Marketers create demand-generation content to convince more consumers to buy from your business and compel them to purchase more quickly.
Yet, according to CMI’s demand generation research, you may need to explore new paths to achieving those goals.
Research from Sirius Decisions found 70% of the B2B buying process is done before the buyer meets with sales. You might think of that journey as a compelling cause to create more thought leadership, research, and product-education content. But that might be more of a hindrance to buyers than a help.
Why? Having too much content to choose from can overwhelm consumers and prevent them from feeling prepared to contact sales. As CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor, Robert Rose, says: “The problem isn’t that they need more information – it’s readily available everywhere. But they don’t know what info to look for, where to get it, or whom to trust when they do.”
Further, if the content they discover doesn’t fit their decision-making process, it can put them in perpetual consideration mode. Harvard Business Review research confirms this – more educational and product content drove an 18% decrease in purchasing ease of B2B buyers.
What content should marketers create today for B2B buyers? Robert points to a few clues from CMI’s research and some brands honored with Content Marketing Awards show you how it’s done.
In the buyer’s journey, content in the early stage still brings the most demand-gen value for over half of the organizations surveyed (56% in 2022 vs. 54% in 2020).
However, fewer marketers report content for the middle stage – consideration/intent – is the most valuable, dropping to 24% in 2022 vs. 30% in 2020. And interestingly, late-stage content, as the most valuable in generating demand, doubled from 4% in 2020 to 8% in 2022.
You may achieve better results with content targeted to needs at the early and late stages of the funnel rather than the consideration stage.
Question the Quo by ECMC Group (marketer) and Manifesto (agency partner) Goal: Expand students’ awareness of postsecondary education options
Nonprofit organization ECMC Group connects aspiring postsecondary learners with resources to help them navigate and achieve their education goals. A four-year college is one path to those goals, but not all students know that there are other viable options – including trade and technical schools.
ECMC Group set out to fill that knowledge gap with Question the Quo. The data-driven awareness campaign aims to dispel myths that people need a university degree to have a successful career. It uses a range of engaging content tools and resources that enable students to explore a broader array of educational opportunities.
ECMC Group kicked off the campaign with original research confirming teens’ desire for shorter, less expensive career training options. The data was used to develop the Question the Quo website, where students can find information on education programs and customizable worksheets to help them discover and pursue their best path.
The site uses thought-provoking statements such as “If you think there’s only one educational path to success, think again” and draws users to explore video content.
ECMC promoted its data and website through additional articles and social media campaigns. That included paid Instagram campaigns, which generated nearly 43 million impressions, more than 21.6 million in reach, and drove most of the visits to the campaign’s website.
As a result of this strategy, the website received an average of 500 visitors per month in the campaign’s first year. Campaign data and additional content assets were shared with industry partners who amplified ECMC’s content and got its resources into the hands of thousands of students.
This campaign was a finalist in the Best Content Marketing Program in Education category.
The CMI research also suggests prioritizing helping consumers understand how to change – and making it easier for them to do so – instead of convincing consumers why they need to act.
Sleep Ambassador by Tuft and Needle (brand) and 97 Floor (agency partner) Goal: Increase brand awareness among family decision-makers
Given the sheer volume of social posts under hashtags like #SleepDeprivation, it’s clear many people struggle to get enough sleep. But parents – especially those with newborns and toddlers – are among the hardest hit. Sleepless days and nights just come with the territory.
Most companies in the thriving direct-to-consumer (D2C) mattress industry rely on promotions and reviews to convince prospects they’re selling the magical solution. But, that message does little to help new parents address their struggles, let alone make it easier for them to decide which brand to trust.
Aligning with its company mission to “reinvent sleep,” Tuft and Needle took a more health-centric, customer-focused approach to drive demand. Recognizing that exhausted parents need a restful environment – not just a comfier mattress – the brand launched its Sleep Ambassador program.
The program provided members of its target audience with a meticulously curated collection of helpful content, all designed to educate them about the importance of rest – and make it easier for them to get more of it.
Tuft and Needle announced the program through posts on social media and used family-friendly images and messaging to encourage new parents to apply. The applications flooded in, filled with personal stories about how being a sleep ambassador would be a life-changing experience.
Those selected as ambassadors received an impressive array of products and services to create an ideal environment for rest and relaxation. It included a new Tuft and Needle mattress, a Snooz sound machine, subscriptions to Calm and Storybook apps, and a $500 stipend for babysitters.
