Saturday, April 27, 2013

Content and Community Marketing - The Secret to B2B Business Branding

I was recently reviewing a McKinsey survey (March 2013) on the power of brands in the business to business (B2B) sector. This survey looked at what buyers researched and valued when considering purchasing services and products from B2B companies. They found buyers look for a range of things

in different sectors:

mckinsey image
Utilities - Innovation, internal and external recommendations
Machinery and components - Expertise and information
Financial services - Responsibility, honesty and transparency, recommendations
Logistics - Web information and press research
Chemicals - Leadership in their field
IT - Specialist expertise and open dialogue
Telecoms - Honesty, corporate values, recommendations

The common elements across their findings were expertise and openness, combined with recommendations from others.

In my view a B2B company's brand and market position can be significantly enhanced by using content and community marketing. Traditional B2B marketing can focus too much on logos, corporate identity, brand consistency and the like; I believe the real secret of successful B2B brand building is content and community marketing. These work together to develop authority, trust and advocacy.

Understanding buyers

Buyers of B2B products and services are often knowledgeable professionals. They are typically busy people but acutely conscious they need to keep abreast of developments in their area. They will also want to make safe buying decisions on behalf of their companies. They want to work with companies that:

  • keep them updated on developments
  • help them stay ahead
  • have a passion for their area
  • share information
  • are well connected
  • engage with other professionals 
  • they trust to be open and transparent 

Content marketing

It is no surprise that buyers look for expertise when selecting companies. The marketing of B2B companies needs to do more than promote their products and services, and how these meet the needs of their clients. They need to find ways to establish themselves as the experts in the field and this is where content marketing comes in.

Content marketing is not about producing product or service videos and brochures but about providing content that provides useful knowledge and information about the area concerned. The type of content is not designed to sell as such but to establish authority and expertise. This may be through research reports, white papers, articles, videos, podcasts and slides. See some great case content marketing examples from Accenture and Hargreaves Lansdown.

It is important to produce quality content, which is not just about the production values but ensuring the content is unique, provides insight and is timely. See my post about quality content marketing. In essence quality content will rise to the top, it is more likely to be shared and will enhance brand awareness and authority.

Openly sharing useful content will help the professional buyer to keep pace with developments in their area. It will also build trust and goodwill towards the brand. If you can establish yourself as one of the authoritative voices in your industry you will be seen as to 'go to' person, the place to go for views on new developments and insights in your industry. In this respect producing current and timely content can be as important as producing in-depth white papers and research.

Community marketing

Community marketing is partly about distributing content through various social channels but primarily about building and engaging with a community of professionals. This builds on the content marketing and adds further value through discussions, debates and webinars. A great example is the Articulate community (see case study on Articulate's content marketing community) which has over 100,000 elearning professionals engaging in discussions about elearning development and sharing resources and insights.

Building a community is about fundamentally about establishing and developing relationships. These relationships combined with the open sharing of valuable content help to build trust and advocacy. Community takes content marketing to the next level. It helps develop your company story, exemplifies your values and helps you build a distinct personality through your team. Competitor companies can more easily replicate a white paper or article than they can replicate your community, your personalities and your relationships with potential customers.


The McKinsey survey reinforces the importance of positioning yourself as the expert 'go to' people and building a network of people that recommend your products or services.  A content and community marketing strategy is a great way of establishing brand authority and driving differentiation through trust, empathy and advocacy. The combination of content and community marketing is the real secret to building a great B2B brand.