The Generation Gap: How to Create Compelling B2B Content for Different Generations

The modern workforce is dominated by three generations; Millennials (born 1982-2004), Generation X (1961-1981), and Baby Boomers (born 1945-1960). Each generation has their own preferences and expectations in terms of content. This means, in addition to segmenting your content by target buyer personas, role within the buyer team, position within the sales cycle, and consumption preferences, you’ll need to account for age. No sweat, right?

To make your content marketing life just a little bit easier, we did the legwork for you by compiling a list of the most impactful B2B content for each generation.

Baby Boomer

Baby Boomers 

Types of Content: 

  • Baby Boomers spend more time consuming content than any other generation.
  • The type of content they consume the most are blog posts, followed by articles and eBooks.
  • Once you write more than 300 words, you’ll start to lose them – so keep articles on the shorter side.

Where to Reach Them:

  • Baby Boomers rely heavily on trade shows when it comes to B2B buying, so make sure you have a great piece of collateral on hand!
  • Laptops and Desktops are the most common devices used to view content.
  • They spend a lot of time on Facebook, surprisingly.

Buying Power: 

  • With several Baby Boomers counting the last few years till they retire, this generation dominates the senior or executive positions within the company. As you can safely assume, this means they hold a lot of buying power. However, they’re coming to rely more heavily on Gen-Xers when it comes to technical buying decisions.

genx

Generation X

Types of Content:

  • For this generation, it’s a tie between third-party websites for reviews and comparisons and articles, papers, or blogs from industry experts.
  • Most Gen-Xers will spend 5-10 hours per week engaged in online content.
  • Again, the magic length is around 300 words, but this generation also enjoys reading articles over 500 words. So give them a little or a lot to read!

Where to Reach Them:

  • This generation has an affinity for Twitter, and spend the least amount of time on Facebook compared to Baby Boomers and Millennials.
  • Like Baby Boomers, this generation uses their laptop and desktop computers the most to view content.
  • It’s best to reach out through email, phone, or online meetings rather than trying to arrange a face-to-face.

Buying Power:

  • The buyers in this generation aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions, so content created by subject matter experts will help your business establish credibilities. This generation is in the era of middle to upper management, which means they have a heavy hand in the buying process (they may even be the final decision maker).

milennials

Millennials

Types of Content:

  • Millennials rely most heavily on information provided by vendors when researching products and services.
  • Like Gen-Xers, a majority of this age group will spend 5-10 hours per week engaging with online content.
  • Once again, the preferred length is 300 words when reading – so no long-form content.

Where to Reach Them:

  • This generation would prefer for interactions to be remote or virtual instead of face-to-face, with email communication being their most preferred.
  • It’s all about being mobile for this generation, with laptops coming in second place.
  • If Google trusts you, so do Millennials. This is the generation that coined the term “Google it“, so make sure you optimize your content for search engines!

Buying Power:

  • This generation is a growing force, with 87% of Millennial workers taking on management roles in the last 5 years (vs. 38% of Gen-Xers). Typically, this generation takes on the role of initiator, being the first to identify an issue and/or a possible solution.

How Does Content Marketing Generate Revenue?

CS-Moneybag

Businesses are quickly adopting content marketing as a way to drive brand awareness and increase sales leads, but how exactly does content marketing generate revenue? Marketers and business leaders alike are struggling to tie their content marketing efforts to their bottom line – which is a huge problem. In order to understand exactly how revenue is being generated, you’ll need to understand the two major components of successful content marketing; quality and tracking.

I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to produce quality content. If you provide material that is genuinely good, people will talk about it and share it with their networks – all of which contributes to generating brand awareness, directing traffic, and ultimately increasing sales. Now – I should mention that it’s also very important to promote your content, but promotion is ineffective unless you have something valuable to offer your audience and convert them from visitors to customers. This bring me to the second major component; tracking. Once you’ve created great content, you’ll need to monitor and track everything in order to understand how your content is being received and consumed by your target audience.

The analytics derived from tracking and monitoring will allow you to see how many more visitors your site is attracting, the number of email subscriptions you’re collecting from your blog or website, as well as the number of leads or conversion points you’re getting. Almost any analytics tool will allow you to track conversions based on entry sources. You’ll also be able to view which pieces of content they consumed during their buyer journey – giving your sales team extra intel on what that prospect might be looking for (aka – a qualified lead).

