Did you know 55% of B2B businesses don’t even know what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like? Without the ability to define success, even the best content marketing intentions are set up for failure.
Content marketing continues to be a celebrated way to drive awareness, generate leads and expand the customer base. Many bigger companies now have dedicated internal content marketing teams and even smaller organizations are dipping their toes into the content marketing stream by increasing blogging frequency or contracting with third parties to expand their content assets.
It remains a new arena for many B2B companies, who are unsure what they want or need to achieve with content marketing or how content marketing ties into their overall marketing objectives and planning. Since time and resources are limited, these organizations tell themselves little fibs that make it easier to forge ahead, despite the fact that forging ahead on these “alternative facts” is a waste of time and money.
LIE #1: WE HAVE A PLAN.
Only 32% of B2B marketers have documented their content marketing strategy. Here’s a secret: if it’s not written down, it’s probably not a strategy. I was at a conference recently where they keynote speaker said, quite poignantly, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”
A successful strategy requires significant thought – and detailed documentation – on a variety of tactics, objectives and integration. A well-laid strategy answers questions like:
What are the needs of your audience personas? Audience personas are not buyer personas. This article does a good job of pointing out the nuances of each. The real question is, are you producing content tailored for your audience, which may include buyers as well as influencers? In creating audience personas, consider the following:
- Who: Industry
- Who: Job titles, roles & responsibilities
- What: Top challenges of role/pain points/problems faced
- Where person is researching solutions (online channels, publications, watering holes)
- Where person is in their research process
- Where person falls in the decision-making chain
- How person prefers to consume research and content
- When this person needs to make a decision (time-sensitive problem?)
- When this person prefers to consume content (day of week/time part)
What business objectives and goals do you hope to achieve with content marketing? Some organizations have very specific goals and metrics of success for their marketing campaigns:
- Increase traffic
- Increase conversions
- Generate leads
Organizations should look beyond the simple KPIs they want to hit and also consider how content marketing relates and ties into the overall marketing and sales strategy. In some cases, content marketing is also a support system for different elements of the organization. Go big and keep the grand scheme in mind. Content marketing can also:
- Facilitate better customer service
- Support sales
- Support internal teams and processes
What does content marketing success look like? Obviously, a lot of organizations struggle with this part. Start by considering which KPIs make sense, based on your content marketing goals. If you want to increase site traffic, don’t just consider sessions and pageviews. Look at average time on site and bounce rate (behavioral metrics) to check the quality of your traffic.
Since your objectives should be consistent with the rest of the marketing department, consider how KPIs impact each other. Content marketing does not operate or exist within a microcosm; it’s part of (or should be part of) an integrated strategy. Marketing, as a whole, should be on the same page and it’s important for content marketers to solicit the opinions of their non-content focused counterparts when it comes to defining metrics for success.
How will people help you achieve success? In other words, who owns content marketing in your organization? In my experience, this is one of the biggest roadblocks to successful content marketing, especially for SMBs. Why? Because developing (good) content is hard and takes time.
Often, organizations know they should be creating content, but lack of dedicated resources prompts them to farm it out to department heads or other internal resources. Department heads are busy with their core responsibilities and so content often gets back-burnered, or worse yet, done in a hurry. What this brand of content production also lacks is the execution of a cohesive strategy. Not all department heads – or whoever else is churning out content for you – are educated on the overall objectives of marketing. It leads to splintered content that fails to meet audience needs or to meet goals and objectives.
What are the unknowns? Every plan has its obstructions. Some are easy to surmount and others can significantly inhibit an organization’s ability to achieve documented goals. Part of the strategy is to identify these items and to determine how to execute despite them. For example:
- Are management goals aligned with the marketing and content marketing goals, or are their conflicting priorities? Getting ahead of issues like this can save time.
- Are the defined audience needs aligned with customer insights and other data? Conduct fact-finding to ensure that your strategy is backed by data.
- Is access an issue? Do you need insights, research or quotes from internal leadership to produce content? If so, is your team able to work its way into that person’s schedule?
- What external partnerships need to be leveraged to execute successfully? Your organization may need to outsource all or some of the content marketing elements, including content development, design, video production or other supporting elements.
Nailing down these details are integral to successfully executing on your documented content marketing strategy.
This is just the beginning – the “big picture” questions that need to be answered before you can even begin to think about the nitty gritty details, like:
- How does content map to the marketing and sales funnels?
- What is your channel strategy?
- What does your content calendar look like?
- How will you test, tweak, measure and optimize?
LIE #2: WE DO CONTENT MARKETING WELL.
According to the CMI report, 32% of organizations say their content marketing is “sophisticated” or “mature.” Of those organizations, 64% claim that they are effective at content marketing.
Obviously, there are some well-strategized and well-executed content marketing programs out there. And there’s also the fact that each content marketing program is different and the definition of content marketing success will depend entirely on the organization’s defined goals. For some, simply publishing a blog once a week fits the bill and can be chalked up as a success. A case can be made for anything. And, as HubSpot notes in its benchmarking study, almost any increase in blogging activity can be tied to an increase in traffic (and in some cases, leads).
The point here is to always be improving, and many organizations fail to have a progressive content marketing strategy – and goals – in place. All marketing should be progressive in the sense that goals are living, evolving things. Content marketing should evolve in tandem. It’s not a one and done project but an ongoing and dynamic commitment.
LIE #3: WE CAN DO CONTENT MARKETING ALONE.
Except for mammoth organizations, most companies need to tap external resources to execute an effective content marketing program. Depending on the skill set of the internal staff as well as the availability of internal skilled resources, many companies choose to outsource some or all of their content marketing activities. This is especially true for smaller shops that may be operating with a one-woman marketing “team.” In these cases, the Marketing Director contracts one or multiple third party vendors to execute on the content marketing strategy. This can be highly beneficial for companies that are dedicated to content marketing, as it frees up internal resources to focus on high level strategy without getting bogged down with the details.
The only real downside to outsourcing is that no one (arguably) knows your business as well as you. This can be especially true for B2B organizations with long sales cycles, complex business models and niche services and offerings. When it comes to outsourcing content development, vetting potential vendors is an important step in ensuring quality control.
If possible, find a vendor with experience in your industry or niche. At the very least, work with vendors that specialize in B2B content. The more specialized vendors you can find, the better. A specialized content marketing vendor will already have the knowledge base necessary to create meaningful, engaging content for your company. Additionally, they will be more adept at producing cutting-edge topics and identifying new or trending industry pain points and challenges. Considering 86% of consumers confirm that personalization influences purchasing decisions, working with a specialist can help B2B organizations create relevant messaging that is personalized for the target audience. The ability to weave customized stories for your prospective customers can have a significant impact on your sales funnel in a world where 59% of buyers prefer online research over talking to a sales rep.
All B2B businesses – big and little, experienced and novice – have room to improve their content marketing strategy, execution and optimization. The key is being honest and identifying pain points within the content marketing team, and the organization as a whole. When companies get real, they can identify where there is room for improvement and iteratively optimize. Working with external vendors can streamline the process, augment internal teams that might be strapped for time, and make it easier to achieve content marketing success.