The Disconnect Between B2B Content Marketing and Customer Engagement

While B2B content marketing has many purposes, its primary goal is to engage with prospects and customers in order to build trust so that they will want to contact you in order to do business with your company. The majority of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) consider customer engagement as their top priority according to a recent study done by Forbes Insights and George P. Johnson (GPJ).

The New Rules of Engagement: CMOs Rethink Their Marketing Mix is based on a survey of 314 marketing executives at companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue. Fifty-six percent of the participants were primarily B2B marketers and the remaining 44% were B2C. Nearly 97% of the respondents viewed customer engagement as very (67%) or somewhat (30%) important.

Robert G. Vallee Jr., Chairman and CEO of GPJ said, “This report suggests that engagement is now a key dynamic that should be considered when designing big-idea campaigns; without engagement, the message is quickly lost, its power diminished.”

That was the good news part of the study. The bad news — more than a quarter (27%) have no specific strategy for customer engagement, and more than a third (34%) feel their companies do only a fair or poor job engaging their audiences. “They [CMOs] believe they can do a better job at engagement, but often don’t know how,” said Stuart Feil, editorial director of Forbes Insights.

The apparent disconnect is even more telling as seen by these key findings from the study:

  • The two traditional interruptive marketing tactics, advertising (25%) and direct (20%) are still receiving the biggest share of the budgets, indicating that marketing budgets are misaligned with the CMO’s priorities.
  • Marketers are getting in their own way when it comes to drafting their engagement strategies. Top engagement roadblocks were lack of a well-defined approach to engagement (30%), and poorly articulated benefits for loyal customers (30%).
  • Just 59% of companies now measure customer engagement; 36% do not. The primary metrics measured are retention (58%), sales (44%), and revenue per customer (35%).
  • While customer engagement is the top priority (95%), inspiring your employees is an important part of the engagement formula (61%). (Also see a very interesting post from Junta42, “Engage and Inspire Employees First, Customers Second.”)

Because of the longer cycles and the complexities of B2B and industrial sales, marketers find it very difficult to associate leads to specific marketing content. As a result, most BtoB marketers tend to credit sales-ready leads to the last marketing touchpoint. This tendency often neglects the other marketing channels that played a role in early stages of the purchase funnel. That was one of the key findings of the “2010 Lead Generation Marketing ROI Study” by the Lenskold Group.

The study also revealed that B2B marketers that measured ROI were better able to track leads to marketing touchpoints. Only 11% said they did not do any tracking, compared with 40% of marketers using only traditional metrics.

In addition, companies that reported using more sophisticated measures of ROI reported that their marketing efforts were highly effective and efficient at engaging than those not using financial metrics.

Does that mean content marketing’s disconnect with customer engagement is only a matter of measuring the correct ROI metrics? Unfortunately, the answer is a big NO. There is a breakdown between the customer’s reality of engagement and the B2B marketer’s perception of it.

The “Mapping Marketing to the Transforming Buying Process,” report released by DemandGen Report revealed serious disconnects. The report was based on a survey of over 70 BtoB marketers and was conducted by Genius.com.

Some of the key findings from the report are:

  • 93% of recent buyers said the solution provider they chose supplied ample content to navigate through each phase of the buying process
    Only half (50%) of marketers said they were currently mapping content offers to buying needs at different phases of the funnel
  • 65% of buyers indicated they used social media in their research and vendor selection process
    62% of marketers DID NOT have a budget for social media initiatives
    66% of marketers said social media is a formal part of their marketing strategy
  • Increased peer influence in the buying process – 58% of buyers shared their post purchase experiences and findings with other peers, 68% shared experiences via 1:1 discussions and only 30% served as case study references
    BtoB Marketers on the other hand believed that only 53% of the customers shared experiences via 1:1 discussions and 75% were serving as case study references

You can see the complete results of the report in a slideshow here.

It seems obvious that there is a big disconnect between the goals of B2B content marketing and true customer engagement. It is not just a matter of measuring better ROI metrics or using the tools of marketing automation du jour. B2B marketers need to close the gap between their perception and the reality of customer engagement.

How about you, do you see the disconnect? Leave a comment and share your thoughts here.

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