Nothing captures marketer’s attention today like content marketing. It’s been adopted by every pundit and marketing expert as the wave of the future. And for good reason. Picture this – in the future, we will have all the data integrated into useful dashboards that allow us to deliver just the right content or experience to every individual in our 50 million-person database. This will be valuable content that helps them get through life and inspires them to share with their social connections. We will cultivate great, long-lasting relationships with our customers and stakeholders. It will be efficient. Salesforce calls it the Connected Customer. I sometimes refer to this data-driven, technology-enabled approach as new marketing. That’s because I believe it will eclipse the channel-based marketing practiced today.
There’s plenty of best practices being shared everyday. Today, I was thinking about three simple lessons-learned worth passing along.
Know the Complete Value of Your Content Marketing
I spent some quality time with a blue-chip B2B marketer in a Asia Pacific market recently. They have been pioneering certain aspects of content marketing. Certainly, they have gotten great at creating iconic and shareable content that achieve pretty significant reach. Locally, they are trying to localize and operationalize their use of content via LinkedIn and other platforms. The trouble is they only value lead generation.
I am all for lead gen. Especially in B2B. Still, there are other business benefits from building a sustained relationship via valuable content. If we establish valuable content around the business or personal needs and problems that our products ultimately deliver against, we build an expectation and, potentially, a preference for our brand. Customers will think of us first.
If our content is truly useful or remarkable, our immediate followers will pass it along via their social graph. Their friends will find it more interesting because it came from people they know. This increases discoverability and the relevance of our content. And let’s not forget organic (and paid) search.
“B2B customers are in fact 57% of the way through their purchase process on average today before they even make contact with a supplier.” Google and social media are two of the places buyers spend time before they pick up the phone.
And certain types of content can build trust. When we put our own experts out there sharing their POV, we can humanize our brand and allow people to build trust in people. It still surprises me that marketers see the responsibility for trust-building as a public relations-only task.
I love lead gen. It certainly matters a ton towards true sales opportunity. And yet, content marketing delivers a lot of sales-related value beyond simple lead gen.
Strive to Rise Above the Clutter
With billions of pieces of content shared everyday across the social Web and the reality that according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”, the pressure is on for us to create high quality content not more content.
That’s an important distinction. Some marketers might be less discriminating believing in the principles of repetition and consistency – that we want people to come across our message/content several times to ‘stick.’ Too much mediocre stuff is just noise and will be filtered out no matter what. So stop chasing “impressions.”
According to Nadia Cameron in the Australian blog, CMO:
“Research conducted earlier this year by the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) and the Content Marketing Institute found 96 per cent of Australian marketers are using content marketing to reach out to customers, allocating 25 per cent of their budget on average to these activities. Yet a recent whitepaper published by analyst firm, Altimeter Group, found organisations continue to fail in their content marketing quest.
For McCance, the big issue is the level of cut through marketers can achieve in a world increasingly populated by content. “This wasn’t such a dominant strategy a few years ago and you had a higher likelihood of breaking through,” he said. “But in many industry sectors now, marketers are pursuing a content marketing strategy and it cancels people out; there is a huge level of noise in the environment and it’s getting harder to break through to your target audience.
“People are setting the bar for their content marketing strategy at a ‘thought leadership’ level, and having something smart to say. We find that while the information is a ‘nice to know’ for customers, they will probably do what they’re doing already. It’s not causing them to change their actual behaviour.”
We need to be ruthless in creating value. Do we understand enough about the specific needs and pain-points for our buying customer? How about the actual product users or recommenders within an organization? Are we then converting that insight and understanding into content that pays off on those demonstrated needs?
Cameron’s article goes on to conclude, “Instead, B2B marketers need to turn their attention to ‘commercial insights’ that disrupt the customer’s mindset, CEB claimed.”
Insights are good. Disruptive insights also good. Still, we simply need to remain committed to understanding our customer and creating content that will be found valuable by them.
Be Diligent About the Data
Clearly, we are now all fascinated by the prospects of using data to create the right content, understand how people respond to it and how we can fine0tune it to be more relevant by our individual customer/followers.
Mining search and social data for insights or information that can be used to create the most useful and compelling content is a great, fundamental practice. So is looking at performance data on specific pieces of content. Pete Blackshaw at Nestlé publishes a “Top Posts of the Week” leaderboard that signals to marketers what is performing well. That begs marketers to look into the most successful content to understand the lessons of great content and apply them.
It’s easy to do this once. It’s harder to make it the way we do things. Those brands that make data-driven content an everyday practice will benefit more than those who don’t.