Great content marketers are great conversationalists. They listen well, have a point of view, and understand and engage their audience.
Just as great conversationalists get invited to parties, great content is a welcome guest in an email inbox or a social media feed. And, because content marketing is so critical for B2B companies, being a great guest who gets invited back is just what you want to be.
In 2018, eMarketer estimated that nearly 90% of B2B companies in the US made use of digital content marketing. As content reaches a saturation point, it becomes critical to refine programs. When done well, content marketing is multifaceted. Great content builds awareness, confers authority and gives salespeople a reason to reach out to prospective clients.
Key Ingredients of Great Content Marketing
Content can become the foundation for most marketing programs. So, let’s have a conversation about key ingredients:
Understanding the nexus
From thought leadership white papers to newsletters and case studies, B2B companies have long been at the forefront of the modern discipline of content marketing. High impact content exists at the intersection of business development goals, client interests and information gaps. Content marketing is about creating materials and programs that are useful to customers, tell valuable stories and position your organization as an expert in your field. Even more importantly, it is not self-promotional or confined to your organization’s marketing team.
Getting the content mix right
Putting together a content strategy begins with an in-depth analysis of the customer journey. From there marketers can develop an understanding of the best content for each of the four stages of that journey. In the interest of simplicity, I will apply my interpretation of the familiar linear funnel concept. At every stage in the funnel, the buyer has information-gathering goals, and the marketer has promotional goals. To get the mix right, those goals should mirror each other:
In the awareness stage, the buyer’s goal is discovery. Looking out from the mirror, that means content marketing goals should focus on visibility and learning. Search optimization is an essential activity at the outset.
In the consideration phase, the buyer is in vetting mode and the marketing goal is education. Video and infographics shared across social media are compelling content tools in this phase.
During the decision portion of the journey, the buyer is focused on validation, so marketers should be looking to engender confidence. Case studies help customers validate their choice and are a powerful marketing tool in this phase.
Lastly, in the advocacy stage, the buyer is looking to partner. In this phase, the marketer wants to foster loyalty, cross-selling or upselling, and promoting via word of mouth. Hosting customer events and capturing content from those programs can be an effective advocacy elixir.
As marketers, we should consider every message we craft and disseminate in a variety of form factors as content. Understanding the questions a customer needs answered as they progress along the journey is key here. To be useful and engaging, the content needs to be reflective of the customers’ questions. The deeper the consumer is in the buying journey, the more detailed and specific their questions become. Therefore, the content must grow in specificity, too.
Charting the Content Journey
Want to get the conversation started, or keep it going? Keep the following best practices in mind:
Start with the brand. All content should reflect your brand’s voice and positioning.
Identify the point of view that distinguishes your company from others.
Audit existing content to see to what extent it can be repurposed.
Assess the form factors, from video to prose to graphics.
Be sure to align content to the distribution platform.
Be clear on the call to action for every piece of content.
At its most effective, content marketing is informative. However, it only enlightens if people consume said content. Marketers need to spend as much time (or more) on crafting the distribution strategy as creating the piece. Therefore, be sure to leave room in the budget — in terms of both time and resources — to create a robust content distribution strategy. In actuality, marketing teams get bored with their content much faster than their audience does, so continually repackaging and redistributing content is crucial. The goal of content marketing is to engage your audience — and the best conversations always do.