But it all starts with good content. Attracting your target audience and generating word of mouth is important for increasing traffic and sales. Marketing Charts conducted a survey that found 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know, so creating “word of mouth” buzz is very effective. Once you’ve attracted readers to your site with quality content, you can begin tracking their consumption, maybe even obtain their email address, and start nurturing them through the funnel.

This is how content marketing generates revenue — through a continuous cycle of creating quality content and tracking. By building a foundation of quality content, you give your audience a reason to engage with your brand. Meanwhile, monitoring and tracking will give you insights on which content your audience is consuming along their journey to becoming a customer. Having those two major components in place will enable you to drive revenue through content marketing.

Hiring a Content Marketer: Setting Expectations

what is content marketing

With the popularity of content marketing, it’s hard to believe that there are still several companies out there who are getting it wrong. But I assure you, this problem exists. However, it’s hard to put a finger on where this “problem” is originating from – the company or the content marketer? Or both?

Reviewing some of the content marketing positions posted online, I found that several of them included a sales material support component or content management. A majority of the time, the role was 50/50 – which meant that almost half the time would be dedicated to creating sales materials, like collateral, product sheets, brochures, and so on. This isn’t to say that providing sales with materials isn’t important – it’s just not content marketing.

For the record, content marketing is defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content; content that attracts and retains a clearly defined audience – to ultimately drive profitable customer action, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). I feel that the key phrase in that definition is “strategic marketing approach” – meaning that content marketers aren’t just production houses — there’s a method to the madness.

This could be where the rift is occurring – companies are lumping all content under content marketing instead focusing on creating and distributing content strategically. A study conducted by CMI found that 60% of content marketers who have a documented strategy rate themselves highly in terms of effectiveness, compared to 32% of those who only have a verbal strategy. Documenting your strategy makes it more tangible for senior team members and gives you the opportunity to clearly define your role and set expectations.

But before you even accept a content marketing job, make sure you have a full understanding of what the expectations are for your role. If half your time is dedicated to creating materials that don’t support your content marketing initiatives, then it may not be the role for you. Having a clear understanding of what you’re looking for and what a company expects is the best way to make sure everyone is happy.

Content Marketing: The Struggle is Real

At times, it can feel like you’re swimming against the current; trying to push your content marketing efforts forward, only to be met with resistance. Other times, it can be a struggle to maintain your position and define your role when your superiors utilize your skills for copy writing instead of content marketing. Several companies jumped on the bandwagon when content marketing first entered the scene, but they lacked the patience necessary for it to be successful. It takes time to start seeing the benefits of content marketing — but when you do see results, it’ll blow you away.

There is no better example than Red Bull. The company’s media house set the goal of becoming independently profitable – with content so good they could sell it. This “forced” Red Bull to create content that people loved. That content helped Red Bull build an unbeatable reputation and dominate the crowded energy drink market. But I could go on about Red Bull’s success in content marketing forever….(seriously, if you haven’t read about their content empire, you need to check it out).

Several other businesses have achieve success with content marketing. Zagg, an online retailer of mobile accessories, earns 172% ROI and 10% of the company’s website traffic through their blog. Publishing 25 to 35 posts each week, the company’s three writers are tasked with producing content that is shareable, popular, and promotes the company’s product range. Oh, and 60% of their blog traffic is from new users – not too shabby at all.

Meanwhile, a B2B company called SunGard, which provides IT operations support, hit it out of the park with their video series by injecting humour into educational content on pain points and industry trends. By analyzing their audience’s content consumption patters, SunGard was able to map out a campaign that promoted their content across multiple touch points via email, social media, and paid media. The result of their efforts? Over 3,000 leads generated in 3 days! And that’s not all – they also saw email clicks and click open rates that were 2-3 times the average AND the CTAs to download a whitepaper at the end of the videos had a 87.4% click-through rate.

Did these companies achieve this type of success over night? No. It took a lot of time and resources. But each of these companies started from somewhere. Content marketing only recently became popular (though it’s arguably been around for a really long time, but that’s another blog post). So my advice to you is to always remember:

Content Quote

What Content Marketers Need to be Successful in 2015

In 2015, content marketers need to ask themselves one question above all else: who cares? Because if the answer to that question is anything other than “my target audience” – then stop what you’re doing, because it’s a waste of your time and efforts.

