By Dan Stelter published July 17, 2016

4 B2B Content Secrets You Fail to Use

B2B-Content-Secrets

“When writing copy, assume that your product is the last thing on your reader’s mind.” Bob Bly shares that great insight in his Bob Bly’s Secrets of Successful Business-to-Business Direct Marketing special report.

And yet, much B2B content marketing is relatively immature, focusing on the product, features, and benefits. As the research reveals:

  • Eccolo Media says “B2B buyers think white papers have too much marketing hype, not enough truly unbiased information, too general of information, and they’re too long”
B2B buyers think white papers have too much marketing hype, biased, too long & general via @eccolomedia Click To Tweet
  • Forrester reports that 71% of B2B marketers say “…their content features case studies or customer stories, [but] only 3% admit this is a primary focus.”

What should you do in your content? What actually works?

Questions like these bothered me for a long time. I did some research, thinking, and networking to find out what really works. I checked 100 B2B tech and software company home pages to see how many assume that their product is the last thing on their audience’s mind.

Here’s what I’ve concluded.

Buyers don’t decide the way you think they do

You might think B2B buyers move through a fairly linear process — recognize the problem, find out what they need in a solution, research possible solutions, request and evaluate proposals, make their decision, and evaluate it while in action. Simple and straightforward, right?

Well, that’s not really how buyers’ minds work. They move through stages of awareness in more of a “spider-web” fashion. This graphic from Forrester illustrates what would take me thousands of words to explain:

B2B-Buyer-Behavior

Image source: Forrester

Your home page most likely is the single most-viewed page of any of your content over the long term. If you aim for perfection in your marketing, that’s the place to do it. I checked out 100 B2B software and tech company home pages to see if they discussed:

  • Buyer pain
  • Fear of loss
  • Business value
  • Personal value
  • Stakeholder conflicts
  • Product features and benefits

During the evaluation, I marked a “yes” or “no” for each of the six features. I gave a company credit for a feature if it addressed it in even the smallest way.

1. Does it address buyer pain?

B2B-Page-Discuss-Pain

More than three-fourths of the companies weren’t sophisticated enough to include content that got to their audience’s pain points. And of those that did, most did not make me “feel it.” Pain got just a brief mention (a few words or a sentence or so).

Opportunity missed.

Google, Motista, and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council surveyed 3,000 purchasers and 36 B2B brands in various industries. They found that “B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.”

#B2B customers are more emotionally connected to vendors & service providers than consumers via @google Click To Tweet

Why? Think about the stakes B2B buyers face. The purchase could require a six- or seven-figure investment. They have to justify their decision to an average of 5.4 people and sometimes 20 or more. Make a bad decision, and they’ve suddenly lost lots of credibility and respect. They could even get fired.

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2. Does it address fear of loss?

B2B-Page-Fear-Of-Loss

Nothing is a more powerful motivator for any human than fear of loss. But, just three of the companies discussed this anywhere on their home page.

While the headline on your home page would be the most powerful place to address fear, none of the reviewed websites did so.

Opportunity missed.

How do you convey how your product or service can alleviate that fear or other pain? Copywriter Dan Kennedy once said:

When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how powerful this first formula (problem-agitate-solve) is.

A Science study found that when something is framed as a “loss,” people are more likely to take steps to avoid that “loss” even if the net effect is the same.

People are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain says @dankennedy_nu #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

3. Does it cover product features and benefits?

B2B-Page-Product's-Features-Benefits

Most do. However, how many cover these to the extent prospective buyers want?

The home pages generally fell into two categories:

  • Thoroughly discussed major features and benefits (usually three to six of each)
  • Casually mentioned without any major highlighting of features and benefits

Opportunity gained (maybe). Since buyers prefer other types of content to features and benefits, their inclusion may not be as valuable as you think.

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4. Does it address possible stakeholder conflicts?

B2B-Page-Stakeholder-Conflicts

Well, this is an easy chart to read. Not a single B2B company addressed stakeholder conflicts.

Opportunity missed.

Group conflicts peak early in most buying journeys, according to CEB Group research. CEB found these strategies work best for creating consensus:

  • Focus on common ground among stakeholders through shared learning and content topics preferred by multiple parties.
  • Decrease perceived risk and increase perceived rewards of “motivating mobilizers” or those who can wield influence over the decision.
  • Equip mobilizers with the tools they need to be effective, such as content on communicating the value of your solution to others in your organization.

The research also revealed that while personalization is important, you have to be careful about how you do it. When you personalize the message too much, the buyer focuses narrowly on their own needs, ignoring those of others involved in the decision. And you can guess what happens to the decision when everyone chooses to go their own way.

5. Does it discuss benefits to the business?

B2B-Page-Discuss-Business-Benefits

Here, B2B websites did a nice job overall, and some were better than others.

The better websites gave specific and compelling benefits relevant to their products and services. The not-as-good websites offered fairly generic benefits that just about any software could provide.

Opportunity gained (mostly).

6. Does it mention personal benefits?

B2B-Page-Discuss-Personal-Benefits

Personal benefits play such a big role in B2B buying, but prospects rarely think companies help them get those benefits. Kapost said just 31% of B2B buyers think brands provide personal value.

As you can see, my research supports that claim but is a little more extreme — only 2% mentioned personal benefits.

2% of #B2B buyers think brands provide personal benefits via @dansteltercopy #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Opportunity missed.

Wait, aren’t you supposed to present your product or service so the buyer sees the business value in it? Absolutely. However, buyers consider personal benefits with twice the weight of business ones. Check out that and more reasons in this graphic from Kapost:

Emotion-Influences-B2B-Buying

Image source: Kapost

Some other stats also raised my eyebrows:

  • 68% of buyers who see a personal value will pay a higher price for a service
  • 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product
71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product via @kapost #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Clearly, your content needs to emphasize personal value in addition to the benefits to the business.

