A couple of months ago, I shared some powerful findings from the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarking study done by the CMI and MarketingProfs. A statistic that really stuck with me is:
- 86% of B2B companies use content as part of their growth efforts.
- Only 38% say they’re using it effectively (with only 8% rating themselves very effective at it).
While it’s nice to see that so many companies have adopted content marketing, it’s distressing to see so many struggling with it.
Unfortunately I can’t say I was surprised to see these numbers. I see it everyday with the companies I talk with. I spend much less time today working to get executives to understand the importance of content in the sales process than I did as recently as three years ago. Yet when I dig deeper, it is clear that the efforts often aren’t bearing fruit.
Today I’m seeing a noticeable increase in the frustration of executives regarding the return on their investments with content. In my experience, there are five key inflection points that must be considered (and often aren’t) for content marketing to be effective.
1. Be sure you have clear personas and create content relevant to them
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know the importance of buyer personas. But, I’ve got two questions for you:
- Have you developed your personas?
- Are you using them when you are creating content?
If you answered no to either of those questions, what are you waiting for?!
The most common (and damaging) mistake I see made with companies developing content is that it just adds to the noise that’s out there. Before you can create content that resonates and, more importantly, influences your prospects, you must be clear on who you are communicating with and what matters to them.
2. Map your content to your buyer’s journey and to your sales process
Last week I was on a call with several other inbound marketing agencies talking about how we can more effectively connect with and enhance the sales process. When the issue of content came up, I pointed out that all too often we use the word content as if it means the same thing at every stage of the buying journey.
When I present on the topic of B2B lead generation to executive groups, I often hear a CEO say something like, “Yeah, we’re doing content marketing. Our engineers put a white paper together about every quarter.” Then when I ask who the white papers are directed towards and how they connect to the buying process, the answers become very vague.
I regularly look at blogs created by companies that are either inconsistently used, poorly aligned to the sales process or both. These examples (and more) are both emblematic of companies that are engaged in content, but doing it in a way that will provide little, if any ROI.
I’m a big proponent of creating content maps. Mapping your content by persona and their journey creates alignment between the content you’re creating and the sales process. It also ensures that the content you’re creating is purposeful, and not just the stuff you like creating.
3. Ensure your website is built to convert
Like it or not your website is the center-point of your sales, marketing and communication efforts. Regardless of your business, industry or model, your website is your “storefront.” The problem is that only about 10% of websites have actually been created with a focus on lead generation and lead development.
Content is not marketing’s version of Field of Dreams. As much as the SEO advocates want you to believe, you can’t merely create content and wait for them to come. You must promote it and create the conversion paths that make the content consumable and provide you with insights into who’s looking and what’s driving their actions.
We’ve seen simple web redesigns increase conversion rates by 5 – 10x, while also positioning the company with a strong message. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see on websites that simply kill the ROI of content marketing (and some of these mistakes are made by some very large companies):
- No calls-to-action on high traffic pages highlighting the content available.
- No landing pages that allow for registration of high value content (in these instances the content is simply a pdf or even word document that is directly accessed).
- No email follow-up upon the registration and download of premium content.
- No nurturing process.
- No connection to the sales process.
Today you simply cannot afford a website that is not built to convert and nurture your prospects. As buyers increasingly utilize the web for research and discovery, you must make sure you have the presence and the process to support.
4. Train your salespeople on the use of content
Contrary to what a lot of marketers seem to think, salespeople don’t love content…until it works. Salespeople have ingrained habits and they don’t change them easily. Additionally salespeople like to control (many would say over-control) every aspect of the sales process. Therefore, it is important that you roll content out in a simple and clear manner if you want salespeople to adopt it.
While salespeople should certainly be subscribed to your blog and should be made aware of the content you are creating, it’s important that you neither overwhelm them with all of your content nor “throw it over the wall” expecting them to figure out how to use it.
When creating content for salespeople provide them clear direction on how to use it. Engage them in the process of creating content. Give them sample emails they can use to send to their accounts and prospects. Highlight scenarios where the content can be best used and the manner in which to use it.
Now, don’t expect salespeople to use your scripts (some will) or to use the content precisely how you want them to. The purpose of the guidance is that it gets their brain started and creates clarity for them.
5. Be Consistent
Finally, the key in effective marketing of any kind is to be consistent. It is far better to post one blog a week for 16 weeks, then to post three blogs this week, two more in three weeks and so on.
It is also important that you maintain a consistent message and approach. This is why we create editorial philosophies for our clients. We ensure that everyone creating content is aligned on message, style and approach.
This consistency is what allows our content to build on everything, and as a result we are able to build a marketing asset that provides sustained customer engagement, lead generation and ROI.