“Top of Mind” B2B marketing is another form of lead nurturing and generation. But, with one major exception in that they are not really qualified leads — at least leads as we usually define them – not being currently in the market for what we sell.
From Wikipedia (the all-knowing):
Top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) is a marketing term used to describe a brand or specific product being on top of customers’ minds when thinking of a particular industry.
TOMA has been defined as “the percent of respondents who, without prompting, name a specific brand or product first when asked to list all the advertisements they recall seeing in a general product category over the past 30 days.”
Top of mind awareness is a way to measure how well brands rank in the minds of consumers. Companies that actively build brand awareness tend to rank highly in top-of-mind awareness, thus correlating with the market share of a product.
Traditionally, Top-of-mind awareness is achieved through media exposure on channels such as internet, radio, newspapers, television, and magazines. Increasingly companies of all sizes move towards social media to achieve brand-awareness.
This is brand building pure and simple. For B2B Content Marketing, things are a little more complicated. In many cases, no one thinks about you or your brand unless they already employ you (professional service providers) or use your product – or are actively considering it. They may actually know you or of you, but you need to have them remember you when the need arises. In other words, you want the prospect, potential partner, thought leader, etc. to be able to remember you when the there is an opportunity to solve some company’s problem that you can solve. Some examples:
- A speaker at a conference (thought leader) gets asked for a recommendation
- Your lawyer or accountant gets ask for a recommendation
As a small contractor you need to be thought of for sub-contract tasks or opportunities
- Very important in government contracting
- Very important for many large projects
- Business owners, some your customers, are always getting asked for recommendations
- Yes, even your past customers need reminding of you and your expertise – repeat business is the cheapest to acquire
This is often very important for professional service providers, as most companies of do not have specialists on speed dial – at least I do not. As a service professional you cannot always be in the room when it is decided that the service you provide (and an expert) is needed. Personally, if I cannot think of someone of the top of my head, I ask the person standing next to me — someone else I trust or think may have had the same or similar need.
Why do I mention professional service providers? According to the recent report “B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends” written by Marketing Profs, 94% of professional services organizations use content marketing – they need to. This is obviously a pretty high number, which indicates the “content marketing” was probably defined as “any/some type of content marketing.” A quick survey of the professional service providers I know shows me that almost none of them actually do what I would define as B2B content marketing (unscientific, but even after just 5 it was not even 1). Thus, I suspect the Marketing Profs survey was skewed to large practices or probably even their marketing departments.
How to do Top-of-Mind B2B Content Marketing
This is really the ideal task for content marketing. You simply need to feed the right people educational content in your area of specialty, continually but not obnoxiously. Sounds simple right? The content marketing trick is in the who, what, how and how often? This is why you need professional help from an digital marketing agency or professional marketer in-house responsible for these tasks.
Target your Best Prospects
Who are your best prospects?
- Current customers
- Past customers
- Companies similar to them
- Potential advocates & thought leaders in your area of specialty
- People who find you online – yes you need to be there also
- Conference attendee lists
- The list is going to vary a lot depending on your service or product
Let me give an example of a company we work with that has a specialty financial management and regulatory compliance services business. The users of their services are mostly government agencies. Notice that I did not say customers. This is because government likes to do business with large organizations, which are required and encouraged to subcontract out to small businesses. Thus, most of their work is as a sub-contractor. This means their top of mind targets are:
The end users – financial management and compliance departments
- If they ask for you specifically your close rate is stratospheric!
Prime contractors who already have or are likely to get financial services business with agencies
- Small business contracting officers
- Field managers servicing contracts being aware of their expertise is critical
- Government small business advocates that help spot small contracting opportunities – remember I said this is a requirement in most contracts (usually 20% of work)
As with most industries there is competition. In their world, as most, they need to be “top of mind” when the need arises for these contract opportunities. Traditionally you need a relationship or to actually be in the room when the opportunity happens or is defined – this is harder and harder to accomplish. They know who to target. Do you?
What Content to Share
After you know who to target, it is important to know what to share with them. This is a large topic on content marketing strategy and you can find more on this on our blog. In the end, it boils down to educational content that shows the potential customers and influencers why you are an expert in your field. The why is the problem or pain point. The “what” is your solution – why you get paid.
To continue with the above company example, it shares government financial management and compliance information – news, trends, and compliance breaches that become public, as well as new regulations. What that constitutes is beyond me, but their targets know. If the contact does not know technical details or need to know as the contracting officers, it is their job to make it simple enough that they still get the call when the opportunity arise.
Many professional service people worry that giving to much information will actually solve a potential customer’s problem and thus they will not be needed. In the B2B case this is misguided – we are a world of specialists. If the prospect is going to do it themselves, they do not need the information from you — they will find it somewhere on the web from someone else. I know how to cut a 2×4 and pound a nail — and I may actually do it to put up a shelf in the garage (maybe) — but I will hire a professional to add a room to my house – one recommended by someone I trust. Businesses are the same, just at a larger scale.
Where to get the content to share?
You curate your content and you create your own. Yes, sharing other people’s content is just fine (this is curation) – it shows you keep up with your industry and you actively participate in it. Hopefully, other people will share your created content also.
How and How Often
We are in a connected world and we are content marketing so the how is with email and social media. For the “top of mind” purposes here the web and search SEO are an added benefit.
For email you need a list or lists. You can build or buy a list – many do both.
For the above example company, they compose their email lists from conferences and networking. They are also actively building the list using social media and content marketing on their web site. Their biggest list challenge is segmenting the list into influencers (contracting officers and small business advocates) and subject matter experts. Ideally, each would receive different content. This is always a content marketing challenge and it’s why we create personas and content maps.
How often is always a tricky question? And the answer is … it depends. It depends on how fast your industry moves, how much valuable content there is worth sharing, how much the prospects will take before unsubscribing to your newsletter or stop following you on LinkedIn or Twitter. The goal is to be “top of mind” not “in your face.”
Let’s finish up with the example company in financial services and compliance.
Government moves slow, so a monthly email newsletter from the company is just fine. This newsletter will highlight three to four key articles curated throughout the month (also posted on their website blog) with some expert commentary added up front of the articles. The company will send out special happenings newsletters if something important happened in the news related to their niche.
They use LinkedIn to connect with their prospects and advocates when possible. They invite them to connect when they meet and exchange cards. Social media provides the opportunity to connect and share more often. Throughout the month as they are curating for their newsletter or come across something of interest, they will share in via LinkedIn and Twitter. Some days you can share several things on LinkedIn and then nothing for a week — always staying “top of mind’ without being intrusive.
In their specific case, Twitter is secondary and LinkedIn being their focus – that is where their customers and influencers primarily reside. Of course, using both LinkedIn and Twitter can drive web traffic – but their specific success is in “top of mind” marketing.