#Content needs to emphasize personal value in addition to business benefits says @dansteltercopy Click To Tweet

How to do it all

You now have a convincing case to add these ingredients to your content marketing to make it more effective. But, how do you pull it off? Try this simple, five-step formula and start with the content on your home page:

  1. Begin with the pain to engage and build interest — your headline could be the best place to do this.
  2. Detail the business and personal benefits offered.
  3. Address the stakeholder conflicts to build consensus.
  4. Introduce your product/service benefits.
  5. Show the features that make those benefits possible.

Conclusion

In terms of content about product features and benefits, and business benefits, my research shows that B2B companies address them well on their home pages. However, I also see that big opportunities are still available to better connect with B2B buyers — opportunities to directly address stakeholder conflicts, fear of loss, buyer pain, and personal value.

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Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via pixabay.com

Author: Dan Stelter

Dan crafts remarkable content for B2B, software, or SaaS company websites so they don’t leak qualified leads to the competition. Get your free checklist: "The Smart B2B Marketer’s Cheat Sheet for Consistently Creating Lead-Generating Content" when you subscribe to his twice-monthly newsletter: Dan's B2B Lead Generation & Marketing Secrets.

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  • Wally

    Great post Dan. Very informative. The statistics showing how easy it actually is to differentiate you brand is amazing. I have done a similar study on printers web sites. I never thought of extending it to the buyer mindset or process. Great job!

    • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

      Glad you liked it Wally. Interesting to learn you’ve done similar research in another niche.

      I used a marketing list I had created to find the data. And it does come from what you could consider pretty reputable B2B, tech, and software companies.

      Every company has something they can improve on, it seems.

      • Wally

        Yes.I used a database provide to me from a consulting job. Here is one you like just under 20% used the same photo of a girl to represent who we are. Think it probably was the first image on a free stock search. One thing I have discovered is most markets experience some sort of “commodity” issue. Where the majority of buyers look at price because nobody has really come out and made a unique approach. Office supplies, print and now even web dev and seo and social. Markets get crowded fast. Lots depend barrier to entry but their are smart people who bypass it. It is a very interesting subject to me.
        wally

        • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

          Haha. Interesting, but I’m not surprised either!

  • ganesh

    Really Eye-opener! One question: Can you please share examples of a few better homepages that perform well on these criteria?
    Thanks for sharing your research.

    • Alexandra Klimowitsch

      hey, have you noticed that some criteria lack presentation of the ideas suggested (like featuring stakeholders fears info), so maybe there are no ideal websites yet. Yours, will be the first one 🙂

      • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

        Yes…it is very difficult to find a website that succeeds on all aspects. Getflow.com does a great job of focusing on pain avoidance. But, no business benefits.

  • Cheracs

    Hello, Dan. Thanx for this useful insight. However, let me ask, what do you mean by saying ‘personal value’ exactly? Any examples?

    • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

      Sure. You could also say “personal benefits.” Generically, that would be things like:

      Look good to your boss and coworkers
      Feel confident again
      Be first in line for the next promotion
      Avoid being fired

      …And so on. Basically, the personal feelings your buyer would get from succeeding. The more specific to their precise situation, the better.

  • En M

    Hi Dan, thanks for your post!
    It’s really shocking to see how we “waste” a lot of deals, visits and money just because of our website.
    I really believe that the internet is a double-edged sword and the majority of people who use it aren’t properly trained and a result waste a lot of their time and money.
    After reading this article I have started to read b2bsell websites and, as you did, marked “yes” or “no”.
    I think this one here is pretty good b2bsell . com.
    Thanks for your time,
    Enrica

  • Adrienne Peeters

    Dan, very interesting content I will be using it for my CRM discovery workshop for B2B companies. These content management fundamentals really do apply when a company is defining their CRM strategy as well. Maybe a topic for a new article?

    • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

      Maybe…I’ll have to add it to my queue!

  • http://adventurist.life Brian Driggs

    I really enjoyed this one. The combination of analysis (surprising results not unlike my own websites, personal and professional) and distillation of the information into a simple story-like outline makes experimentation relatively easy.

    “Doing none of the above? You’re not alone. This might be a good place for you to start.” Those of us in the big picture/idea crowd, hoovering up information at every opportunity appreciate the simple, actionable suggestions.

    Thank you.

    • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

      Glad it helped and thanks for reading Brian!

  • NEWSLINE360

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for the article, it was a real opener – especially when you see some of the numbers. I also found it interesting to learn about the ‘Business Value vs Personal value’. It really makes us re-think some of our strategies.

    Thank you!

    Michael
    Newsline360

    • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

      Yeah…caught me off guard when I first read it too. It definitely opened up a whole new avenue of research for me into the role of emotion in B2B purchasing.

      For what it’s worth, I understand that technically none of this information is new. It’s always been true of B2B buyers. However, it just hasn’t gotten much attention.

  • http://adoriasoft.com Maria Petar

    I will join the discussion) Content is not a stable thing.. all the above mentioned facts we can take only for several years.. Content, design, structure are all flexible and change together with the user|customer. Everything really depends on time we live in.. and situations in everyday life.
    One more important thing which should be mentioned is – mindset.. It really depends on a country where you are going to promote your services or product. In my company – Adoriasoft while designing the website to a customer we try to take into consideration all the pecularities and make the design as well as the conten more personolized.
    In any case, you have a very nice article and i will use the tipcs in my work.

  • Bob West

    Great post, Dan. Really appreciated the thoughts on the role of emotion in the B2B buying process, which I’ve really been thinking about since #CMWorld. Nice work, and thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

      Glad you liked it Bob.