The ambassadors also participated in a personalized sleep course and consulted with a sleep expert who provided recommendations tailored to their conditions. In exchange, they documented and shared their tips and experiences on social media, inspiring other tired parents to prioritize their health and improve their sleep habits.
In addition to earning the gratitude of ambassadors – and their followers – Tuft and Needle reports the campaign generated 530 million impressions and led to a 57% increase in revenue year over year. It also distinguished the mattress brand from its product-pitching competitors and established its reputation as an invested partner in consumers’ quest to achieve better sleep.
This campaign won the 2022 Content Marketing Award in the Best Use of Influencer Marketing category.
Among the technologies used for demand-gen content marketing, account-based marketing (ABM) tools saw the biggest jump – to 41% in 2022 vs. 28% in 2020 – in the CMI research.
This result suggests the growing importance of an ABM approach – creating and customizing content to the roles involved in purchase decisions rather than targeting prospects as individuals.
Henkel-Cisco collaboration site by Henkel (brand), Cisco (client), Transmission (agency partner) Goal: Connect Cisco buyers and influencers with Henkel engineers and technical salespeople
Henkel, a world leader in industrial adhesives, wanted its products and engineers to be more accessible to one of its top accounts – the global tech company Cisco. It achieved that goal – and more – with a first-of-its-kind collaboration platform built for exclusive use by the Cisco and Henkel team members.
With the help of agency partner Transmission, Henkel developed a gated interactive web experience accessible only to those with a Cisco.com email address. It enabled the adhesives vendor to track Cisco’s engagement with customized, solution-driven content – including white papers and detailed product information.
The gated site included a secure channel where Cisco’s engineers could freely communicate their evolving needs and business challenges. Site copy (such as the “Extraordinary relationships, Extraordinary results” message shown below) emphasizes the partnership’s value to both parties.
The information generated from Henkel’s Cisco platform was shared with the Henkel sales team. It helped sales engage engineers in conversations about co-developing new products or finding new applications for their existing products.
The effort also helped Henkel strengthen its perception as a trusted partner committed to its clients’ needs even after they purchase. In return, Henkel received invaluable customer insights to grow revenue from the account.
While performance figures weren’t released, Transmission reports that the initiative helped Henkel secure meetings with several top client engineers. Furthermore, Henkel asked Transmission to build similar sites for other key accounts – an encouraging sign of the brand’s satisfaction with the demand-gen results.
This campaign was a finalist at the 2022 Content Marketing Awards in the Best Use of Technology as Part of a Content Marketing Program category.
CMI’s demand-gen research also indicates an opportunity to work more closely with onboarding and provide more content that relates to your brand’s customer-facing teams rather than subject matter experts. That includes external partners working on the front lines of sales and customer service.
Keep Discovering by Fáilte Ireland (brand), 256 (agency partner) Goal: Equip and mobilize partner businesses to increase national tourism
Research shows Irish tourism businesses were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only were many of them struggling to stay afloat, but some lost staff, and others had minimal marketing skills and little time for training.
Those conditions presented Ireland’s national tourism body, Fáilte Ireland, with a critical objective for its post-pandemic recovery efforts: Equip and mobilize tourism providers with marketing tools to reinvigorate their businesses and maximize sales in the region.
Fáilte met that objective with an all-encompassing content campaign, including a first-of-its-kind interactive toolkit for the tourism industry. The Keep Discovering toolkit provided hard-pressed businesses with easily customizable and sharable branded content elements. The image below shows the toolkit’s cover, which describes offerings that include downloadable assets, social media calendar and email templates, and ready-to-go campaign images and videos.
The toolkit provided small and medium-sized businesses with short, easy-to-access content, customization services, and other practical resources – all free.
Transmission, the agency on the campaign, says over 7,300 branded assets were downloaded. The toolkit page was visited over 5,000 times, resulting in nearly 4,000 reads and downloads, helping regional tourism businesses to “rally in huge numbers,” according to Transmission.
Fáilte Ireland’s campaign won Content Marketing Awards for Highest Conversion Response from a Content Program and Best Use of an E-Book. It also was a finalist in the Best B2B Branded Content and Best Content Program in Travel/Tourism/Hospitality categories.
A fresh approach, a clear customer focus, and some creative thinking helped generate demand for these brands. Imagine what following their lead could do for your demand-generation marketing campaigns. Have you tried any of these recommended approaches? Let us know how they fared in the comments below.