5 Reasons to Include Traditional Channels in Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

July 27, 2022

When I say content marketing, you say digital.

At least, that’s the way it seems. If you’re not one hundred percent focused on maximizing your company’s digital presence, then what are you doing?

Except traditional marketing channels didn’t go away. And they still work. Neglecting them completely is a mistake.

We didn’t stop burning wood because the world ran out of trees. It had more to do with finding energy-dense, transportable fuels on which to run our lives more efficiently.

Using wood for fuel still makes great sense if you’re camping, heating an off-grid cabin, or live in a less-developed nation where other options aren’t wired and piped to your door.

Similarly, there are circumstances where traditional channels are still a great choice for your B2B content marketing mix.

Let’s take a quick look at what I mean by traditional channels, then discuss 5 reasons why you should consider giving them a piece of your attention (and budget.)


Traditional Content Marketing Channels

When I say traditional, I’m talking about anything that existed before the internet.

Where did B2B marketers turn in the dim and distant past, also known as the 1990s?

The big five are:

⭐ Trade shows, where exhibitors showcase their wares and rub elbows with potential buyers and influencers

⭐ Print media, where companies publish advertisements and write about their expertise and innovation

⭐ Advertising and sponsorship, displaying the company’s logo, tag line, and phone number in front of attendees and passers-by

⭐ Broadcast media, which includes radio and television, where companies pay to advertise their products and services during breaks in scheduled programming

⭐ Direct mail, where mailers and catalogs are sent to potential buyers and influencers

I’m going to ignore fax marketing (a primitive ancestor of email marketing) and lump other esoteric promotional options into the general advertising category.

Several things differentiate these channels from the digital media we’re accustomed to:

An extended lead time between conceptualizing a content marketing campaign and seeing it come to fruition

The limited extent to which we can target a particular audience

A limited ability to measure how many times our content has been seen (reach), whether it resonated (engagement), and which inbound leads it promulgated (conversion)

The scarcity of marketing opportunities (relative to the near-infinite internet)

The high cost to participate, especially on channels with broad reach and an established reputation (major exhibitions, national TV networks, etc.)

So, why would we bother with these channels?  Here are 5 reasons.


Meet Your Buyer Where They Prefer to Find Relevant, Helpful Information

This is a mantra at MessageUp.

You must publish relevant, helpful content in places where your target audience prefers to find new information.

This is not the same thing as publishing on the channels where you prefer to hang out.

Even if your company sells into a niche market, the people who make up the buying committees at your target customers will be diverse. They’re a multi-dimensional audience that demands multi-dimensional marketing to effectively reach and engage.

Analyze your target customer in depth. Create buyer personas for the different characters you encounter and map their buying journeys in detail.

Buyer’s journey mapping is a rigorous, time-consuming, and highly informative approach to uncovering what each buyer persona needs to discover to progress through their journey and where they go to find that information.

Your job is to turn that intel into a content strategy that delivers valuable information in the right places at the right time.

When you identify a traditional channel as being an important source of information to one of your buyer personas, it behooves you to publish relevant content there.

Some companies, especially those that have been around since the pre-internet era, swear that trade shows are the only way they can generate new business. In my experience, they’re usually stuck in the past and undervaluing, downplaying, or procrastinating on digital approaches. Buyer’s journey mapping reveals a huge opportunity for them to shift away from traditional channels and into the Information Age.

However, even more companies have eschewed traditional channels completely, even though some of their buyers still prefer to find information there. They’re losing prospects early in the buying journey to competitors who have kept traditional channels in their mix.

Why copy everyone else when you can stand out by doing the opposite

When They Zig, You Zag

There’s a lot to be said for being different.

Why copy what everybody else in your sector is doing when you can stand out by doing the opposite?

Alright, maybe not the complete opposite—I’m not suggesting you abandon digital marketing—but the opposite when it comes to actively seeking traditional marketing opportunities rather than doing them because that’s what worked in the past.

Working on different channels can spark creativity and lead to new ideas that benefit both the old and the new.

Being the standout exhibitor or advertiser when none of your competitors chose to participate can give you a distinct advantage in winning prospects’ mind share.

You might spin a story around your decision to embrace traditional marketing channels that resonates with your audience, evokes warm-and-fuzzy emotions, and taps into their sentimental desire for the way things used to be.

Speaking of which…


Retro is Popular, Again

No matter where you look, something retro is back in vogue.

This is more of a consumer goods phenomenon, but there are frequently things that B2B marketing can learn from its faster-paced, more adventurous B2C cousins.

