May 24, 2016
Most brands have grabbed hold of the idea of content marketing but many struggle with how to plan and execute it to see meaningful results. Without exception, this comes from a lack of understanding about how to create and deliver value as marketers that’s separate and distinct from the products and services that we sell. Our ability to articulate this value is the foundation for a business-driven content strategy.
Results from the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs highlight how big of a headache this is: Only 30 percent of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38 percent last year. Fifty-five percent are unclear or unsure of what content marketing success even looks like.
The problem has nothing to do with our ability to create content; that’s something that marketers have done for well over a hundred years. The dilemma stems from marketers not having a strong enough alignment with the purpose of the business – driving the growth. We must behave as business-minded people first, and marketers second.
A CEO would no sooner approach her role without a well thought out strategy of how to get there. Yet most b-to-b organization expect marketers to mass produce content without any thought as to the purpose behind it – whether it’s for lead generation, sales meetings, customer retention and so forth.
The cure for this lies in a company’s ability to align content efforts with business goals, and then plan and execute consistently. There’s five basic steps to creating a business-driven content strategy, which include:
- Understand your business objectives. B2B marketers must start with the end in mind. Are you looking to raise brand awareness? Increase market share? Drive more qualified leads? In order to drive the growth of our businesses, we have to know what our organizations define as “growth” and what success looks like.
- Know your audience. Most companies skip this step because people say they know their audience. People have different labels for this step – personas, target audience, customer profiles, it doesn’t matter what you call it. But creating them does, because it gives everyone across the organization a unified definition of the ideal person you’re trying to attract, engage, convert and keep as a revenue-generating customer.
- Define your value. Think of this as the outside-in-approach. Your prospects have information needs. How can you fill them? How can you become a destination for your target audience, interested in specific topics, in order to deliver value to them? Take CMO.com as an example. They describe the value they generate on their About CMO.com page: “CMO.com by Adobe delivers marketing insights, expertise, and inspiration for and by marketing leaders – all aimed at helping CMOs and senior marketers lead their brands in this new digital world.” It’s simple and concise.
- Understand distribution and promotion. Author Andrew Davis points out that 50 to 60 percent of a Hollywood movie production budget is spent on distribution. That means that for the 2015 release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which had a production budget of $250 million, studio execs would have spent $100 to 150 million on distribution. These are incredible numbers, for sure. The point is that even Hollywood, with A-list actors and addictive storylines, invest in getting their content in front of the right audience. You should too.
- Measure what has meaning. This is where brands with entrenched silos struggle the most but also have the greatest opportunity to build collaboration across teams. Siloed organizations look at how teams Collaborative organizations look at how content performs. The first focuses on “small data” to justify activity. The second encourages insights to improve performance. The easiest way to make this shift is to think of content as a product just like any other in your portfolio. Do you have 12 products that you actively manage, nurture, promote, refine and expect to contribute to the bottom line? You now have a lucky thirteenth – content. The only way we can bring our work as marketers full circle and back to driving the growth of the business is by measuring how well our content strategy and execution support the business objective of our companies.
Successful content marketing isn’t a short-term whim; it’s a long-term investment. As b-to-b marketers, it’s time we quit creating brand-centered interruptions and start delivering customer-centered value. That, ultimately, is how we will drive business growth.
Are you interested in developing a content marketing strategy or hosting a workshop or training for your team? Contact us and let’s talk about how we can help. Follow me on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.
Photo credit: Flickr user Ken Teegardin
About Carla Johnson
Recognized as one of the top 20 influencers in content marketing, one of the top 25 in B2B marketing and one of the Top 50 Women in Marketing, Carla’s latest book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves on the Executive Board and as the Vice President of Thought Leadership for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA) and is an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute. Carla also contributes to industry wide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of marketing, leading through innovation, and the power of storytelling.