By Michele Linn published May 15, 2013

B2B Marketing: 9 Ideas for Solving Your Biggest Content Challenges

b2b content challengesLast week, when we published findings from our study, B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budget, and Trends – North America (sponsored by Outbrain), reader Andy Detweiler posed a great question in our comments section:

“Any insight on how small B2B companies plan on solving the problems listed? Would be curious to understand what they see as potential solutions versus a larger enterprise.”

Andy’s question inspired us to take a closer look at some of the content marketing challenges faced by North American B2B marketers who work at small businesses (companies with 10 – 99 employees), as compared to their peers at enterprise organizations (companies with more than 1,000 employees). We’ll also share some insights on ways content marketers can address these issues — regardless of the size of the organization they work for. 

1. Engagement

b2b content-engagement

In general, both groups are similarly challenged with producing the kind of content that engages — and it is the top challenge for enterprise companies. In a way, I think it’s encouraging to see this as a top challenge, as it shows that marketers are focusing on the value of quality over quantity. And, there is good reason why engaging content matters: Customers and prospects who engage with content are more likely to reach out or initiate a relationship with your organization.

Ideas: Engaging content means different things to different people, so you’ll need to start out by determining your organization’s definition of “engagement” — and what metric(s) you can use to measure it. For instance, as Joe Pulizzi discussed in his recent post on the building blocks of content marketing strategy, we at CMI know our email subscribers are more likely than our other readers to sign up for our events, so “email subscriptions” is an engagement metric we focus on.

(For more on how to define, produce, and measure engaging content, check out our eBook, “Your Kick-Start Guide to Engaging Content.”)

2. Quantity

b2b content-producing enough

While small businesses cite producing enough content as their top challenge, it’s an issue that concerns the majority of content marketers across all business types that we’ve researched.

Idea: One solution is to simply realize that more is not better. This applies to small and large businesses, alike. That said, if you really do need to produce more content, here are three ideas our CMI consultants suggested in a video roundtable on challenges facing B2B marketers:

  • Reuse content at the beginning and end of the sales funnel: This suggestion applies to any businesses that have a long sales cycle.
  • Curate content: Instead of producing new content, share existing content — created by your organization or by others in your industry. This strategy can be used by businesses of any size.
  • Produce evergreen content: I love Ardath Albee‘s quote from the video above: “I think the reasons that we change subject matters and create new content is because we as marketers get bored. We’ve said it; we’ve heard this before: ‘Let’s create something new.’ We don’t need to.” Again, instead of focusing on pumping out more new content, create a body of evergreen content that you can update, as needed. As a bonus, you may be able to curate content in a way that makes it more useful/gives it new life.

3. Integration

b2b content-integration

Not surprisingly, enterprise organizations are far more challenged with lack of integration across marketing than their small-business counterparts. As more people, products, and geographies become involved — producing integrated content can get pretty complicated.

Ideas: Large organizations like SAP, SAS, Kelly Services, and Intel have complex B2B marketing programs. At last year’s Content Marketing World, we had the pleasure of sitting down with key individuals from these teams to talk about how they manage the process of content marketing. There aren’t any shortcuts — and it involves a lot of work — but there are ways to create efficiencies to minimize the burdens.

While the following ideas will be most useful for enterprise organizations, smaller businesses can also use some of these approaches:

  • Elizabeth Gaines from SAP talked about how her company has content account managers who are plugged into all of the field marketing teams and geographies.
  • Pam Didner talked about Intel’s editorial planning process. Her team has an editorial calendar that they create a year in advance, and adjust throughout the year, as necessary. She then presents it to the various stakeholders across her organization (even though for her that means presenting that calendar 30 times).
  • Kelly LeVoyer and Waynette Tubbs shared that everyone at SAS contributes to one large plan. They also make sure everyone knows the roles assigned to each team — and what KPIs they are being measured on — which, they have found, helps the content marketing plan come together much more cohesively.
  • Michael Kirsten from Kelly Services says that he spends at least 30 percent of his time on intra- and inter-organizational communication.

4. Budget

b2b content-budget

It may seem surprising that enterprise marketers are more challenged with lack of budget than small businesses are, as they likely have more to spend overall. But, enterprise marketers also likely need to go through more internal channels to get budget approval, which may explain why a larger percentage of them feel this is an issue.

Another possible explanation is that lack of budget is just a perceived issue with some enterprise marketers who wished they had more money to work with. In contrast, small business marketers may be more accustomed to having to be resourceful in their content efforts.

Ideas: The root cause of budget issues could be lack of buy-in (see point #5, below): If management has not yet bought into the value provided by content marketing, it will be all the more difficult to get the necessary budgetary support. If this is the case, presenting information on return on investment can help justify the costs.

Kapost and Eloqua developed an eBook, Content Marketing ROI, that compares the cost of content marketing to PPC; it’s a great read if you are struggling with this issue. The eBook breaks costs down for both midsize and large companies.

5. Buy-in

b2b content-buy-in

This is an interesting challenge, as more enterprise marketers find themselves contending with a lack of executive buy-in, yet more small business marketers consider it to be their primary challenge.

Ideas: If you are struggling with getting buy-in, there are two posts I suggest you read: 2 Foolproof Methods for Getting Content Marketing Buy-In and Getting Buy-In for Your Content Marketing: A 3-Point Process. There is some overlap in the ideas, but here are the highlights:

  • Really understand – and be able to articulate – the value of content marketing.
  • Do a pilot program and report on key metrics, such as immediate gains (e.g. social followers), social rankings, back-links and leads/sales.
  • Play on fear. What is the competition doing that you are not? What does your management care about most?

