Study indicates that B2B audiences are avid consumers of business content online

Clutch’s survey of 384 consumers of online business content found that 87% of respondents frequently encounter business content using search engines, slightly more than the 85% who find business content through social media and 75% who encounter content most frequently on company websites.

The study indicates that B2B audiences are avid consumers of business content online and use content to inform their purchasing decisions.

By optimizing content for SEO and for their target customers, companies can engage B2B audiences online and work to transition them through their sales funnel to conversion.

B2B audiences consume content frequently and according to their purchasing intent

Clutch’s survey supports industry research that B2B customers extensively research companies and products online as part of their purchasing process.

The survey found that 88% of B2B audiences consume business content online at least once a week.

For the most part, the reasons why B2B audiences consume business content online reflects their buying intent and determines the type of content they prefer.

For example, 45% of B2B audiences read business content online to stay informed about industry trends, the most common reason cited among respondents.

This broad reasoning for consuming content demonstrates low purchasing intent. Thus, this group likely fits in the “awareness” stage of the conversion funnel and consumes content to learn more about a business or an industry before moving forward in their purchasing process.

As a result, they reported blogs and articles as their preferred type of content, since blogs and articles are more likely to focus on broader topics such as industry trends.

On the other hand, B2B audiences that read content to further research a company’s products or services, or to help them make a final purchasing decision, gravitate towards content that speaks to their high level of purchasing intent. Fittingly, this group prefers product descriptions and reviews more than other forms of online content.

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Forward-Thinking B2B Marketers Partner With Influencers To Create Cross-Channel, Long-Term Campaigns

Risk aversion is becoming a top motivator for B2B buyers. Research shows 78% of buyers are dedicating more time to researching solutions and are increasingly turning to peers and thought leaders for relevant insights. Demand Gen Report’s 2018 B2B Buyers Survey demonstrates the growing influence of third-party sources and outside opinions on the buyer journey. According to the report:

65% rely on peer recommendations and review sites;
54% use social media to research vendors and solutions; and
36% connected with thought leaders to ask for their opinion.
As buyer behaviors continue to shift towards peers and thought leaders, forward-thinking marketers from companies such as SAP, the Content Marketing Institute and Oracle are looking beyond their internal resources to leverage industry influencers to drive engagement, enhance content and build trust with buyers.
— Read on www.demandgenreport.com/features/industry-insights/forward-thinking-b2b-marketers-partner-with-influencers-to-create-cross-channel-long-term-campaigns

The missing step in B2B e‑commerce conversions

If you look at global budget trends among chief marketing officers and compare that specifically to budgets for B2B e-commerce marketers, you’ll find some interesting overlaps and insights. For instance, in the 2017-18 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, which includes CMOs at both B2C and B2B enterprises, a full two thirds of respondents said they plan to increase spending in digital advertising. And on the B2B e-commerce side, a client survey by e-commerce platform Magento found that 91% of respondents said they plan on investing in “content and marketing.” Other popular budget categories for B2B e-commerce include personalization, platform upgrades and selection, data cleansing and understanding, and internationalization.

When we match these types of findings up to a typical marketing funnel, though, there’s a key area that’s completely missing from the budget: Conversion optimization. In fact, almost all these investment areas focus on top, or near top of the marketing funnel.

Eric Allen, senior vice president, Credit Key

Why is this?

A key answer is how B2B e-commerce business units and companies are structured. In most B2B firms, marketing is mainly responsible for lead generation, but it’s the responsibility of the sales team to convert the lead into a paying client. That means marketing spends its budget on things like social media and other digital marketing, but they’re not responsible for top-line revenue. However, neither is the sales team, at least not directly; senior executives are. And when it comes to calculating ROI, it’s tracked solely in terms of lead generation, but not conversion.

Generating leads without converting them is like constantly refilling a leaky bucket; by fixing the hole the bucket, you usually find the biggest area of opportunity for companies to drive revenue.

