There’s now plenty of evidence that content marketing works for business-to-business (B2B) markets. One of the latest studies on this topic was issued by the Content Marketing Institute. I was particularly interested in this new research, as it specifically addresses the content marketing practices of technology marketers. While I enjoyed the piece, it perpetuates streams of thinking which hold marketers back from doing more and better content marketing:
Myth 1: You need a documented content strategy
Yes, you do need to know what you are doing. But this is less a matter of having a documented content strategy, and more about being able to make the connection between market developments, customer needs and your organization’s desired business outcomes. To use an analogy: Journalists create content every day – it’s their job. Now, ask to see a journalist’s content development strategy document. I predict you will encounter blank faces, and probably raised eyebrows. That’s because journalists’ raison d’être is to provide valuable content to their audience. Content marketers need to develop the same understanding: If they see their role as engaging their target market with their organization through content, then they will do a good job – regardless of how much strategy documentation they have produced.
Myth 2: Content marketing is the job of one person – the ‘Chief Content Officer’
The best content is produced based on knowledge of the market, buyer personas and customer pain points. If content is produced in an ivory tower, by a wizard of content magic, chances are that the result will not resonate with the market and will not be useful for the sales team. Content creation should be collaborative – content is everyone’s concern. I get ideas for some of the most successful pieces from talking to salespeople, and draw on the expertise of a great team of experts in various aspects of technology to make sure content delivers value to customers.
Myth 3: Content marketing is expensive
Most companies would be able to reduce their marketing budget if they spent more time on content marketing and less time on traditional marketing activities such as tradeshows and advertising. Great content will have a longer shelf life than those tactics, and have a longer reach, as readers use it, forward it and share it via social media.
Myth 4: Content marketing is only effective if you use lots of promotional channels
Content by itself has no purpose – it’s like painting a masterpiece and storing it in the attic under dust rags. Without promotion, there is no ‘content marketing’ – there is only content. But it’s not the number of channels that matters. I have found that a focused approach works better – good content should be promoted carefully to make sure it hits the right audience at the right time. To avoid audience fatigue, choose your top 3 or 4 channels and phase your rollout: Email your infographic out one week, but link your social media promotion to the email and to your website in order to create a more integrated campaign. Give your customers and prospects time to engage with your content and then consider the next phase, for example targeted advertising via LinkedIn or a third party distribution to a list which is significantly different from yours.
Myth 5: Content marketing is all about bringing traffic to your website
While B2B technology marketers identify lead generation and brand awareness as their top content marketing goals, they cite website traffic as their top success metric. That’s not a logical choice, really. B2B technology is typically not sold via e-commerce websites, so web traffic is neither a useful measure of lead generation nor of brand awareness. Sales lead quantity and quality, response rates and market reaction (social shares, blog comments, media coverage) would provide better indications of the quality and effectiveness of your content.
A good takeaway is to think about what drives your content – be it industry trends, the profiles of individual decision makers or stages of the buying cycle – and the reactions you want to elicit from your audience, such as downloads, product trials, demo requests and so on. These are not complicated considerations, and most seasoned marketers have internalised putting the customer at the heart of everything they do. If you want to write it down and call it your content marketing strategy bible – it won’t do any harm. The key to effective content marketing is not documentation: It’s the application of good marketing principles to your daily work.