Marketing Strategy

It’s Time to Come Clean About Our B2B Content Marketing Strategy

By July 1, 2014 No Comments

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…Or, should I say, lack thereof.

That B2B marketers have turned to content marketing in droves is no surprise. I don’t need to give you even more stats about how the buyer’s journey has become self-guided rather than steered by sales reps. And how marketing owns a greater length of the sales funnel. Meanwhile, job number one for the marketing boss is generating revenue, not just awareness.

So what do you do when your buyers can (and will) find the info they need online, you’re responsible for driving sales, and the CMO is looking nervous? You produce content—lots of it.

“We have to come clean about the current state of the B2B content marketing strategy.” @noyesjesse

But even as budgets for content rise, an actual strategy to create, approve, and distribute this content in a unified, visible way is often neglected. That’s why so many organizations struggle to use their content (60% to 70% goes unused).

Before this bigger issue can be addressed, we have to come clean about the current state of B2B content marketing within most organizations.

We Don’t Really Have a Strategy.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The majority of organizations either don’t have a documented content strategy or don’t know if they have one—which is the equivalent of not having one.

This is a real problem because, truthfully, we don’t just need a strategy; we need a content operation to create, distribute, promote, and measure the assets our strategy says we need. Within a B2B organization, content needs are anything but simple. There are multiple personas to target, subsets of sales stages to distribute among, channels that need a fresh, nearly constant of supply of content, etc.

In other words, there are too many demands for content to simply be produced in ad hoc, isolated manner. B2B marketers need a real, documented content strategy.

We’re Not Very Good at Being Buyer-Centric.

I hear this comment all the time: “Content marketing isn’t really new. Marketing has always created content.”

That’s true. But the focus of B2B content marketing does represent a significant change for most marketers, and certainly for their colleagues in sales. The goal of the content marketer should be to engage and inform the buyer. That requires creating buyer-centric, rather than product-centric, content. And most of us simply aren’t moving fast enough to keep pace with this shift.

Only 23% of marketers claim to be advanced at creating buyer-centric content. That’s a failing grade.

While 83% of marketers say creating buyer-centric content is a priority, only 23% claim to be at advanced state of this transition, according to SiriusDecisions. This represents a poor sign of health for content marketing within B2B organizations as a whole. (23% is an F.)

There will always be a place for product-centric content. But if organizations want to succeed in content marketing, they need to step up their efforts to create buyer-centric content.

We Make Investments in Channels and Tech without a Content Supply in Place.

By 2017, CMOs are expected to outspend CIOs. As a marketer, I find this newfound sense of purchase authority refreshing.

But here’s an ugly truth we need to face: We’re in danger of undercutting that authority.

Marketers are making larger and larger investments in channels and technologies to reach and engage buyers at every stage of the deal cycle—from the first bit of brand awareness to a signed deal. But even as we plug millions of dollars into these investments, we fail to supply them with the content needed to make them successful.

Instead, content is created by “channel managers” or other marketers responsible for overseeing a small segment of the buyer’s journey. So what the buyer gets is often incongruous, outdated, or downright wrong. If B2B marketers want their investments to flourish rather than flounder, we need to get serious about operationalizing our content to fill these channels and technologies and ensure consistent, compelling content.

We Can’t Tell the Difference Between Perceived Gaps and Actual Gaps.

Most marketers are used to hearing we don’t have this piece of content or that topic addressed. This common complaint—and our inability to respond with data or content—is the annoying symptom of a dangerous illness: We don’t know what gaps exist in our content.

We have hunches. But these hunches are often incorrect. And we have no way to correct them.

For B2B marketers to tell the difference between perceived gaps and actual gaps, they need to track how much content they’ve developed for specific buyer personas and sales stages, where this content has been delivered, and which content has been successful. Accessing and organizing this information usually means conducting a content audit. Without this data, marketers are operating blind, and that leads to duplicative, wasteful content.

We Don’t Know What’s Worked, and What Hasn’t.

Similar to our gaps in content production, our gap in measuring the effectiveness of our content continues to perplex B2B companies. This isn’t limited to performance metrics, but also metrics for tracking engagement, influence on buyers within our pipeline, and our production.

Let’s talk about B2B content marketing strategy…or lack thereof.

If we’re going to succeed with content marketing, we need to systematize the process for tracking, measuring, and analyzing our content. And this field of content analytics needs to grow up fast so we’re not just tracking inbound activity, but actually scoring our content based on its influence moving buyers from one stage of the sales journey to another.

The first step is admitting we have a problem. And the problem with your B2B content marketing strategy isn’t just any one of the issues above, it’s that we need to build an operation to address each issue in a unified, visible way.

It’s a lot easier to tackle these problems with a strategy in place.

Jesse Noyes

About Jesse Noyes

Former Senior Director of Content Marketing at Kapost. I enjoy learning, teaching and eating...not necessarily in that order.