PHOTO: Erik Mclean
B2B marketing has changed a lot in the last decade (and arguably even more so in the last year). However, such transformations have affected content marketing almost every step of the way.
With the rise of social media, the near-ubiquitous adoption of marketing automation platforms, the shift to account-based strategies, and the advent of newer innovations like intent data, the way B2B marketers consume content has evolved.
I was often impressed with the content marketing efforts of some brands during this time. However, just as often, I’ve seen organizations and marketers fall into shared content traps that undermine their hard work and waste valuable resources. Such traps largely result from misconceptions about what content marketing is or how it should be done. Here is a list of the most common and costly of these misconceptions and how to fix them.
Misconception # 1: Your content must make your products stand out
Sure, as marketers, we always need late-stage content that will help our potential customers choose our solutions over the competition. When prospects first start their journey, they usually focus on gaining a better understanding of specific issues or challenges.
In fact, they are unlikely to know they initiated a buyer’s journey. And if all of your content is simply dwarfing your products as a panacea for your prospects’ weaknesses, they’ll start to see your brand as annoying and opportunistic.
It is far more valuable – for your company and your potential customers – to present your brand as a credible and helpful source of information to the target group. To that end, your content should educate the audience about their specific concerns and even provide potential solutions unrelated to your products.
Related article: Content Hubs: A Safe Place to Meet Your Audience
Misconception # 2: You don’t need a lot of content, you only use a few assets
There is certainly value in repurposing content. Different people prefer to consume content in different ways – podcasts versus e-books, infographics versus blogs, etc. (See Misconception # 4) However, the way individuals perceive their challenges are just as different like their preferences for the content format.
Marketers need to face these different perceptions with empathy. We need to frame the problems from the prospect’s point of view and then provide helpful information and possible solutions in a way that is easiest for the segment of our target audience to understand. Of course, this requires the creation of a lot of content.
John Mancini, President of Content Results, LLC, hit the nail on the head when he wrote in his CMSWire article, “Successful inbound marketing requires a lot of content in a variety of forms. Much more than one realizes when you start a content marketing initiative. “
If you now think about the fact that inbound marketing is only one of several necessary channels for a successful content marketing, the challenge intensifies. Which brings us to the next misunderstanding …
Misconception # 3: Content marketing is synonymous with inbound marketing
As much as I admire HubSpot, sometimes I think the strength of the HubSpot team’s marketing efforts – especially on inbound marketing – has meant marketers have limited the impact of their content efforts.
As I’ve written many times, inbound marketing alone rarely creates the demand that B2B marketing teams are increasingly expecting. This is partly due to the heavy shift towards account-based marketing strategies (ABM). For most brands, it’s just not realistic to expect enough target accounts to come across your content through your website and social posts.
Additionally, a saturation of inbound marketing tactics – blogging, webinars, SEO, social media, etc. – has made scaling inbound performance harder, more time consuming, and more expensive.
While inbound marketing will always be important, B2B organizations can multiply the impact of their content investments by also using assets to boost sales and drive third-party demand-generation campaigns.
At the request of third parties, I am referring to any request (i.e. leads, contacts, inquiries, etc.) initiated through a third-party channel or source (as opposed to your own website, landing pages, or social profiles). One of the most effective third-party demand channels recently has been content syndication, which has seen a big boom in 2020.
It is very important to extend the reach of your content beyond your website and social media. Jon Vann spokesman, director of marketing strategy at Beutler Ink, highlights another major reason for using your content beyond inbound marketing: “For many marketers it seems counterintuitive to place their content outside of their own ‘walled garden’ Expanding your marketing surface beyond what in-depth efforts allow, teams can focus more on highly effective communication and training, and relieve the pressure on any content that converts or dies. “
Related Article: What To Do When Your Inbound Marketing Is Failing
Misconception # 4: A target implies homogeneous content attitudes
As I briefly discussed in Misconception # 2, individuals prefer different content formats. Mark Nardone, executive vice president of PAN Communications, in his recent CMSWire article suggests, “Marketers should change the format of their content: If your customer is always on the go, consider shorter, more digestible content that they can easily find.” can use. ” Read on a mobile device. However, if your target customer is a chief security officer who participates in video conferencing all day, they may prefer extended length of content behind their desktop at certain times of the day or week. “
I take this idea a little further. Not all security chiefs prefer long-form content. And some people from the same person are on the way, others are not. Countless factors that go beyond our persona inputs determine these preferences. For example, think of the lifestyle differences between people with multiple children and those without children. There is often a big difference on the go there, but I’ve never seen a persona line item for “Number of Children”.
My point: It’s a good idea to create content in a variety of formats and reuse it in order to be as attractive as possible for your target groups.
Misconception # 5: Digitizing content has made decision-making easier for potential customers
It’s true: prospects can more easily than ever access the content they need to make purchasing decisions. The typical purchasing group now consists of six to ten decision-makers. So when each of these decision makers consume four or more pieces of content independently (as Gartner’s research found), there is a lot of conflicting information, frustration, and slow decision-making.
All too often, marketing teams forget about the deluge of content decision makers have to wade through. In order to attract new business, we marketers need to help potential customers cope with the information overload by first understanding their primary concerns and needs, and then providing them with the most relevant and helpful content.
When used properly, intent data can be incredibly useful in this regard. By exposing the target accounts’ research activities, signals of intent can influence your content development and distribution efforts at every stage of the buyer’s journey. (See my article “Using Intent Data for Content Marketing.”)
Misconception # 6: Prospects and customers are your only target audience
Sales and customer success teams can benefit greatly from marketing content. This is especially true for startups and smaller organizations that lack content resources for these features.
Not only is it a good idea to regularly interview sales reps and customer success reps to improve your understanding of potential customer needs, but you should also think about what types of content (both new and repurposed) could aid their efforts. As more B2B organizations adopt cross-functional, account-based strategies, such collaboration becomes increasingly important.
As Jon Vann Spokesman puts it, “While many marketing organizations have a formal lead handoff process with their sales team, such a linearity does not reflect the organic nature of the buyer’s journey. Sales reps often have great success for prospects who are are still early in their journey, and it is often very useful to design or re-use top-of-funnel educational content for promotional material, depending on the specific needs of the sales force, so that SDRs and sales reps can meet prospects there where they are. “
Misconception # 7: What worked yesterday will work today
No year has proven this point better than 2020. For the last 10 months of the year, COVID-19 affected the format of content (e.g. a lot of webinars and videos), tone (e.g. sensitivity to economic uncertainty, social Inequality, politics), and distribution (e.g., moving personal events to content syndication programs).
While it is (hopefully) unlikely that similar events will disrupt content marketing efforts as much in the near future, it is worth noting how important context is to content marketing. Your audience doesn’t consume content in a vacuum. Experience shapes the way we take in all ideas. Knowing what your prospects are experiencing while creating content for them is key to making sure they are having the intended effect.
David Crane is Vice President of Marketing at Intentsify, a leading provider of intent data solutions. With a decade of B2B marketing experience in the tech industry, David leads Intentsify’s go-to-market and messaging strategy.