Even when firms add in an e-commerce component to the sales process, marketing departments often don’t adjust their purview to accommodate for digital sales. They’re not paying enough attention to what happens at the end of the funnel. If the Magento survey respondents are representative of the larger industry (which we think they are), many firms are satisfied with building a platform and filling the top of their sales funnel, without much or any accountability for revenue.

In other words: They’re ignoring an essential revenue source. This is why more B2B e-commerce companies need to incorporate conversion optimization into their marketing.

What is conversion optimization?

In the B2B e-commerce setting, conversion optimization is a methodology for increasing the percentage of leads that become paying customers. It is the systematic use of variant testing methodologies to identify the best possible solution.

In other contexts a “conversion” is often counted as having a website visitor complete a goal, which may be a purchase, but it may also be signing up for a newsletter or simply requesting more information. But in e-commerce, companies need to be extremely focused on turning visitors into paying customers. This is where the real revenue comes from: optimizing the bottom of the funnel activities, specifically the checkout process.

Why conversion optimization is needed

We’ve previously discussed the cold, hard truth about B2B e-commerce, and it’s worth repeating: The checkout process is the most vital part of e-commerce. Without it, you don’t have a transaction. If visitors leave your site without making a purchase, you’ve wasted your money on getting them there. Understanding the ins and outs of conversion optimization will amplify the ROI spent on top of funnel traffic.

There are many reasons why customers may not complete a purchase. One survey found that the top reasons included:

Extra costs (shipping, taxes, etc.)
Need to create an account
Too long/complicated checkout process
In other words, e-commerce businesses lose sales when the checkout process is too hard. Unfortunately, many B2B e-commerce companies like to make it hard for their customers. Despite offering a 21st century digital shopping solution, they’re following a 20th century business model that isn’t flexible, doesn’t offer options, and doesn’t have room for testing. Too often, the process is the process is the process. And the old processes simply don’t have a built-in place for modern conversion optimization.

And that’s why it’s so vital to success. Using conversion optimization, you can find out exactly how many different steps customers are willing to go through before abandoning their purchase. You can learn, for example, the most popular payment methods for different types and sizes of purchases.

Ultimately, if you’re not doing conversion optimization, you’re leaving money on the table. What’s worse is that you’re also not seizing the opportunity to learn what your customers really want. And if you’re not listening to your customers are you really living up to your brand promise?

Probably not.

But if you make it easier for them to quickly find what they need and check out, your brand will better resonate with them to gain their loyalty.

Eric Allen is senior vice president of Credit Key, a provider of B2B financing services.

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— Read on www.digitalcommerce360.com/2018/02/26/missing-step-b2b-ecommerce-conversions/

Multinational Conglomerate GE Goes All In On Content Marketing

apple.news/AS7mNEsQMTzK2wqspqzRplQ

[Source: Forbes]

Major brands are using custom content as an increasingly important part of their marketing mix. The world of content marketing, from digital native posts to lush print magazines, is thriving—one of the few areas of ad-based media that’s booming outside the duopoly of Facebook and Google.

In fact, the global content marketing industry will grow at an annual rate of 16% per year through 2021, reaching $412 billion by the end of 2021, according to a report published last November by the British market research firm Technavio.

Marketers, dissatisfied with the performance of traditional display ads and digital marketing, are building meaningful customer relationships by telling stories, not about themselves, but about their customers and the interests and values they share.

It’s little wonder, then, that brands are hiring journalists and setting up their own content operations, and media companies are setting up content-creation studios to help brand marketers meet their objectives.

One marketer deep into brand marketing is GE, the 126-year-old multinational conglomerate that operates in the finance, aerospace, healthcare, and energy industries, among others. The company had 2017 revenues of $122 billion.

[GE on Junes 26th will be dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the venerable stock index that for over 100 years has tracked blue-chip stocks and served as a performance indicator for not just the stock market, but the entire economy. GE as recently as 2005 was the most highly valued publicly traded company in the U.S. It will be replaced on the Dow index by Walgreens.]

