Five signs your content marketing plan needs reviewing

The donkey and the marketing plan

Don’t be a donkey!

If you are in the business of creating B2B marketing content, sooner or later, you need to ask yourself the question: What next? Sure, you have a long-term content plan, but even the best laid plans of mice and marketers often go astray. After all, your content should address current market challenges, and be tailored to address the state of your sales pipeline, and without powers of clairvoyance, it’s hard to predict either with 100% accuracy at the beginning of the year.

So now you are half-way through the year and looking at your content marketing strategy, and thinking: Hmm – do I still really want to cover these topics? Here’s how to decide whether to press ahead or refresh your content marketing plan – five signs your marketing content plan needs reviewing:

  1. Your sales pipeline is crammed with early stage opportunities that are not moving. If this symptom applies to you, review your content to see if:

a) all your content is high-level thought leadership designed to raise brand awareness

b) any of your content is suitable for lead nurturing

c) your marketing automation is making effective use of your lead nurturing content

  1. A disproportionately high number of your marketing leads are disqualified by sales. If this has happened to you, you’ll need to not only review your segmenting criteria, but also your marketing messaging: Do your marketing campaigns promise more than your products can deliver? Is your positioning premium, and your service delivery no-frills?
  2. Your content is not generating any demand for your products and services. If your marketing metrics (page visits, time spent on page, response rates etc.) are good, but your product is not shifting, your content may be to blame. Review your campaigns to see if there is a disconnect between your content and your services. For instance, if your thought leadership focuses on the benefits of cloud computing, but you are trying to generate leads for a Software as a Service accounting solution, then your content needs to be revised to address your niche more specifically and help connect the industry megatrend (cloud computing) to your product.
  3. Your last video generated lots of inbound enquiries and social shares, but you only budgeted for one. This is good news – you produced content that worked well. Now it’s time to go back to your plan and cut less well performing content to free up time and budget for things that generate revenue.
  4. Your marketing metrics are declining. Every email you send gets fewer opens than the previous one, your clickthroughs are dwindling while your unsubscribe rates are creeping up. These are sure signs that your content is not only failing to rock your audience’s world, but it’s seriously starting to get on their nerves. If your customers and prospects don’t see the value of your content, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Review your marketing contentThe end of Q2 can be a good time to review your content marketing plan. If you are looking to improve your performance, doing so now will enable you to make change tack and set you on course to meet your end of year goals.  Do you know of any other signs that your marketing content plans need to be reviewed? Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

How to Market a Product: Five Marketing Lessons to be Learnt from Dating

Marketing Lessons to be learnt from dating Yesterday, thousands of singles thought about bad dates they have been on and contemplated why they are still single this Valentine’s Day. As I asked various people about their Valentine’s plans, it occurred to me that there are a lot of parallels between good marketing and great dates. In the same way that singles try to make good impressions, present their best selves and build lasting connections, marketers create attractive brands and formulate positioning which appeals to differentiated target audiences. Still not convinced? Think back to your single days and consider what these dating scenarios can teach us about good marketing:

1) You go on a first date and he presents you with his bank statements, family tree and graduate diplomas.
This is essentially what many people think product marketing is about – compiling glossy brochures and technical white papers that outline unique product features, long company history and competitive service level agreements. While all of these are must-haves for the b2b selling process, the reality is that no b2b buyer wants to see these on the ‘first date’.
Lesson: Overwhelming prospects with product information while they are still in the early stages of the sales funnel will most likely have the same result as discussing your bank balance on a first date. It’s all relevant information in the long run, but make sure the other party has bought into your value proposition and is serious about making a commitment before you get down the details.

2) You want to impress your date and pick her up in a Porsche you hired for the evening.

Product marketers need to make sure the different elements of the marketing mix are in line with the product’s positioning.
Lesson: If your packaging implies premium, but your solution is based on a ‘no-frills’ economy model, then you are wasting money and attracting customers who will be disappointed with the actual core product. If they do buy based on a false premise, they will not make a repeat purchase and you will face a lower return on your marketing investment (ROMI)

3) Your date looks stunning but talks about herself all night, leaving you repeatedly checking your watch and eyeing the exit.
Some people misunderstand the term ‘product marketing’ and believe that it’s all about the product. Yet good salespeople know that they should spend more time listening than talking in prospect meetings. Similarly, product marketers need to know as much as possible about the needs and desires of their target market before they start holding forth.
Lesson: The best way to market a product is to let your prospects and customers talk about themselves, and use this information to produce customer-centric marketing pitches. Good product marketing is all about the customer, not all about the product.

4) Your date said she would call you tomorrow to arrange to meet up. That was two weeks ago and you’ve not heard since.
There’s an equivalent scenario that is not at all uncommon in B2B marketing: A prospect requests a trial or a meeting with a consultant, but the person in charge of following up leaves the lead sitting in the CRM software until they get a reminder that their task is now overdue.
Lesson: Prospects face a wide choice of providers and are not ‘desperate’. Make sure the handover from marketing to sales is smooth and closely monitored. Harvard Business Review found that leads that are followed up quickly are seven times more likely to result in a meaningful conversation with the decision maker than leads that are left to go stale.

