Executive Director, Digital Marketing, B2B Division
Rishi Dave, executive director of digital marketing in the B2B division of technology solutions provider Dell, spoke with eMarketer’s Kris Oser about how important it is for marketers to move from a campaign mentality to an always-on mentality when thinking about their content marketing efforts.
eMarketer: Business-to-business (B2B) marketers are allocating more money each year for content marketing. What have B2Bs been struggling with in content marketing that you think they will start to grasp this year?
Rishi Dave: They will shift their mindset from what I call a campaign mentality to an always-on mentality. Digital marketers have to figure out how they can stream content constantly to their customers. They have to learn to operate more in a media model than in a traditional marketing model. This shift started about a year ago and will be really happening in earnest over the next year.
eMarketer: Is part of the challenge that the customer already has an always-on mentality?
Dave: Oh, absolutely. Typically, a B2B buyer is 57% of the way down the buying process before they even engage with the brand. They have done self-nurturing [along the buying funnel] through digital.
eMarketer: To succeed at content marketing, you have to hire a lot people to manage that content, to feed that content stream, don’t you?
Dave: Yes, you do. I’ve hired ex-journalists to bring us their media and editorial expertise. But a company doesn’t need [a lot of new people] as much as it needs marketing people to do less of the traditional marketing stuff. Companies will shift their spending from the more traditional marketing techniques—which aren’t as effective anymore—to having people participate in the media model. Companies will probably spend the same amount of money.
“A B2B buyer is 57% of the way down the buying process before they even engage with the brand.”
B2Bs also have to make a lot of technology investments on content management systems, ways to manage editorial calendars, all those kinds of things. There will be technology investments in connecting all those things to the CRM machine, for lack of a better term.
eMarketer: What role does search play in the content paradigm?
Dave: A lot of technology buyers are following influencers on Twitter, following their blogs, and so forth, so I think both search and social play a role in being an initial jumping-off point for a lot of buyers who are self-nurturing. It’s very important for digital marketers to be optimized for both search and social.
People who do a lot of self-nurturing, they like to read a lot of deep, rich content, so Google is starting to serve deeper, richer, evergreen-type content in their search results. Google is adapting to the changing way that B2B marketers are buying. What Google is increasingly doing, and what people are increasingly looking for is deep, rich, thought leadership content.
eMarketer: Where in the research purchasing cycle is social effective? I would think social would occur at the top of the funnel.
Dave: Social occurs in all points of the funnel. At the end of the day, what matters is the connection to the customer and what you do with that connection. So one thing I talk about a lot is that social media is just another channel. It doesn’t do anything by itself—it’s just a channel. But the content you put through social determines how powerful the channel is, and if you put early-stage thought leadership content through it, which is what we tend toward, then that’s the type of conversation you’ll be leveraging to acquire new customers and get viral shares and all that.
But you can also put late-stage content in there, depending on the circumstances. So it really depends on what you’re pumping through those social channels.
eMarketer: What about measuring social media?
Dave: Social needs to be measured as part of your overall buying funnel, like you do with your CRM process. Digital and social are part of the total journey that my customer went on with me, whether it’s digital, offline or at an event, and all the things that he or she did that led to the pipeline and a sale. How do I use that knowledge to optimize the journey for my next customer? B2Bs are getting more and more sophisticated about being able to do that.
“Social occurs in all points of the funnel. At the end of the day, what matters is the connection to the customer.”
So instead of saying, “Gee, my company Twitter account led to a sale for this customer,” you’re saying, “Gee, Twitter brought them in initially because we had a thought leader on there posting interesting tweets, and we saw the customer clicked through, and we had a landing page where we got a little bit of registration material from them, and we led them to one of our social media networks where they can talk to other interesting people at Dell and elsewhere.” The key is nurturing that customer through the social network part of the sales cycle, as well as seeing social networking as part of an integrated marketing funnel.
eMarketer: How do you get content to go viral?
Dave: I think more important is looking at the pain point that a customer has and build content that addresses that pain point, and it may or may not go viral, but if you can get a lot of engagement, a lot of people reading it over a period of time, then it becomes very effective.
Often in B2B it’s a system of content, a system of videos, a whole series of things that a person sees, and we want that person to keep coming back to our properties and see more and more pieces of content over time, and we want them to share them so they bring more people into our content ecosystem, and we want that to grow over time organically.
It’s impossible to know why something goes viral and why something doesn’t. It’s more important to look at whether your whole content ecosystem is succeeding, rather than any single piece.
eMarketer: Do you have any other predictions for 2014?
Dave: I think that B2B marketers are also going to be struggling to figure out how mobile is going to play in the B2B buying process. It’s very important to optimize for mobile, because everyone is interacting with content on mobile phones. How people are going to use mobile to help nurture customers—I think B2B marketers are going to start figuring that out next year.