Over the past several years, marketers have experienced a convergence in how they’re connecting with buyers in B2B and B2C spaces. For example, companies are now engaging with B2B buyers by building relationships and personalization, tactics commonly associated with the B2B marketing.

These changes are largely driven by the personal habits of targeted audiences, like those of Millennials who now make up 35 percent of the American workforce. Studies show that people in this age group are largely digital natives who trust customer reviews over brands and deeper levels of engagement. And they’re making up an increasing number of decision-makers in the work environment.

While there are a growing number of similarities in the way marketers reach B2B and B2C buyers, the B2B industry still presents distinct challenges that require a different marketing strategy. These include longer sales cycles, more decision makers and more content resources to guide the buyer journey.

Successfully marketing to prospective B2B customers requires a deeper understanding of these challenges, as well as their expectations at different stages of their buyer journey. The right B2B marketing strategy will differentiate your brand in relevant ways that lead to brand awareness and, eventually, brand loyalty.

Create a more effective B2B content marketing strategy with the following tips:

1. Develop content that’s made for extensive research. Buyers, whether in the B2B or B2C space, are motivated to find more information. Sometimes, it can be a significant amount of information before they feel equipped to make a decision. And, when given the choice between interacting with a sales rep and finding their own answers online, nearly 70 percent of B2B buyers indicated they would prefer to research independently, according to a Forrester survey.

Be relevant to customers by publishing comprehensive content that establishes you as an industry expert. Use data research to determine the content themes that are relevant to your prospective B2B customers, yet are under-represented in the content developed by you, your competitors and industry sites.

An extensive library of owned content that covers key topics relevant to your prospective customers — providing the answers they’re looking for at specific stages of their buyer journey, can significantly impact customers’ impression of your brand.

2. Select the right media formats. In addition to in-depth quality content, understand the media formats that will more effectively engage your prospective customers. Tools like content intelligence can provide actionable insights about the right media types and content themes to use at specific stages of each of your customer’s buyer journeys.

According to marketing leaders recently surveyed by Vennli, sales support documents, case studies, customer support documents, videos and company blogs were the top five effective content types in building brand trust — one of the most important factors in establishing a relationship with customers.

The marketers in the survey also noted that the Awareness stage of the buyer journey is the most important stage for building brand trust. However, they also considered it important to remain focused on promoting brand trust throughout all of the stages.

Use data insights to ensure you’re delivering content in formats that deliver the most impact to your prospective customers, while establishing your brand as an industry leader worthy of their trust.

3. Appeal to multiple stakeholders. Another complexity within the B2B industry involves the growing number of stakeholders involved in decisions around purchasing a solution. That number climbed from an average of 5.4 people in 2015 to 6.8 by 2017, according to a report by the Harvard Business Review. The diversity of the stakeholders also is broadening, with those from different departments, roles and functions weighing in on decisions.

Using the insights gathered through tools, such as content intelligence, develop a content strategy that reflects customer challenges and needs from the different perspectives of those involved in the decision-making process. This strategy could include content that makes a strong case for ROI, taking into consideration the needs of a CFO, for example, as well as content about product specifications that addresses the concerns of users involved in the day-to-day use of the solution.

4. Create effective online-offline transitions. Just as delivering the right content at the right time is key to maintaining online customer engagement, it also is critical in creating a seamless transition to offline engagement.

Data insights can help you determine the best timing and placement for CTAs that encourage customers to take a deeper journey into the Consideration and Purchase stages and, as a result, naturally transition into offline engagement. Create numerous paths for a prospective customer to take the next step, whether that’s scheduling time for a demo or a meeting with a sales rep.

5. Quickly establish brand trust. Customers, whether researching in B2B or B2C industries, generally have an initial distrust of organizations. According to a recent study, only 42 percent of Americans surveyed said they trust businesses to do the right thing.

Marketers can take steps to overcome that distrust with third-party validation, such as customer testimonials and case studies. And introducing that type of third-party validation early in the buyer journey can motivate customers to move more confidently through the next stages.

Help prospective customers see themselves by adding relevant industry case studies at the appropriate stages of their buyer journey. Depending upon your audience’s preferences, video customer testimonials can be more influential in establishing brand trust.

Branded research also carries weight when it comes to generating brand trust among customers, according to the marketers surveyed by Vennli. Explore data analytics to determine some of the leading areas of concern in your customer’s industry. Support research that explores the trends that are most helpful to your customers.

6. Simplify the purchasing process. Making a B2B purchase can be complicated, especially when a buyer must research extensively to compare options and address the concerns of numerous stakeholders.

When developing a content strategy, identify ways to overcome the hurdles customers may have when making a purchasing decision. Also, find ways to differentiate your brand in ways that encourage them to choose your company’s solution.

For example, you could publish comparison guides that highlight the company’s most relevant brand differentiators or case studies that clearly demonstrate ROI as part of the Comparison stage. Presentations that create transparency around pricing also can simplify the purchasing process.

7. Keep customers engaged after the purchase. To build upon the lifetime value of your customers, devote resources to a content marketing strategy that explores their needs after they make a purchase. Personalized content that continues to reflect your understanding of your customers can drive brand loyalty and, as a result, repeat customers.

In addition to general customer support, customers likely will have questions about areas that are more relevant to them, such as in their industry or as part of their roles within the company. Keep serving them with insights gained through a combination of analytics, surveys and direct customer feedback.

Learn how content intelligence helps you understand B2B customers and how to create a content strategy personalized to their buyer journey. Contact us for a demo.