Content Marketing Cat

The success of content marketing is heavily reliant upon the engagement of your target audience or market. No matter how you do it – whether it’s with whitepapers, infographics, videos, podcasts, memes, or any other form of content – getting your target to read, watch, share, comment on, like, or click on what you’ve created is the name of the game.

Content marketers must listen to their target audience, because creating content with the sole intent of making a sale instead of answering a question or helping in some way isn’t engaging. In order to be in touch with your audience, you need to do a few things:

  1. Form a strong relationship with your Sales team: The members of your company’s sales team are your “boots on the ground” – especially in the B2B market where the sales cycle is typically longer and requires a more consultative approach with prospects. Since the sales team is in constant contact with a variety of prospects, they can offer the greatest insights on the problems, requirements, and interests of your target markets.
  2. Get Comfortable with Alerts: Whether you use Google, Hootsuite, Twitter Counter, LinkedIn, or newsletter subscriptions – you need to stay on top of the latest topics and trends in your industry. Relevance and timeliness contribute to establishing your company as a thought leader, which builds trust with your prospects and customers. You don’t need to read every single email that enters your inbox, but even reviewing the subject lines can give you a good indication of what’s trending and what your target audience might be buzzing about.
  3. Ask Questions: Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers! Sure, they may not be interested in having a 20 minute conversation – but they likely wouldn’t mind asking a few questions about the challenges their currently facing or what trends they’re excited about. Keep it cool and casual, and I bet you’ll learn more than you expect! Not only will this help you in creating content that your target audience wants, but it will increase the satisfaction of your customers. I mean, who doesn’t like venting about their latest frustrations or gabbing about an exciting new product or trend.
  4. Learn to Write — Or Hire a Writer: Nothing will kill your credibility more quickly than spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, awkward sentences, and plain old boring storytelling. Be honest with yourself; if you’re not a good writer, hire one. There are multiple websites, such as Kayak, Skyword, NewsCred, and Elance, that provide content creation services or allow you to connect with freelance writers. With so many resources at your disposal, there’s no excuse for poorly written content.

Once you’ve mastered the tactics listed above, you’ll have the tools and information to create content that truly engages your target market and audience.

Applying “Great by Choice” to Content Marketing

Great by Choice
I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading Great by Choice, written by the notable Jim Collins, after Stewart Lyons, CEO at TeraGo Networks, recommended the book. Full of amazing information, this book holds a great deal of practical advice that one could apply to their career and life. After finishing the book, I found that there were three core concepts that greatly contributed to success; discipline, consistency, and preparation. I then considered how these concepts – or characteristics – could be applied to content marketing, and this is what I came up with:

1. Discipline: Establishing and adhering to a schedule can be difficult – especially if you work in an industry that is constantly evolving – but it’s very important for success. When you follow a schedule, such as an editorial calendar or content agenda, you have the ability to prepare, plan, and track your content. This allows you to build anticipation for your upcoming content pieces (ex. “check back next week when we cover part 2 of…”) and plan any SEO keyword changes.

2. Consistency: Communicating the same underlying values or traits throughout your content is essential when building or promoting your brand. Whether you’re creating content for a large business or small e-commerce site online, maintaining a consistent message is key to building trust. If your blog says one thing – like “we’re vegetarian” – and your recently published whitepaper says another – like “here’s why pork is important” – your prospects and customers won’t know which message to believe.

3. Preparation: One of the examples in the book that really resonated with me was about Bill Gates and his inability to stop working – even when his company, Microsoft, had achieved great success. The fear of facing an unknown obstacle drove Gates to continue working, because you never know when things might change. Since content marketing is changing every day, keeping up to date on all the latest tactics and trends can help you stay on step ahead – and one step closer to being a great content marketer.

This is the perfect time of year to begin incorporating these three concepts into your content marketing career since everyone is shifting into 2015 planning mode. Now, would I recommend this book to everyone? No. This book would only resonate with those who have a passion for the work they’re doing. If you’re not somewhat motivated to grow and develop your skills, then don’t even bother. This isn’t a passive read – it’s meant to provide you with the tools you need to build your own success.