it does make relevance harder to achieve. But it can be done 🙂

  3. Hi Ardath, got your point. Thanks for replying. I guess there is a bit of grey area, too; especially with me having a more B2C oriented background :). We can find ourselves also in the status of trying to find out which solution/product is more prone to solve the need that we have.

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