3 Content Marketing Mistakes You’re Making (And 3 Ways To Do It Right)
The following is a guest blog post from Ardath Albee, CEO and B2B Marketing Strategist of Marketing Interactions, Inc. She’s been voted one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Sales and Lead Management for the past four years and a 2014 Woman to Watch in B2B Marketing by FierceCMO.
“A few years ago, I spent a lot of time convincing marketers about the value of investing in content marketing. Today, I get calls from marketers saying, ‘We bought into the idea of content marketing. We’ve created great content. People read it. But it’s not moving the needle.’”
This is the first paragraph in my book, Digital Relevance. And it sets the stage for a discussion of content marketing mistakes that, once corrected, can shift your content marketing performance into high gear.
Let’s take a look at five mistakes and the steps for corrective action:
Content that pitches, rather than empowers.
According to Sirius Decisions, the primary reason content goes unused is that it lacks relevance. Research conducted by The EIU found that 75% of executive buyers want content that speaks to a business idea; only 16% were interested in content that supports a purchase decision. But what marketers know best are their company’s products. So that’s what gets written about. With the percentage of content created that goes unused escalating as high as 70% or more, depending on the research you read, can marketers really afford to create content that delivers absolutely no value to the company? Just say NO.
To pivot away from product-centric content toward buyer-centric content, create active personas that inform your content marketing strategy by helping your content to become highly relevant and engaging to your target markets. Research from ITSMA found that 85% of marketers rank their top priority for 2016 as understanding buyers. Why are we waiting?
However, when you do decide to create personas, it’s very important to do external research, including interviewing customers, buyers and those who chose a competitor. In The Power and Potential of Personas [PDF], a survey conducted by B2P partners found that 72% of personas rated ineffective by marketers were merely based on existing data and assumptions. What you need are new insights that help you speak your buyer’s language as related to problems that need solving or opportunities they can pursue to reach successful outcomes with your help.
One-off campaigns that stop momentum in its tracks.
B2B marketers have long relied on a campaign structure for their marketing programs. However, campaigns that stop and start don’t answer your buyers’ needs across the entirety of the buying process. A campaign designed with several touches followed by a sales offer is not effective now that buyers can research and learn about how to solve their problems with a wealth of self-serve content at their fingertips.
Every time one campaign stops, there is “dead air” time that leaves the buyers you’ve managed to engage in the lurch. When a new campaign and theme is launched, it’s the equivalent of saying, “Well, we’re tired of that subject, so here’s a new one we’d like to talk about.”(Notice where the focus is.) When this happens, you give your buyers the opportunity to decide you’re no longer relevant to them, prompting them to go look for someone who is. And that’s not a wise choice.
To create the engagement and momentum needed to move buyers from interest to prioritizing change and making a purchase decision, marketers need to develop content marketing strategies that serialize the problem-to-solution story across the entirety of the buying process—end to end. By addressing the needs and context of the buyer at each stage, your expertise and educational content will help them take next steps and view your company as the “mentor” that can help them reach the outcome they value.
Not helping salespeople to use your content effectively.
In the new book, The Challenger Customer, research conducted by CEB finds that buyers are 57% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to vendors. Other research comes in even higher. This has put the onus on marketers to take responsibility for even more of the buying process than ever before. But the sticky point is that the CEB also found that buying committees reach the height of conflict at 37% of the way through the buying process—meaning they may never make it to the point of vendor outreach.
Research conducted by Richardson several years ago found that salespeople actually do read the content marketing produces, but that they have no idea how to transfer value to the customer. In other words, they don’t understand how to use it, or how to find what they need quickly for a specific buyer’s situation. Let’s face it, as more content is developed, marketers need to think beyond what content to create and how to distribute it externally to how to get it into a salesperson’s hand at the right time and in the right circumstances. Sound familiar? It’s the goal we have for engaging our buyers, so why not apply it to empowering our salespeople?
Create a process that helps salespeople find and use the content you create effectively in prospecting and conversations with buyers. This includes tagging content for persona, industry, buying stage, topic, problem, and more. But it is also aided with what I call CliffsNotes for sales. In Digital Relevance, I explain the concept as, “a one-sheet that helps sales quickly understand [the content’s] purpose and how they can use it conversationally, as well as which related content may serve as a relevant follow-up offer to extend the conversation and elevate the prospect’s intent.”
By helping your salespeople to use marketing content more effectively, you’ll also be helping them get into buyers’ conversations earlier, helping to mitigate that conflict that could keep them moving forward to solve the problem with your help.
Correcting these three mistakes with your content marketing will help you achieve the effectiveness and performance goals that have been elusive in the past.