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.

Nokia Buys In to Content Marketing – Literally

A variety of companies – both B2B and B2C – have adopted content marketing in recent years, with many of them experiencing a great deal of success. It takes skill and dedication, but content marketing has a history of delivering a strong return on investment (check out my previous blog for examples). However, technology supplier Nokia is trying to fast track their results by shifting their content marketing efforts into hyper-speed.

Nokia

To accomplish this, Nokia is paying Wired magazine (a popular magazine that reports on how emerging technologies affect culture, politics, and the economy) to create an editorial style website called “MakeTechHuman” that aims to start a conversation about where technology is taking humanity. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? Print ads, events, and an onslaught of online articles will be utilized throughout the year-long campaign, costing the company millions. But will it all be worth it? The campaign is set to kick off following an invite-only dinner at the TED conference in Vancouver.

So we’ll have to wait and see if this type of “hyper-drive-conent-marketing” is effective or not. In the meantime, there are a few factors that may influence the results:

Factors working in their favour: 

  • Despite the fact that their brand image is tied to an older technology (remember how many people had Nokia cell phones in the 90s?), the company has been going strong for 150 years. They don’t even sell phones any longer! Recently, they’ve made most of their profits in B2B selling equipment to telecomm giants Verizon and Sprint.
  • If the content is perceived as valuable by their target audience, it will drive prospects through the funnel – leading to increased revenue.
  • Partnering with Wired provides Nokia with credibility in the technology industry, since the magazine company is an established thought leader with a large tech and business audience.
  • Business giants General Electric (GE) and American Express have achieved great success with their content-marketing hubs, with GE getting 30% extra value for every dollar spent.

Factors working against them:

  • You can’t build credibility overnight. It takes time to earn the trust of readers – months of distributing quality content designed to provide genuine value to the target audience. Articles will be labeled as “sponsor content”, which tells the reader that the article has an agenda other than simply sharing information – it was created to generate revenue.
  • The last site that a company in the tech industry sponsored was Verizon’s SugarString, and the online community shut them out. After facing intense backlash and ridicule in regards to their publishing, Verizon shut down the site within two months of its launch.
  • It’s still unclear why a B2B company will be spending seven-figures over the next year on attracting the consumer community (B2C).
  • Nokia will need to define and articulate what they do and why people should care, because that message is not being clearly communicated.

At the end of the day, this is a marketing campaign that is expected to drive results. Nokia is walking a thin line, and I’m interested to see the results of this campaign. What are your thoughts?

3 Factors Influencing Your Content Marketing Success

Yoda Content Marketing

We’re almost three months into 2015, and by now everything must be going according to plan, right? With buy in from your superiors and the knowledge required to succeed, you must be thrilled. Well – according to the Content Marketing Institutes’ B2B Content Marketing Trends report, that’s not necessarily the case. Despite the fact that 86% of respondents said that their organization uses content marketing, only 38% believe that their efforts are actually effective. So what gives?

There are three primary factors that influence the effectiveness of content marketing:

  1. Lack of a documented content marketing strategy: There’s no “A for effort” in content marketing – if you want to be successful, you have to have a documented strategy – as in written down and disseminated amongst your team. Out of the 83% respondents who indicated that they have a strategy in place, only 35% say it is documented. Having a strategy helps you stay on task and reach your goals. In fact, 42% of survey participants say their content marketing efforts match their strategy “very closely” – and the most effective marketers are those who follow their documented strategy.
  2. Not disseminating your content marketing strategy – or your content: Make sure everyone is aware of your plans and agree with your strategy. You should also create a flow chart, or project calendar, and distribute it to key stakeholders. Providing insights and updates makes content marketing more “real” – as some may have difficulty grasping the more intangible elements. Delivering a document that clearly displays how changing priorities directly impact your content marketing efforts can help others gain a better understanding. Sending out all the great content you’re creating to any employees who may find it beneficial or helpful is a great way to gain support and views. Ideally, employees will share that content with their networks, increasing engagement with your brand.
  3. Share your achievements: Are you one of the lucky few that can successfully calculate the ROI of your content marketing – and by “lucky few” I mean one of the 21% of respondents that stated they are successful at tracking the ROI? Good – now share those metrics with everyone! Still not sure how to determine the ROI? I suggest taking in a few instructional materials to learn how, because it’s one of the key indicators of your success. It’s so important that 46% of respondents have identified “measuring content marketing ROI” as an initiative that they are currently focusing on. Also be sure to share your other wins, like a significant increase in blog views, or publishing company content on a reputable site, or obtaining a great case study.

By documenting your content marketing strategy, sharing it with your team, and communicating your successes, you’re in a better position to achieve your goals and avoid distractions.

How to Kill Content Marketing

You’ve finally done it! You’re a content marketer! Even better – you’re one of the lucky few who have the opportunity to build your company’s content marketing from the ground up. However, once the new car smell of content marketing has left the air – you may find that your efforts might have been in vain.

How does this happen? You’ve been keeping up to date on the latest trends – content marketing is so hot right now (especially in B2B)- building your strategy, creating amazing content, growing the company’s audience —- and then it all changes. After reading quite a few blogs on the subject, I’ve surmised that there are 3 ways to kill content marketing.

  1. Micromanaging: This is the kiss of death in any work environment – but having someone watch over your shoulder while you make edits is Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 4.51.08 PMthe best way to undermine someone. Great content marketing needs great writing – and I can see how micromanaging would create self-doubt. I recent survey also found that micromanaging can lead to demotivation and self-doubt — which aren’t good for any employee and can have a serious impact on productivity. Even more alarming is the fact that 93% of engaged employees are clear about the organizational goals and therefore, can communicate with customers better (Harvard Business) – so if your writer/content marketer is not engaged, the quality of the content they create can suffer. Which leads me to my next point….
  2. Poor Writing: Quality content is essential in differentiating yourself from your competitors. Writing is the lifeblood of content marketing, and creating content that is useful and engaging to your readers while still conveying your company’s brand, messaging, and values (while also generating leads) takes some expertise. Experienced writers are also able to convey a personality while communicating a company’s messaging to an audience – but not many. Ann Handley of meshmarketing determined that a great exercise to test this is by covering your company’s logo and reading the content: do you sound different? Or do you just sound like your competitors?
  3. Creating Content without Marketing: There’s no doubt that quality content is essential – but this also isn’t Field of Dreams, you can’t just create it and wait for readers to come – that’s where the marketing portion comes in (duh). You need to create a content marketing strategy, with clearly defined tactics, goals, and metrics. Once you have a plan, you can make your attack and disseminate your content to your audience. Otherwise, your content will just sit there – unread and unused – and not bringing in any revenue.

Google Results

Avoiding these pitfalls on your own can be a challenge, but it’s important that you try. Otherwise, you’re just going to kill your content marketing.