The company produces GE Reports, a web-based magazine with daily content, and GE Brief, a twice-weekly newsletter that has 100,000 subscribers and a total audience of double that.

I recently chatted with Tomas Kellner, the editor in chief at GE, about how a giant finance-and-manufacturing company obtains value from content marketing. The main thing, he says, is to understand that content marketing works because it’s about telling stories that are relevant that people want to read. At that level, it’s a simple concept.

“It’s stories that connect to the larger themes that people want to read about,” Kellner says. For example, at GE, that would be about climate change and energy, and about how to get more renewables to people. GE makes wind turbines, gas turbines, storage batteries. Those are our products, but that doesn’t mean we have to only talk about our products.”

The whole point, Kellner says, is to respect the reader. After graduation from journalism school, he says, he spent time at Forbes, and worked under some great editors, who instilled in him a respect for storytelling. “I have to create stories that are well told and worth reading,” he says. “They have to have appealing protagonists and meaningful challenges. So that’s how I approach content marketing from my perch as editor in chief of GE Reports and the GE newsletter.”

GE Reports’ competition isn’t IBM or Boeing or Intel, Kellner says, it’s really The Wall Street Journal. His mission is to break through the noise and distractions of cell phones, incessant notifications, media saturation. It’s not easy. “People don’t set aside 10 minutes each day to read branded content,” Kellner says.

With that understanding, though, the job gets easier. After all, the story ideas can become almost limitless: Science, technology. Lifestyles. How innovation and invention work. “It took eight hours to fly from Paris to New York 50 years ago, and it takes eight hours today,” Kellner says. “Why? Where are the people working on making it a four-hour flight? There are people at GE who can take us through this journey.

“These are all interesting topics that people want to know about. You could look at the future of medicine—that’s a field we could address. Even smaller companies are doing things that people would want to know about. The reaction might be, ‘I had no idea!’

And that’s why we exist.”

For all GE’s size, the content-marketing operation at GE is small, says Kellner, who’s been at GE Reports since 2011. “We are a tight and frugal operation,” he says. “I’m the editor, and internally I’m working on GE Reports with two colleagues on the communications team. Externally, we have a network of freelance journalists and videographers who help up develop stories and video.” The newsletter launched a year ago.

As media evolves, content marketing is too. Kellner says that for GE, text-based media isn’t as valuable as it once was. He’s overseeing a migration to video, where the majority of stories now are 90-second videos, distributed over social-media platforms. “LinkedIn is an extremely powerful platform for a company like GE,” he says. “YouTube is quite good as well. We supplement videos with live broadcasts too. We’ve had 10,000-plus views on some of our broadcasts. And you get the engagement and feedback right away, you can see what kinds of questions people are asking.

Which leads to an occasional criticism of content marketing: Lack of ROI. Some observers say it’s not about marketing, sales and ROI, but about building relationships, which are more important in the long run. Others say all marketing has to produce measurable results, or why bother doing it?

“ROI is tough,” Kellner says. “We are a B2B business. It’s very difficult for us to measure direct impact. Did we help sell a multimillion jet engine or a turbine or not?”

That said, Kellner says, there are a variety of ways to indirectly track ROI. “If the New York Times or a smaller trade uses my stories or links back to me, I use that to show ROI,” he says. “Our newsletter, GE Brief, has 100,000 subscribers. Having 100,000 people who willingly subscribe to you—that’s ROI. The viewership on our website is amazing. We get 18 million monthly views, mostly organic.”

Also, investors link back to GE stories, which are then seen on investor boards. The investor community is an important audience for public companies, Kellner notes. “And then, when we publish a good story, there’s an increase in inbound calls, and we chalk that up as ROI, too,” Kellner adds.

In the end, Kellner says, “Brand journalism is really a transaction where the reader or viewer is paying us with their time, and we are rewarding them for the time spent with a piece of information they can use in their lives.”