Most companies are addicted to pumping out content, even though a bevy of research shows that’s not an effective strategy.
According to the 2015 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends Report from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 76% of marketers say they’re creating more content in 2016 than in 2015. Why? Because In many cases, they don’t have a sound strategy for what they’re doing. Even worse, only 32% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
The conventional wisdom of marketing goes something like this:
- Content marketing seems like it may be important, so let’s publish some of it.
- We need to be everywhere online so our prospective customers can find us.
- So let’s create more of it, and promote it to every social media channel we can think of!
But what many marketers don’t stop to think about is that all of this content represents a cost to the business. Someone – either internally or externally – needs to be paid to create, publish and promote it. It also has an opportunity cost: By doing A, you don’t have time to do B.
In addition to time, you have to consider ROI. Is your current content making an impact on your target audience? Is it changing their behavior? Driving leads and sales? Helping you build relationships with them? Are they taking desirable action as a result of consuming your content?
If you’re not sure, then it’s time to step back and ask “Why?”
It’s time to get more purposeful with your content
Invest some time to think about each of your content-related channels and tactics using this simple but powerful question:
- Why do we have a presence on (name your communications channel of choice)?
Repeat this question for each of the channels where you’re currently publishing or promoting content. I think you’ll find it’s an eye-opening exercise!
Here are several additional questions that can help you separate the wheat from the chaff and surface assumptions you didn’t realize you were making:
- What is the business reason for us to participate in this channel?
- Do our customers and prospects use this channel? Is it an effective way of communicating with them?
- Is our content making a measurable impact on their behavior?
You can also drill deeper into your thoughts and motivations by asking “Why?” multiple times in succession. For example:
- Why are we promoting our products and services on LinkedIn Groups? Because several of them appear to match the demographics of our prospective customers.
- Why do these groups appeal to our prospective customers? Because they discuss business topics that help them be more effective in their work roles.
- Why aren’t we getting more engagement on our posts within these groups? Because “drive-by posting” isn’t an effective approach to group participation on LinkedIn. We need to actively participate and be helpful to other members there.
Stop doing what isn’t working!
The bottom line of this exercise is to help you stop doing the things that aren’t working. Focus more of your time and energy on those tactics and tasks that DO resonate your target audience and DO contribute an ROI to your business.
We all complain that we don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. But if you eliminate the activities that don’t add value, it magically frees up time that you can devote to higher value-added tasks that WILL make a bigger impact on your business. You simply need to ask:
In her excellent book, Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results, author Ardath Albee does a masterful job of explaining how typical B2B buyer’s journey works from the customer’s perspective. The biggest challenge, she says, is addressing it in a continuous, consistent and relevant manner.
It’s a big opportunity for B2B marketers. But it can also be a daunting problem if you don’t understand how to approach it.
Fortunately, Albee provides a simple framework for understanding this complex buying process. I have reproduced her table of buyer experiences, buying stages and buyer questions from the book, but I have added a new twist to it: I have added a column that contains content types that are likely to be relevant to the information needs of buyers at each stage of their journey. This will help you understand how you can build up a library of content that is relevant to prospective buyers at each step.
||Relevant Content Types
|Interest: I’m curious enough to take a look
||Status quo: Problem not yet recognized as painful enough to fix
||Why should I care?
Articles that suggest the reader may be overlooking important opportunities or ignoring potential problems
101 level resources that help the reader understand basic concepts and terms
Brief “explainer” videos
|Attention: I like what I see so far
||Priority: Problem recognized but unsure how to proceed
||What should I know?
||Articles that answer common questions
Thought leadership content that establishes your company as a valuable source for information and advice.
Webinars and events
|Value: this can really help me achieve goals?
||Research: Actively engaged in learning what they need to know to take action
||What are best practices?
||Overviews of best practices, strategies and business models that the prospect ought to be aware of.
E-learning materials focused on best practices
|Engagement: I need to find out more about how they deliver what they promise
||Options: Identifying solution sets that can provide the most value for now and future
||Who has the expertise?
Content that covers lifecycle issues, from acquisition through maintenance and disposition
|Buying committee involvement: Everyone needs to get on board
||Step backs: Prospect stops to verify beliefs or find answers to new questions
||Content targeted to each of the major roles on the buying committee, including the economic decision-maker, the researcher, the influencer and the user
|Conversations: I want to make sure I can work with you – trust you
||Validation: Exploring evidence that supports vendor promises
||Why should I believe you?
||Case histories and testimonials
||Choice: deciding to buy
||You’ll bring the most value
||Content designed to help new customers get up to speed quickly and avoid buyer’s remorse.
The biggest overlooked step: The buying committee
Albee points out that marketers are so deeply scripted in the idea of the marketing lead funnel that they overlook the way in which most B2B organizations actually make purchasing decisions. Here’s a typical scenario:
- A champion who believes in the potential of adopting a content-based approach builds the case for it.
- A lower-level person conducts research into prospective vendors and solutions that may meet the company’s needs.
- The marketing team builds a set of recommendations and an estimated budget for their execution
- A buying committee composed of senior-level executives reviews these recommendations and determines if the organization should proceed with a purchase.
To be successful with B2B content marketing, you really need to have a good idea of who is represented on this committee, and what their roles are. For example, the financial decision-maker will be very concerned about return on investment. Managers will be focused on productivity, uptime, cost of operations and maintenance. Users want ease of operation.
In order to keep the momentum going through this stage, your body of content must include resources to address the needs of each of these stakeholders. Otherwise, prospects may decide that your product or service isn’t as good a fit for their needs as a competing supplier that provides a more cohesive and informative buying experience.