Monday, November 21, 2016

Content Marketing: What B2B Marketers Can Learn from B2C

Mona Baset
Assistant Vice President of Advertising, 
Digital & Brand Management 
Carolinas HealthCare System

I’ve spent my career in both the B2B and B2C worlds, and I’ve never understood why there has traditionally been such a sharp distinction between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers. Aren’t we all consumers? Once you start seeing everyone as a consumer, something magical happens. You bring humanity into the marketing process, which is the key to engagement with your brand.

Be interesting

Taking a human-centered approach to content for B2B marketing means that no matter what role someone plays in their company, they still want to read interesting things. Business people are people, too! Think about how interesting good fiction is. The reader can’t wait to get to the next page. Why can’t all content take this approach? Offer up questions that people HAVE to get answered. Use visuals. Be the click bait that actually delivers. We wrote a piece about one of our patients who went into sudden cardiac arrest at 25. Our headline could have read, “Carolinas HealthCare System’s Experienced Doctors Save Young Man’s Life.” Instead, our headline was “Omar and the Unstoppable Heart.” It was just as interesting as fiction, starring a real-life character. The content was promoted on our website and social media, pitched to media and influencers, and boosted in social, paid search, native and display. We also did a stop motion video that could live on its own. Omar’s story was one of our most successful, and so many more people were able to engage with our brand.

If you can’t be interesting, be helpful

Any topic can be interesting if positioned the right way, but if you’re struggling, take the pressure off and think about being helpful instead. During the panic around the Zika virus this summer, there was a lot of information out there from many different sources. How did people know whom to trust? Your positioning of the content can differentiate you from information already out there. As a healthcare system, we had the credibility to communicate with our communities and beyond, and packaged it in a way that would be most helpful. We used Google AdWords to understand what people were searching for, and constructed our communications to address those very questions. We also addressed the specific situations that could prompt a search in the first place. A parent might be trying to protect their child at camp or themselves while hiking in the mountains. Overlaying specific circumstances adds contextual relevance to the information, making it more relatable. Our headlines included, “Zika Virus: Your Top Questions Answered” and “Traveling? Preparation Can Lessen Zika Fears.” And all articles featured our doctors, reinforcing that credibility. 

Tap into what people want

Google AdWords is a great place to start to understand trends around what people are searching for. But alone, it won’t get you to the deep insights you need to connect in a compelling way with your consumers. Reading trending content on the subject, using online tools can help you to identify content gaps for differentiation. Combing through your consumer surveys will give you another view, but still isn’t enough. Take a design thinking approach as well. Talk to your consumers – or potential consumers – about how they go about their day doing the things that might align with your product. If you are selling a marketing management tool, ask them to walk you through how they manage their projects today. Listen and watch closely. Have them show you what they need – rather than expecting them to tell you. Understand what their pain points are and what motivates them. You can take this information back to improve your products and speak to potential customers in the right way. More people will connect with your brand in a more meaningful way.

And give it to them where they want it

Knowing where your readers are searching for the information, in what format, and when, is critical in reaching your consumers. Consider that in a world of never-ending meetings, many B2B decision makers conduct research after hours. Many subscribe to leading publications and industry journals to stay ahead – that content is often of the highest authority to your readers. Sponsoring content on those domains gives you greater visibility and authority to readers who matter. Also, use your client use cases to tell your story. It’s a less self-promoting way of talking about the value of your products; the brands tell your story for you. An integrated approach to content distribution and a targeted approach to promotion is essential for content marketing success. 

Content marketing is where you can differentiate your business on a very crowded playing field. By taking a human-centered approach, you can increase your chances for success. Be interesting, be helpful, and tap into what people want and where they want it. 

Mona Baset is Assistant Vice President of Advertising, Digital & Brand Management for Carolinas HealthCare System. She leads advertising and media activities, management of the Carolinas HealthCare System brand, consumer digital channels, creative design and content, and marketing operations management. Carolinas HealthCare System is one of the largest not-for-profit healthcare organizations in the country, with 60,000 employees and 900 locations in North and South Carolina.