“Content” is one of the most talked-about industry buzzwords as of late. Simply put, however, content is information and communication directed toward an end-user. Most people associate content with social media although it also includes a larger list of tactics across owned and earned media channels – white papers, video, quizzes, surveys, etc. It is a pull strategy that should attract, not interrupt like paid media, which is considered a push strategy.
The focus of content should be to tell compelling stories that help inspire and empower prospects and customers to take additional action with a service or organization. Joe Pulizzi, the author of The Evolution of Content Marketing, positions content marketing as “the approach of creating and distributing valuable and consistent content to a targeted audience, with the objective of driving some profitable action.”
And not all content is of equal value, nor should it be viewed as such. A powerful new case study may seem like a silver bullet, but without the supporting storyline and tools, it’s just another proud moment to celebrate. Furthermore, content must be developed across the entire brand engagement customer journey—and starts from a solid understanding of your task-based personas who give you insight into the audience and is the driving force behind a successful lead nurturing program. So, how do you develop “good” content? We have some ideas.
“Today’s buyer wants to consume as much information as they can in as little amount of time as possible,” according to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey. The survey went on to note that while white papers provide the most detailed information of any content type available, they involve a much greater investment than most videos, infographics, etc. Along these lines, the survey also mentioned that 95% of B2B buyers agreed that they prefer shorter content formats.
Events also show to be a very effective tactic. The 2016 Content Marketing Institute reports “In-person events, which has been rated the most effective tactic for the last six years, increased from 69% to 75%.” The same report showed that effectiveness ratings slightly decreased for blogs (60% last year vs. 59% this year) and that the biggest increase was for infographics (50% last year vs.58% this year).” While in-person events are important, the content strategy needs to help define the tools and information that are available at the point of physical contact and what types of content will be successful in continuing the customer journey after a meeting, trade show, or event.
The Content Marketing Institute asked B2B marketers to select their top 5 challenges from a list that included the following:
They went on to note that the most effective B2B marketers are more challenged with measuring content effectiveness (53%) than they are with producing engaging content (49%). The same applies to those who are sophisticated/mature in content marketing (54% vs. 51%).
The best content strategies start by asking a series of questions, both from an internal and external perspective. By asking questions, you can begin to frame up the way customers typically start their search for a solution. Build a checklist for evaluating a new content opportunity that includes the following questions:
When determining the appropriate areas to invest in content production, ask yourself the following questions:
In addition to questions as a means to test the viability of content development efforts, content teams (customer support, sales, trade show staffers, content creators) should meet regularly to compile and update a comprehensive list of all submitted questions to your company. If applicable, customer support emails and customer support calls can also be fertile ground for collecting insights. Comb message boards, forums, communities and other places where your key audiences seek out advice and information.
Once you have your questions mapped out and agreed upon, start to group them by frequency. From there, have an open discussion about your company’s ability to answer the large pools of questions and how those relate to the stages of the buying cycle: Is there content that exists that can quickly and easily resolve a customer question? Is your customer able to access the information across all channels?
Content experts are great at making content, while subject matter experts within the organization are critically important to ensuring content accuracy (concerning facts, but also the application to the marketplace). There needs to be a partnership between the groups to ensure the content being developed satisfies all parties, with particular attention focused on solving customer issues.
Combining current sales profiles, personas, and other customer models the company has become the tools you can use to profile customer segments to improve the relevance and effectiveness of your content marketing efforts. The key to building the right segments is to identify customer needs and pain points, group the needs and pains points by roles or audiences (task-based is our preferred model), and then use that data to profile top customer segments. It is important to evaluate task flows on a frequent basis to ensure accuracy, response to industry change, and data feedback loops.
Once the buying journey is fully defined and key customer profiles are highlighted, the editorial team can create content that will successfully resonate.