Why Differentiation is Crucial for B2B Content Marketers in 2018
By Alistair Norman

Why Differentiation is Crucial for B2B Content Marketers in 2018

50% of B2B content marketers are doing the same or worse than their competitors — and that’s by their own admission. Make sure you’re not one of them…

Once everyone got the memo about the power of content marketing a few years ago, the unstoppable tide began to flow.

Fast forward to now, and the B2B landscape is flooded with content creators competing for customer attention, scrabbling for prospects, and trying to cut across one another to make an impact.

In a study of 172 B2B marketers, 50% of them judged their own content to be ‘about the same’ or ‘less varied and more limited’ than that of their rivals in the industry.

In this competitive content environment, how do you make yourself heard above the noise? The answer is content marketing differentiation.

What is differentiation?

Differentiation in content marketing has multiple components. First of all, your content must demonstrate what sets you apart from your competitors, underlining your unique proposition and explaining why your customers choose you over others.

Your content itself must be differentiated from the competition. To stand out in a sea of samey eGuides and pointless infographics, you need to craft unique and attention-grabbing content that B2B decision makers haven’t seen before.

Differentiation takes on a further dimension when we consider that different channels lend themselves to different types of content. Crafting messages to suit the channel they’re presented on is important.

And so is differentiation by audience — considering who each piece of content is intended for and tailoring it intelligently to them.

How many marketers are differentiating?

In our study of 172 B2B marketers, there was widespread recognition of the need for differentiation.

But while 64% claimed to have some strategy for differentiation, only 16% of those had one in the form of a documented plan.

Why are content marketers differentiating?

The top reasons for differentiating content by channel or audience cited by B2B marketers were:

  • To provide an improved customer experience (71%)
  • To attract more customers (70%)
  • To provide greater differentiation from the competition (49%)
  • To increase customer loyalty (41%)

The majority of those surveyed recognise that content differentiation increases the appeal to customers, by avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.

But more marketers need to recognise increased customer loyalty as a key reason for content differentiation.

Two key ways to differentiate content:

  1. By channel
  2. By audience

Differentiation by channel

A multichannel world demands multichannel content. And that doesn’t mean putting out the same stuff across social media, email, blog posts and more. Instead it’s a tailored approach that recognises the strengths, challenges and character of each channel.

For example, you might create an in-depth industry report, which could be shared in different ways across your channels to maximise impact. It can be spun into a series of blog posts for your website, visualised in a video for Twitter, and summarised in an email to your database with a link to download the full report.

Differentiation by audience

Only 17% of the B2B marketers surveyed reported no tailoring of content by audience. Of the remaining 83%, 60% of them claimed that their organisation tailored content to particular audience segments or buyer personas. A further 23% went one step further and said ‘our organisation tailors content to specific individuals’.

These were the most popular ways to differentiate content by audience in our survey of 172 B2B marketers:

  • By industry (77%)
  • By content consumed (50%)
  • By location (49%)
  • By seniority (41%)
  • By device used (28%)

Unsurprisingly, the most popular differentiation methods shown here are also the simplest ones. Segmenting and targeting your audience by industry and by the content they consume is certainly useful, but more sophisticated measurements such as differentiation by persona are less common.

Only 45% of marketers tailor their content to personas they have created. This is despite widespread use of segmentation and personas for other aspects of marketing strategy.

In the era of increasing demand for personalisation, B2B marketers would do well to focus on delivering that tailored customer experience through their content.

Differentiation is crucial for content marketing success in 2018

In the complex and competitive B2B marketing landscape, content differentiation is essential for any marketer looking to make an impact and rise above the cacophony of content out there.

To achieve those key benefits, including improved customer experience, loyalty and retention, you need to not only produce content that stands out, but also tailor it according to the channel and intended audience for optimal results.

Key Takeaways

  • Brands are struggling for market share and customer attention; 50% of B2B content marketers feel they are doing the same or worse than their competitors.
  • Differentiation has multiple components: producing standout content, defining your unique offer, and tailoring content to suit different channels and audiences.
  • The industry is slowly waking up to the importance of content differentiation — 64% of B2B marketers have a strategy in place, but only 16% have a formal plan.
  • The most common reasons marketers differentiate are: to provide improved customer experience, attract more customers and set themselves apart from the competition.
  • Marketers need to differentiate their content according to persona, channel, and individual preferences, not generic factors like industry and location.
Differentiate or risk becoming irrelevant. 

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