Latest Report: Why B2B Content Marketing is Failing B2B Buyers


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The report is staggering. After spending millions of dollars on content marketing, B2B marketing appears to have taken a few steps backwards.

The report I refer to, is the 11-page report, produced by the CMO Council and Netline, entitled: Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field. While this report focused on new content ROI, it proves to be revealing in several ways. As I read it, this report indicates a dismal failure for B2B Marketing thus far.

My basis for this assessment is by looking at the report from the buyer’s viewpoint. Not the seller’s viewpoint.

Therein lies the core issue – there is a severe lack of understanding on how to connect with buyers. Here are findings, which jump out as confirmation:

Buyers are “migrating to peer-based communities and new sources of trusted, relevant and credible content and conversation.”

“BtoB buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

“BtoB vendor websites are inadequate and hard to navigate”

“These sites lack the depth, objectivity and strategic context that buyers are seeking to inform and lead them through complex evaluation and purchasing processes.”

B2B Marketers “rely on poorly conceived content that doesn’t connect with customer needs and concerns.”

“..blatantly self-serving and promotional content is a major turn-off cited by 43 percent of respondents, and exceeded only by content that comes with too many requirements for downloading (50 percent).”

Naturally, B2B CEO’s and their team of marketing and sales leaders should be concerned. Here is a general perspective I offer:

The bad practices of content marketing, which existed offline, are now proliferating online through digital automation.

Why is this Happening?

In my recent article, 4 Reasons Why Content Marketing Should Care About Audience Development, I offer 4 reasons, which suggest why:

  1. Skipping to the Solution: buyers confirm this when saying overly-hyped
  2. Product Marketing Focus: buyers confirm with mention of overly technical
  3. Sales-Driven Content: buyers confirm by statement of self-serving and lack of objectivity
  4. One-Size Fits All: buyers confirm by noting lack of depth and content

You can read more about my thoughts on each of these areas in the article here.

What Should B2B Leaders Do?

Being relevant to buyers starts with first taking the time to understand buyers. This means making the proper investment as well. This is an investment well worth it – in light of this report. Of the millions spent, how much content has been dragged over to the little trashcan icon on millions of Mac Books and PC’s? Making the qualitative buyer research investment upfront can prevent this excessive waste.

The report does note what is valued. Here is the quick summary:

“Research and papers from professional associations are the most valued and trusted type of content, cited by 67 percent of survey respondents. By comparison, just 9 percent point to vendor whitepapers as highly valued. Other trusted types of content include papers from industry organizations (50 percent), customer case studies (48 percent), analyst reports (44percent) and independent product reviews (40 percent).”

Good information – but not enough. You cannot build a strategy from the above. It takes deep and profound buyer insights about your buyer’s story.

Buyer Persona and Buyer Insight Development Can Help – If Done Right

I recently reviewed the original definition of a buyer persona in this article: What is a Buyer Persona? Why the Original Definition Still Matters to B2B. I encourage B2B leaders to read it and truly understand what they are meant to be. They can be a very effective communications platform, which conveys deep profound buyer insights, models archetypes of buyers and their buying behaviors, and inform strategies. And, on this topic, provide guidance on what it takes to be relevant to buyers with content.

The qualifier is: buyer persona and buyer insight development have to be done right to be effective. I have helped B2B leaders in conversations and works, to see the worst of cases and the best of cases on buyer persona development. The worst could put you much further behind than you think. The best cases have organizations operationalizing buyer insights and using buyer personas as a strategy guide versus superficial profiling.

Final Thought

I see this as a black and white situation. Both you and your organization gets behind door number 1 – understanding buyers. Or, door number 2 – irrelevant to buyers. This report, reading between the lines, is buyers speaking loudly. I don’t hear a passing grade. Do you?

You can get the free report here: Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


  1. “Dragged over to the little trashcan icon.” Great visualization! I wish I’d thought of that. Tony: there’s lots that I’d like to comment on and discuss here, but I’ll be brief. Maybe we can talk by phone on this topic as it’s an area – Cost of Risk – in which I’m now deeply engaged. What you point out so well is that companies spend gobs of money of and time trying to manage a problem, “will my prospect buy from me?”, without having a clear idea about how to effectively solve it.

    Down the road we go, Tweeting, writing white papers, articles, blogs, and other “killer content” in an effort to create a pathway of stepping stones toward our desired goal – a purchase. What we’ve discovered is that our prospects don’t like the approach we’ve shoved at them.

    Part of the issue lies in the culture of marketing and sales. I was always taught that any marketing or sales communication lacking a clear purpose or “call to action” was ineffective. We used to call out examples of how others failed on this execution, and marveled how they could spend so much much money on something so lame. Hence, we are rewarded – at least internally – for cutting to the chase, or muscling prospects into doing what we want them to do. I see that issue in at least two of the reasons you cited above in why content marketers should care about audience development.

    One question: Is it possible for a single piece of content to be guilty of “skipping to the solution,” and “overly technical?” The problem that I experience with overly-technical content is that it’s ridiculously difficult to grasp the outcome the product provides.


  2. Hi Andy,

    I always learn from your commenting. It is much appreciated!

    There is a Cost of Risk associated with both parties – the buyer and seller. The waste on the sellers part and the expending of time on the buyers side. After all, a buyer doesn’t want to waste time on what amounts to little value. Some can get downright mad about it. I know – I have been a few interviews where buyers handed me a folder of “garbage” to take back to the company to prove it.

    On point Andy – buyers don’t like having things shoved in their face. The down the road we go – like skipping in the Wizard of Oz – is a presumptuous act in today’s new digital age.

    The culture of marketing and sales in a huge topic on my mind. Part of understanding buyers today means understanding the new culture of buyers as well as organizations. The culture of marketing and sales, in many organizations, can still be deeply rooted in old
    “analog” thinking versus new “digital” thinking. It requires transformation – and it requires you have the stomach for it.

    On your question – it is possible for both to happen. A content piece can be filled with a bundle of “featuritis” going on – overly technical, over-hyped, and skipping to the solution with the usual of “how we great we and our solution are” hyperbole. It takes an understanding not only of buyers, but understanding of culture as you mention to get it right. Organizations need to invest time in this or go extinct.

    Andy – I am sure we can have a very long phone conversation about all this!



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