Forrester: B-to-B Content Fails to Engage Users

Companies Talk About Themselves, Rather Than Focusing on Prospective Buyers

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The majority of b-to-b websites fail to engage users with content, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

The report, "B-to-B Content Fails the Customer Engagement Test," was based on a review of 30 b-to-b websites in six industries: technology, software, investing, medical products, manufacturing and services.

Forrester identified 10 criteria for engaging content, ranging from a customer-centric home page to innovative use of video. A perfect score was 30 and a passing score was 20. Only four companies passed (Forrester declined to say which ones), and the average score was just 12.8.

The highest average score was achieved by the services industry, which scored a 17.2 out of 30. Next was investing, which had an average score of 14.6, then technology, which had an average score of 12.

"As a group, none of them passed," said Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester. "The biggest problem is that the majority of content talks about the company, what its products and services do and how many awards they've won, but doesn't speak to the issues their prospective buyers are trying to solve."

While most b-to-b companies feature case studies on their websites, they don't do a good enough job telling customer stories, Ms. Ramos said.

"The case studies were OK, but they weren't really compelling. There are a lot of companies bragging about themselves, disguised as customer success stories, but they don't feature people and their struggles and successes." she said. "Companies need to show the things they really struggled with, where they failed, then show redemption -- everyone loves a story of redemption."

She said one company that is doing a good job telling customer stories is Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, which features financial advisors prominently on its home page and uses video to show how they are serving their customers' investment needs.

"Using video to tell the story is really important," Ms. Ramos said. "We are seeing more video, but a lot of it is shot from the perspective of advertising adapted to the web."

Another problem area for b-to-b companies is providing valuable and useful content, Forrester found. Suggestions include provide benchmark data, research studies, configurators, self-assessments and surveys. "Companies need to give value if they are going to expect someone to pay attention," Ms. Ramos said.

One company cited in the report for excelling in this area is technology company Cognizant, which lets users sort through "Perspective" articles by strategic goals like "reimagining business" or "fostering innovation."

A final area for improvement for b-to-b content marketers is helping salespeople have valuable conversations with buyers, the report found.

"Companies need to help salespeople understand the narrative that has been going on between marketing and prospects, so they can carry key points, survey results and other information, and put it into person-to-person conversations," Ms. Ramos said.

One company Forrester cited is Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, which lets buyers take an abbreviated financial personality assessment, then contact a Barclays advisor to get additional perspective.

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