6. Variety

b2b content-variety

While a good portion of both small and enterprise marketers are challenged with producing a variety of content, not many consider this to be their biggest challenge. I personally consider this to be a good sign, as marketers should be focusing more of their efforts on producing content that engages, and on achieving measurable results, than on the formats their content is delivered on.

Ideas: That said, producing original content takes time, so there is no reason not to create efficiencies by repurposing the content you already have. Check out 5 Great Starting Points for a Content Recycling Program and 23 Ways to Leverage a Blog Post for Content Marketing Success to get more specific ideas on how to reimagine your content across a variety of formats.

7. Measurement

b2b content-measurement

Our research is conducted annually, and this year is the first time we asked if content marketing measurement was a challenge. Truthfully, we expected this number to be higher, but, as Jay Baer aptly surmised in our B2B measurement roundtable:

“If you, as an organization, are measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing with something so rudimentary as website traffic, then I guess in your own land you are measuring content. Is website traffic the optimal way to measure the effectiveness of content? No, absolutely not. I think there’s a delta between what people think they should be measuring and what they actually should be measuring.”

Ideas: If you are struggling with measurement, take a look at our online how-to guide that walks you through fundamentals and provides specific suggestions on what you should measure. But if you only have time to view one resource, make it the eBook, A Field Guide to the Four Types of Content Marketing Metrics, in which you’ll learn about the best metrics to monitor for consumption, sharing, lead generation, and sales.

8. Training

b2b content-training

Approximately one-third of both small-business and enterprise marketers feel they lack the appropriate knowledge, training, and resources to execute content marketing well. Considering that this field is quickly evolving, and there is no silver bullet, this is not surprising.

Ideas: I know this is a shameless plug, but if you are in need of training, there is no better event than Content Marketing World, which will be taking place in Cleveland from September 9 – 11. CMI’s entire mission is to provide training and education (through our blog posts, magazine, webinars, and more), so if you have a question about content marketing, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do to help and/or we’ll cover it in a future blog post.

9. Professionals

b2b content-professionals

While finding trained content marketing professionals is not a key challenge for many marketers, it is still a concern — particularly for enterprise companies.

Ideas: Another shameless plug (sorry!) but CMI has a fantastic group of consultants led by Robert Rose that help companies with their content marketing programs. If you are a large organization, you may also want to consider hiring a content marketing agency. If so, see what Joe Pulizzi had to say as he explained the 4 Truths About Content Marketing Agencies, and take a look at Doug Kessler’s advice on how to get the best results with your agency in his post, 4 Truths About Content Marketing Clients. If you have a smaller budget, or are only looking for a single writer for your content, consider hiring a journalist.

Are there other content marketing challenges you are facing? Or do you have other suggestions for those facing these issues? Let me know in the comments.

For more advice and ideas on how to address your greatest content marketing challenges, register to attend Content Marketing World. Early-bird rates are in effect until May 31, 2013.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute and a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

Other posts by Michele Linn

  • http://twitter.com/RichardHussey1 Richard Hussey

    Intrigued by No 9. Is that because they don’t see or understand the value of content marketing professionals? Or because there are so many around that finding one is easy? Would 1-8 be less significant challenges if they saw 9 as more of an issue and did something about it? Producing good content and using it productively is not easy.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      There are so many people talking about content marketing these days that finding SOMEONE to help may not feel like a challenge. But, finding the RIGHT person is often much more difficult. To your point, if people really had the right people in place, I don’t think challenges #1-8 would be so pronounced. Great point!

  • http://twitter.com/remarkmarketing Brian Hansford

    Spot on! Time and again we see companies make content development too difficult and they get stuck. Content is the fuel for B2B demand gen and marketing automation initiatives and often the most overlooked. One of the overall biggest challenges we find is access to subject expertise in any given area in order to produce meaningful and credible content. Quite often the subject experts are really hard to collaborate with. Cheers, BH

  • BrookePalm

    My biggest challenge is that I am a marketing department of one. I’m also marketing an industry that is totally new to me – repairing and servicing biotechnology lab equipment. Does anyone have any good suggestions for how to manage content?

    • http://twitter.com/B2BJeff Jeff Simmons

      Great question Brooke. I would recommend interviewing subject matter experts in R&D, sales, customer service, etc. Customers too.
      Record the conversation, transcribe, edit and publish. Works like a charm :)

      • http://twitter.com/BTScallab Biotechnical Service

        Great advice. Thanks Jeff!
        Brooke

  • A

    Ask and you shall receive. Thanks for the insight, Michelle.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Thanks for asking the great question!

  • Graciousstore

    Interesting stats that compares B2B and B2C marketing strategy. The bottom line is that all companies whether big or small need to use the same approach of effective inbounding marketing in their marketing strategies

  • http://twitter.com/MattLBrennan Copywriter Matt

    It’s always good to know where the business community is coming from when it comes to content marketing. Some nice outside perspective.

  • Gordana Stok

    Insightful study. This article inspired me to write a blog that addresses the question, “What is quality content?” I present the 7 attributes of quality B2B content as viewed from the vendor’s versus the buyer’s perspective. http://contentbridge.ca/the-7-attributes-of-quality-b2b-content-a-vendors-vs-a-buyers-perspective/#.Uc3hHI5FuDE

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    Great article.I love how you focus on the content alone and how to make it more effective in our marketing campaign.Content marketing is at the center of every digital marketing campaign. A website with good content is bound to succeed even without any SEO or social media promotion but the combination of top quality content and Internet marketing will bring faster and better results.