By Bill McGinnis
According to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing report, 91 percent of B2B organizations are using content marketing, but only nine percent assess their process as “sophisticated.” While 31% report seeing early success, the majority of marketers state challenges ranging from integration across the organization to creating cohesive strategies and measurement plans.
Acknowledging content is the fuel that feeds the marketing engine, what can marketers do to take their content marketing to the next level?
First, let’s start with a clear definition of content marketing itself… Content marketing, as defined by our friends at The Content Marketing Institute is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
In other words, if done right – content marketing helps you win customers, helps you keep your customers happy and helps your happy customers share how happy you make them (leading to more happy customers).
Next, let’s review three content marketing lessons from three marketing leaders that recently spoke to the Business Marketing Association Atlanta Chapter, sharing valuable insights about how they manage content marketing.
A 5 Point Strategy
Holly Bounds, Global eCommerce Growth Leader at GE Power, shared that GE’s content marketing strategy is built on five points, the first being to identify your customer segments.
“We find it’s helpful to identify our segments based on both our core customers segments and where we see opportunities for larger growth,” explains Holly. “We also associate a key outcome to each of these areas, to ensure we’re aligning our strategy from start to finish.”
The second point of GE’s content marketing strategy is to listen to what your customers want, stated Holly. This includes favorability towards your brand, what attributes of your product or service they prefer and interest in specific capabilities.
The third point requires searching for the conversation, or as Holly put it “find your customers’ ‘watering hole.’”
“Just as a lion finds satisfaction by simply going to the nearest watering hole, we think it’s very important to find out where your customers go to consume content,” said Holly. “What sites, publications, blogs, events and more are they drawn towards? That’s where your content should be found.”
Fourth, build your persona journeys. At GE, Holly shared they focus on the top or primary personas (in other words, not 15 personas) and customize their content accordingly from education to solution to selection.
Finally, GE’s fifth point in their five-point content marketing strategy is to define your value as an outcome to each persona. What solutions are they seeking to their problems? For example, cost vs. features, labor savings, inventory savings, safety – what is their trigger? Holly presented a GE case study about product development of a simple circuit breaker where features and benefits aligned with persona values. Based on their customer persona journeys, the final result was four fully developed, highly-targeted messages to support the product.
“By identifying and documenting these five ways to know our customers,” Holly concluded, “we’re able to align our content marketing process to produce the right content to the right buyer at the right time.”
Dare to be Your Buyers Best Teacher
Another speaker was George, Stenitzer, CEO of Crystal Clear Communications, who focused his discussion on audience education. “Educating your audience is critical to a successful content marketing strategy,” said George. He emphasized these three points:
- Listen before you yell. Gather every question that your customers or prospects have asked you and your competition; analyze questions for recurring themes and keywords; go beyond Word Clouds to sophisticated text analysis and even artificial intelligence.
- Show before you tell. Marketers are quick to jump into features, benefits, and solutions, yet slow to publicly answer questions about pricing, hidden costs, competitive comparisons, etc… George recommended you answer every question.
- Teach before you sell. In today’s world, buyers don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped. Teaching, helping and addressing tough questions earns you credibility when buyers visit your website.
George noted “Measuring content marketing success is key to this education process,” and offered up a post that dives further into that point here: Measure Content Marketing Success.
Delivering and Measuring Content Marketing Success
It was clear that delivering and measuring content marketing success is a topic near and dear to the heart of Colleen Jones, CEO of Content Science, and the final marketing leader to speak at the BMA Atlanta Chapter event.
“We are living in a different business era. Companies have gone through a progression of where they focus: Product-centric, Service-centric, Customer-centric, and now, Relationship-centric. At least, if they want to succeed, they need to be the latter,” noted Colleen.
She reminded the audience that their customers expect to get the right content at the right time regardless of the channel – and they expect this for the entire relationship they have with you. “To be successful,” shared Colleen, ”companies need an integrated content strategy aligned with goals.”
Her suggested approach to this aligned strategy includes:
- Competitive analysis
- Customer journey definition
- Content mapping
- Content lifecycle, workflow, and template definition
- Content modeling and engineering
- Delightful content experience
- Advanced automation and machine learning
- Content reuse and curation
“The bottom line is that companies need Content Strategy + Content Intelligence which will = Dynamic and Personalized Delivery,” said Colleen. “For example, consider Netflix, as their algorithms factor in not only what shows you watch, but when, how long, when you rewind and fast forward and more, to deliver 33 million versions of Netflix to its customers.”
To get started, Colleen recommended a simple but involved three-step process:
- Ask the right questions
- Collect and analyze the data
- Interpret and act (and then repeat)
What’s next? Consider applying these content marketing lessons – in part and/or in whole – to help your organization achieve a competitive edge.