CMWorld 2019 experts offer tips on creating with empathy, pitching martech purchases and helping sales

B2B content empathy
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B2B buyers who make the wrong purchase because they didn’t look at a piece of content might see their budget cut, get passed over for promotion or even lose their job — but at least they won’t die a horrible death like Johann Rall.

The German colonel is best known to historians for his command of Hessian troops at the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolutionary War. At a 2019 Content Marketing World session on Thursday, however, Forrester vice-president of custom content April Henderson held him up as a cautionary tale about the way distraction can lead to poor decisions.

As Henderson pointed out, Rall was given a warning note about the gathering of George Washington’s forces while staying at the home of a German merchant. Because he was busy playing cards and drinking, however, Rall stuck the note in his pocket. It was only found later, after he was killed in the battlefield.

Though it might seem like a stretch, Henderson suggested many senior leaders in business fall victim to the same problem. “We have a lot of really good content to share,” she said, “but what do we have to do to get the attention of prospects and customers?”

Once More, With Feeling

The answer, according to Henderson, is empathy, which can only come by better understanding your customer, imparting insights, embracing emotion and humanizing the buyer’s journey. It’s those last two areas, she said, where many B2B marketers fall flat.

Some exceptions include Shortel, which created a “day in the life” video that looked at a customer who used his budget to invest in a business phone system. Besides offering a strong communications platform for his organization, however, the clip showed how making the purchase allowed the man to leave work on time to pick up his daughter from school.

“The products (in the video) only show up because they help him achieve that goal,” Henderson said. “(The purchase) has nothing to do with that budget. It has everything to do with that goal.”

Other examples include Brocade, which commissioned a series of New Yorker-style cartoons to reflect the challenges of IT decision-makers who were struggling with its competitor Cisco’s networking gear. “They’re tapping into something real,” she said. “Funny was the emotion, but the empathy was in explaining that ‘We understand and we share your feelings.’”

More Than Shiny New Toys

Even if they learn to bring greater empathy to the content they develop, marketers will often need tools to assist with the management, publication and distribution of the end results. That’s why people like Zari Venhaus are spending more time trying to prove the return on investment (ROI) for marketing technology.

In a session on making a business case for martech, the director of corporate marketing communications for power management firm Eaton suggested first mapping out for senior executives the existing processes in a marketing department. That may be the only way to show why there are gaps and benefits to the business by bringing on new technologies.

At Eaton, for example, producing a longform article that provides thought leadership to its customers typically took 296 hours, or 37 days, to go all the way from creation to design and publication. Venhaus and her team were able to show how, with the addition of a new content marketing platform, that cycle was reduced to 22 days thanks to improved workflows that automated the process of reminding people about reviews and approvals, among other areas. That time saved was then quantified into numbers about reductions in production and administrative costs.

“This is not a time for marketing hype,” she said in reference to showing such numbers to senior decision-makers. “When you do this, it doesn’t feel like we’re asking for a shiny new toy, but actually defining a strategy about how we’re doing our jobs better.”

Marketing That Helps Drive Revenue

Another way to bring value is by looking beyond lead generation to helping sales teams reduce the friction in closing a deal, said Andrew Hanelly, partner with Washington, D.C.-based Revmade.

“Marketing tends to hand off the baton at (the point of achieving) reach. But it’s that  last mile up the hill that is more painful, it’s where the deal falls apart. One piece of content can make a world of difference.”

Some of the common stumbling blocks, Ravell said, include “getting permission” to even be considered as a vendor if you’re a small company, or providing you’re an expert in a given area. He pointed to UPS, which was well known among consumers for delivering packages from Amazon but wasn’t always thought of as a candidate for global logistics and supply chain deals.

To change those perceptions, UPS began producing Longitudes, an editorial-style publication that shows how its customers grow their business globally and sustainably. CDW did something similar with BizTech, a publication that showed it was more than a provider of cables and peripherals but a service provider that could tackle complex problems.

“It’s not that we can’t have fun with B2B marketing,” he said, “but we have to be strategically focused in how we have that fun.”

Content Marketing World 2019 wraps up Friday.

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Shane Schick
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.