Watch for trends in traditional marketing activity and look for opportunities to jump on the bandwagon.

For example, additive manufacturing and digital printing have given rise to clever new ways of creating impactful direct mail pieces at an affordable price point.

Traditional channels also provide an opportunity to demonstrate authenticity (unless your brand is built around a particularly modern, tech-forward theme.)

Meeting prospects and customers in person at a trade show gives you a chance to humanize your brand and show that your leaders can walk the talk.


Direct mail lets you invoke the senses of touch and smell

Every Channel Has a Unique Advantage

There are things you can do at a trade show or on a billboard that aren’t possible on your website or social media.

How can you take advantage of those unique attributes to stand out?

How might you engage your audience at a time and place where they normally wouldn’t encounter your brand?

Your goal with all marketing tactics is to establish an emotional connection with your audience. You want to build trust and encourage them into action.

Choose every channel for a reason, not just as a rote response. We have to be at every major trade show is not the same as we want to be at these specific trade shows because {insert your rationale here}.

Print media lets you target a specific readership who pick up the publication because of its reputation, content, and industry significance.

Sponsorship opportunities can associate your company with making an impact in the community or supporting a certain type of organization.

Television and radio allow you to connect your brand and solutions to particular programming or personalities.

Direct mail lets you put something physical in prospects’ hands, adding the sense of touch—and even smell—to the auditory and visual senses you work with online.


Competing in the Attention Economy

Finally, there’s the small matter of competing for prospects’ attention.

We live in a world of information overload and diminishing attention spans. You cannot compete for a buyer’s budget unless you can get them to notice you.

Digital channels are crowded and noisy. We spend as much time trying to tune out the noise as we do noticing the quality content it threatens to drown out.

Even if your target audience only spends a small share of its time on traditional channels, the relative tranquility gives you a much better chance of standing out.

Since in-person events restarted after COVID lockdowns, I’ve heard people lamenting lower exhibitor numbers and smaller attendee turnout.  But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If the exhibits are of high quality and the attendees are legitimate members of the buying committees at relevant companies, the odds of making a connection are greater than when the numbers—and noise—were higher.

After authenticity, adding value is the most important factor when participating on any marketing channel.

High quality means relevant, informative, engaging, and helpful. It means creating a customer experience where your prospect can easily find the information they need, process it, and take whatever action comes next for them.

Don’t be tempted to half-ass a trade show booth just to say you were there.

Avoid pithy advertising or smart Alec slogans that catch the eye but don’t deliver anything of value. They’re the equivalent of digital clickbait that lures in visitors but gives them nothing of substance in return.

And don’t be traditional just for the sake of being traditional. Even worse, don’t make a big deal about using traditional channels just to get attention.

You’ll capture prospects’ attention if you show up on the channels they frequent with engaging content that’s helpful and valuable to them.


Conclusions and Caveats

Pay attention to traditional channels when assembling your content marketing strategy.

If buyer’s journey mapping suggests that your target persona prefers to find certain types of information via a traditional channel, don’t ignore the opportunity.

An all-digital content marketing strategy might be agile, measurable, and a host of other great things, but digital channels are crowded and noisy, and your buyer might appreciate meeting you somewhere quieter.

A word of warning: don’t exceed your team’s bandwidth by tackling too many channels at once.

Yes, your audience is diverse and meeting everyone in their preferred places would mean working dozens of channels at once. But, if you spread your resources too thin, you’ll end up failing to meet anyone in an effective way.

Dominate a few channels first—I’m talking no more than three or four channels—then carefully add more as your resources permit.

I like the 70/20/10 rule for distributing a marketing team’s budget and human capital.

Spend 70 percent on proven tactics that you know well—the primary channels I mentioned above.

Spend 20 percent on new things that you’re testing to see if they work—experimentation is the only way to know for sure where you can engage your target audience.

And spend the last 10 percent on wild and crazy ideas that will be game changers if they play out but where you expect most of them to fail.

Keeping these revolutionary ideas in the mix gives your team a chance to flex its creative muscles and opens the door to step-change improvements rather than incremental adds and fixes.

Do traditional marketing channels count as “wild and crazy”?  They might. If it’s something your company isn’t doing (and hasn’t done for a while or ever) or something others in your sector are ignoring, then wild and crazy it might seem, both to you and your audience.

So long as you have reason to believe it’s a legit way to connect with your target audience, why not give it a shot?


Photos by NordWood Themes, Alice Yamamura and Zoya Loonchod on Unsplash

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