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Content marketing: how to make B2B communications interesting

This post was originally published on the Novacom blog.

Looking around at online B2B marketing content, I sometimes wonder who B2B marketing professionals and their agencies think they are really pitching their products and services to.

There really is a lot of dry, worthy and very staid marketing content out there, covering everything from electronic components to earthmovers, and I wonder whether agencies are actually trying to sell to these audiences, or just trying to bore them to death.

Attention span issue?

An inflectional 2013 survey indentified that many content recipients read only the first 60% of a given piece. It's easy here to assume this is due to reader attention span deficit or time-poor work schedules, but I am not convinced.

The reality is, these recipients are reading material - your enterprises' material - which should directly relate to their industry and interests, and unless they are totally disengaged from their job, this content should be the most engaging available to them online.

Quality of thought

I'm sure anaerobic digesters or turbo-chargers may not seem as much fun to write about as, say, cars or cosmetics; but to the people who are interested - indeed, whose lives revolve around anaerobic digesters or turbo-chargers - this information should be key.

So I think marketers client-side need to look at where we in the digital communications and content marketing industries are failing to engage with their target audiences, and to try to fully understand why these low engagement percentages prevail.

Do open rates really signal success?

And within that, client-side marketers must question the purported success of average or even above average email open and click-through rate performance statistics in this context, and whether this is actually true evidence of marketing achievement.

To my mind, this is not an accurate indication of prospect engagement, which requires quite a lot more than basic open or click-through data to prove, so for agencies to report these figures to clients as evidence of campaign success is, to say the least, disingenuous.

Stats aren't sales, they're stats

Client-side marketers need to go back to basics: open and click-through rates are all good, but there's a story beyond this, and that revolves around visitor engagement; prospect involvement and resultant sales volumes.

So, with 40% content marketing reader drop-out rates, there's an issue.

Content is key

And to get to the point, these sales leads must have not only clicked on or opened marketing emails - but must have read and engaged with the marketing content it linked to, wanted the product or service on offer - and purchased it, to qualify as a successful engagement.

In short, skeletal performance statistics apart, success is engaging sales leads with persuasive content that makes them loyal customers.

MA: joined-up, transparent content performance

This is about reality: web banners or marketing emails linking to web landing pages is one thing and engaging content another, but the reality is that all marketing content should be designed to engage visitors and guide them through the sales journey.

Utilising marketing automation (MA) as a sales engagement platform with well constructed and directional marketing content will quickly indicate - through comprehensive and focused data - the route to sales success for your type of products or services.

So, in summary, what really matters is successful marketing content, delivering engagement that will lead to strong sales volumes through being perceived as knowledgeable, succinct, honest, real, interesting and sometimes yes, funny.

That's a whole lot more than skeletal performance statistics will ever do for you.