5) You are half-way through a nice dinner when you realize that your date seems to know way more about you than you’ve told her.
If you met through friends, chances are she asked around about your past relationships and your likes and dislikes. Whichever way you met, it is now almost a given that your date will have googled you and visited your Facebook page. Similarly, your inbound marketing enquiries will come from b2b buyers who have visited not only your website but done extensive research on your product on independent third party sites.
Lesson: According to a study by’s Pardot, 72% of B2B buyers typically start their research for a purchase on Google. It is imperative that b2b marketers go digital and manage their firm’s online and social media presence as carefully as any other aspect of their company’s reputation.

Do you know of any other dating scenarios that have relevance to good b2b marketing? Please share them below or via Twitter with @yasminetweets

Three Reasons Why Content Marketing Works For B2B Sales

Content MarketingThere are plenty of people who think content marketing has no place in the B2b marketing repertoire. They think that B2B selling is about matching product features to customer requirements, building relationships through rounds of golf, liberally distributing branded pens and business card holders and attending the annual industry tradeshow. But most B2B marketers and many salespeople have come to understand that traditional, product-focused marketing is becoming less and less effective. Unless you want your marketing to go the way of VHS tapes, LPs, CDs and iPods, it’s time to get on the content marketing bandwagon and find out what you are missing.  So what’s the alternative?

What is content marketing?
Before we get stuck in, let’s make sure we know what we mean by content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute has helpfully provided this definition of content marketing: “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
The key words here are ‘relevant’ and ‘valuable’.

Being a marketer, you will understand that these words relate to the customer, not to you. If your marketing content does not address your customers’ pain points but extols the virtues of your products, services and employees, then you are not engaged in content marketing, but in advertising and promotion. Good quality marketing content focuses on delivering good quality information and insight to customers. It’s not a sales p itch masquerading as thought leadership (e.g. ‘how  our next generation software can solve all your problems’..)

Why Content Marketing Works Best For B2B Sales
In the B2B world, products and services tend to be complex, big ticket purchases, requiring a relationship-based rather than transactional, short-term sales approach. Good content marketing is ideally suited to facilitate B2B ‘solution selling’:

B2B Sales CycleReason #1: Long Sales Cycles In B2B marketing, with its long sales cycles, content marketing fulfils the valuable role of nurturing the prospects and positioning the firm as expert and problem solver. Imagine you work in an industry where there the buying decision comes up every two or three years.  Product-focused, promotional marketing works fine for low-value, ‘impulse-purchase’ items, but in the B2B world, there are no ‘offers of the week’ or ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ discounts on enterprise software. Long sales cycles mean that interruption marketing that is promotional and product-focused will be perceived as unsolicited, unhelpful and ultimately pointless. Content marketing on the other hand – that is marketing content that is educational or entertaining to the buyer – will help shorten sales cycles by creating brand preference and will help nurture existing opportunities as well as engaging cold leads who are not currently in buying mode.

B2B Buyer PersonasReason #2: Complex Sales Process In B2B sales, there’s often more than one person who has a say on who is awarded the contract. The end user of the product is only one of several people in the decision process. That’s why B2B marketing content must not only speak to the user buyer, but also to the host of buyer personas that are typically involved in today’s committee-style buying process. The technical buyer, for example, may be very interested in details of how the new product will integrate with the existing IT infrastructure, and will want to know about the different deployment options available. Software-as-a-Service, customisable interfaces and open APIs may be strong selling points for this persona. The user buyer will be most interested in how the new product or service will make them more efficient in their job, and help him climb the career ladder – or head home on time. The economic buyer, on the other hand, is more concerned with how the purchase supports departmental and corporate longer-term objectives. He or she will not usually be concerned with the ins and outs of everyday interaction with the purchase, but keeps an eye on the bottom-line and the strategic justification of the purchase. Marketing content that is tailored to the needs of the different buyer personas will be most effective in a B2B marketing context. Blanketing all different types of people involved in the purchasing decision with detailed product information will not help close the deal – and may even be detrimental.

B2B Sales FunnelReason #3: Differentiated B2b Sales Funnel As leads move through the funnel and become prospects and eventually clients, their content requirements change. Product-focused content only works if the reader already has awareness, interest as well as a desire to dive deeper into the product. This stage is actually a short phase within the highly evolved B2B sales funnel. Good content marketing will produce campaigns that deliver valuable information at different stages of the sales funnel – big topic, industry-focused content to raise awareness, more detailed white papers, customer case studies and videos to stimulate interest, and ‘how to’, practically oriented content to create desire. Social media, in-person events and community-building marketing can then help trigger action and foster loyalty in the long-term.

In summary, content marketing works best for B2B sales because it is capable of supporting a more sophisticated sales process. Content marketing can

  • engage without promoting products
  • entice without selling
  • educate without patronizing.

In addition, content marketing continues to support customer engagement and your company’s credibility long after the contract has been signed, and the plastic pen has been  discarded…