If you’re reading this blog I’m probably telling you something you already know, but: everyone in B2B marketing is using content marketing. Well, specifically, 91% of all B2B marketers are. Then there are the other staggering statistics:
- Marketers spend over 25% of their budgets on content marketing
- 80% of marketers believe custom content should be central to marketing work
- 78% of CMOs see custom content as “the future of marketing”
So, what’s the deal with content? Why are all us nerds so chuffed to hammer out our little blogs and play podcaster? Well, I could cite a bunch more statistics…
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing
- Per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing
- 70% of people would rather learn about a company through articles than an advertisement
…but all that counts for B2C content just as much as B2B. So what is it about B2B marketing, specifically, that makes content such a good fit?
To unpack this question, I want to focus on just a few more stats (these are the last ones in the intro, I promise):
- 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content
- 70% of consumer feel closer to a company as a result of content marketing
- 78% of consumers perceive a relationship between themselves and a company using custom content
I think these relationships are really at the heart of what makes content so impactful for B2B. Great B2B content forms and strengthens lasting bonds between B2B providers and their clients far more effectively than any other form of marketing, leading to, well, the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and a lasting business relationship.
But don’t just take my word for it — I’m one of the nerds who does it for a living. Instead, here’s a data-backed breakdown of a few major ways content marketing creates lasting customer loyalty in B2B customers, and how understanding them can make your content better.
“Great B2B content forms and strengthens lasting bonds between B2B providers and their clients far more effectively than any other form of marketing.” — Harry Mackin @ShiitakeHarry Click To Tweet
1. Your content makes you the first brand your clients think of
According to a survey of 1,208 B2B buyers, Bain & Co. found that 80 to 90% of B2B buyers have a full set of vendors in mind for any given purchase before they do any research. Even more startling, 90% of these buyers will ultimately choose a vendor from this initial list.
The reason why this happens has to do with a concept called mental availability. The Ehrenberg-Bass B2B institute characterized mental availability as one of the major ways B2B brands grow in their large-scale study on “The Five Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing.” A brand’s mental availability is, in basic terms, how quickly it comes to mind for buyers in its category. Brands like Coca-cola have a lot of mental availability, for example.
Mental availability operates according to a psychological phenomenon called “the availability heuristic.” The availability heuristic is a psychological bias toward information that is easily recalled. The thought process goes, “if I remember it, it must be important — or, at least, more important than whatever I can’t recall.” The way this translates in marketing, as the Ehrenberg-Bass institute puts it, is “given a choice between several options, people tend to prefer the one that comes to mind most easily.”
Simply put: the more your B2B brand’s clients associate your brand with their buying category, the more likely they are to purchase from you. With high enough mental availability, you could become the “coke” of your category. And nothing says loyalty like “we don’t even think of anyone else.”
“The more your B2B brand’s clients associate your brand with their buying category, the more likely they are to purchase from you.” — Harry Mackin @ShiitakeHarry Click To Tweet
2. Your customers want to form an emotional connection with you, and your content makes that happen
Merkle’s 2021 Loyalty Barometer report found that 81% of consumers “want a relationship with a brand.” This seems intuitive to B2B marketing: after all, B2B clients tend to have more complex, technical needs than their B2C counterparts. More than eight out of ten (84%) of B2B buyers say they’re much more likely to choose vendors who prove they clearly understand the buyer’s needs and objectives.
What is less intuitive, however, is that the relationship you should be building with your B2B clients isn’t “all business” after all. In fact, in many ways, emotions play an even greater role in B2B marketing than they do in B2C. And these relationships are precisely why.
A landmark study of the role of emotion in B2B buying was conducted by Google, Gartner and Motista back in 2013. This survey found that B2B buyers are actually more emotionally connected to the brands they purchase from than B2C buyers, not less.
Ultimately, though, even this isn’t so surprising: B2B customers tend to create long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with their vendors. It only makes sense that they’d want to view their relationships with these vendors as something more akin to a partnership than a transaction. That’s exactly what great content can help B2B brands achieve.
Every piece of content a B2B company generates is an opportunity to show its clients that they understand them, feel their pain, and know how to offer support. By providing relevant and heartfelt advice through content, brands show their clients they can empathize and help with challenges and opportunities their vendors confront like a true partner. Strengthening emotional bonds like this is by far the most effective way to cultivate customer loyalty that lasts.
“Every piece of content a B2B company generates is an opportunity to show its clients that they understand them, feel their pain, and know how to offer support.” — Harry Mackin @ShiitakeHarry Click To Tweet
3. Content provides your customers with educational experiences and opportunities they’re craving
For their article on “What Do Your B2B Customers Really Want?” the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey in which they asked 2,128 office workers several questions about what they prefer from their B2B service providers.
One of the answers survey respondents provided, in particular, can tell us a lot about why content marketing works so well for B2B:
Do you prefer a service provider who…
A: Solves a problem for you, or
B: Teaches you how to solve the problem independently, without needing to contact the service provider
Sixty-one percent of customers preferred being taught how to solve the problem independently, without needing to contact the service provider. In other words, service providers want to learn how to solve a problem, even more than they want to solve the problem that sent them looking in the first place.
B2B content’s utility extends beyond the educational service, too: in their section on “putting these insights to use” following the survey, the Review recommends “focusing on ways to making your client better at their job, paving the way for the development of an authentic relationship,” and “instead of simply solving a client’s problem, look to share insights that fuel their experience of mastery.” Creating high-quality B2B content is one of the best ways you can do both of these things.
Writing insightful, useful content about subject matter your audience is interested in provides that audience with a real value they can take back to their own jobs. They won’t just appreciate the insight itself, either; as the Review’s survey shows, they’ll also feel more connected to the brand that provided it to them.
We here at TopRank Marketing have been beating this drum longer than most: content marketing is an absolutely essential way to raise your B2B brand’s profile and win customer loyalty. If you want to see how well content marketing can create customer loyalty for yourself, we’d love to help, so get in touch anytime.