Branded content has been a hot marketing topic for a while. For B2B communication, thought leadership and content marketing campaigns are favoured by brands that need to engage top-flight decision makers.
The theory is that a combination of good content and intelligent marketing will deliver deeper engagement with your audience. But the business world has become inundated with corporate content – much of which sadly adds little of value.
A strategy to ensure amplification of your content is vital. But while challenging, getting noticed is just the first step. At a time when every marketing investment is scrutinised for ROI, the real challenge for brands is to influence the way their audiences think and act.
So, what type of content hooks a C-suite audience? A study conducted by the new FT Marketing Services offering from the FT, surveying over 1000 senior executives across a range of industries, revealed the secrets of success for a better C-suite campaign.
Four cornerstones of a successful C-suite campaign:
1. Hit them with fresh, compelling insight
Content has become commoditised. When it comes to the hottest business topics – AI, cyber risk, growth strategies, responsible investing – everyone is hard at work churning out reams of content, much of which jaded executives choose to ignore.
What makes business audiences sit up and take notice? Compelling, actionable insight. A good piece of content has news value and gives your audience a new vantage point on their specific issues and challenges.
Presented with original insights, executives will be motivated to engage with your brand. This might surprise marketers used to measuring audience engagement in minutes and seconds, but executives in our survey devote on average four hours to consuming good quality thought leadership and content from brands every week.
It’s also important to support your insights. 42% of executives in our survey say insights based on credible research are what they value most in thought leadership content. In short, say something provocative – but back it up with hard evidence.
Interestingly, a brand campaign that delivers fresh insights backed by incisive research is so rare and valuable that it can outperform traditional big media. In particular, 69% of executives in the survey say they would turn to corporate content, rather than traditional media sources, when it comes to getting practical solutions to their business challenges.
2. Craft your content to support the whole customer journey
If you’re leading with insight and helping to solve business challenges, it’s important to stay clear of annoying product pushes. However, this does not mean your content needs to be divorced from your commercial objectives – quite the contrary. The best practitioners of this new style of marketing know where and how to use stories and insights to support every stage of the customer journey.
There are valuable rewards on offer. Four out of five executives in our survey say that high-quality thought leadership has influenced their decision to do business with the brand that produced it. Insightful content also makes executives much more willing to take a meeting with your sales representatives or to provide contact details (for example, to download a report).
3. Deliver a left brain/right brain combo
You can divide the world of B2B content in two. There’s the flashy branded content campaign – often with an emphasis on good-looking creative and a strong focus on content amplification. However, these campaigns can be superficial and leave executives feeling a little cheated.
At the other extreme, you have thought leadership campaigns, based on data-led storytelling. But traditionally this type of campaign has often been poorly activated, not discoverable or attractive to the end consumer. Sometimes, the best ideas never see the light of day because they’re buried in a dull, academic-looking report.
The most forward-thinking brands are trying to please both left-brain and right-brain thinkers. Our research shows that executives want insight based on credible research, but they also want choice; for some, it’s case studies and traditional reports, some favour video, podcasts or live events. More importantly still, it’s about how you blend these formats and channels to create immersive stories that leave the audience wanting more.
4. Get personal with the people who count most
Good content campaigns deliver messages that are tailored to the intended audience. Eight out of ten business leaders are much more likely to engage with thought leadership content that has been personalised. This means going beyond generic C-suite topics.
Of course, it isn’t always viable to fund and produce discrete projects targeting each role. The trick is to produce personalised versions for each of the most important roles that you are targeting. Think about how different aspects of your research will play for different corporate agendas, and tailor the story to ensure maximum impact for each C-suite role.
These four cornerstones are simple to understand, although not so easy to deliver. Despite the challenges, there are a growing number of brands who know how to produce great original insight – and communicate it to their audiences in a way that is creative, immersive and impossible to ignore.