The b-to-b publishing market has long been aware of how brands are becoming their own publishers, hence the explosion of marketing services over the last couple years among publishers to leverage their built-in audience, content and marketing expertise. In New York this week, a one-day conference called B2B Content2Conversion organized by the team behind DemandGen Report offered a peek at how brands are developing their own content and lead-gen operations, which simultaneously, but not explicitly, revealed how b-to-b publishers could help the process along.

Morning sessions touted the basics. In the first session—"Starting From Scratch: 10 Steps to Launch a Content Marketing Strategy"—Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, ran the 200 or so attendees through database organization tactics, persona creation, content audits and a host of other steps to building a brand-side content marketing setup.

Noting the commitment these operations require, Albee stressed it’s not about building a project that lasts for three months and then moving on to the next one. As an example, Albee added that planning a campaign for three personas (a description of a particular customer segment) with 12 planned touches throughout the year requires 36 content assets, not including the 36 to 72 emails needed to support the campaign, along with webinars, conferences and whitepapers.

"If you start a marketing program and you can’t sustain it, what are you going to achieve?" she asked. "We need to reset the thinking on marketing execution. This operates in a continuum. Campaigns don’t start and stop, they’re an ongoing process that builds momentum."

There was a focus on how to capture buyers at the beginning of the purchase curve, when they’re educating themselves on products. This, said several of the speakers, is where the content development process starts. Helping to capture those leads is identifying buyer roles—or personas—and understanding how those roles influence their approach to product selection, which in turn influences the kind of content that’s used to target them. For instance, buyers that are labeled as corporate "champions" will focus on the business value of the product. "Influencers" are interested in performance, C-level executives want the bottom line ROI and the actual end-users will value customer experience the most.

Marketers are also creating new positions, called content strategists, that are the point person on the content development process. They don’t create the content, but rather organize it, measure it and prioritize it according to campaign needs.

How Buyers Interact with Marketing Content

A new DemandGen survey that looked at buyer behavior with marketing content presented by DemandGen Report managing editor Amanda Batista revealed that overt sales messaging is not appreciated—75 percent of respondents said to curb the sales messages and focus less on product specs and more on value and how the product relates to business objectives. "Buyers don’t want to hear that you’re the leading provider, they just want to hear about your value proposition," she said.

Fifty-one percent of respondents gave more credence to peer reviews and user-generated feedback. About one-third valued content authored by a third party or analyst and sponsored by a vendor, while only 12 percent valued co-branded content.

Whitepapers (88 percent) and webinars (72 percent) are the primary avenues used by respondents to learn more about brands, and 77 percent of respondents said they’d share basic contact information to gain access to a whitepaper.