Marketers ruin everything.
Why? Because they’re the first ones to try, test, bend, play and ultimately discard a new strategy or tool. They seem to demonstrate a distinct case of “shiny object syndrome”. And the whole, “You break it, you buy it” thing doesn’t seem to apply to them.
In fact, B2B content marketing is one of the few areas in life where that prodigiously does not apply and it’s opposite is true: to buy (or get others to buy), you’ve got to break (it down, see how it works and put it back together again).
B2B content marketing used to be so exciting, alive and sexy — but now, it’s tired, overwhelmed and overworked. So goes the common perception. But, as any content marketer will tell you, there’s an app for “overwhelm”, creative content is of a higher calibre than ever before and don’t underestimate a team’s ability to outsource and delegate.
So what’s holding back B2B content marketing teams from greatness? Ah, better to ask, what opportunities lie in wait for marketers in 2018?
1. Don’t Make Them Kiss the Ring
Leaders in the organization — the “C-suite”, if you will — exist to do more than delegate, visioneer and strategize. As far as roles go, they are integral.
But to avoid slipping into ornamental, senior executives should be empowering their B2B content marketing teams — and that goes beyond simply allocating a portion of the budget for content marketing.
Instead, they should demonstrate active interest in content marketing through listening to department heads, meeting with employees and reviewing milestones.
Content marketing: It’s a verb and a noun. If senior executives can listen to their content marketing team as they use their blend of professional training and on-the-job insights, then this can be a noun in action.
In other words, B2B content marketing is a living, breathing, highly-actionable department within any business, big or small, baby-faced or dinosaur-old. And, as such, the strategy that flows from a B2B content marketing department has to be:
- supported from above
- coordinated alongside the efforts of other departments (with CMs sometimes leading the charge)
- focused on specific activities that will move a project through the pipeline efficiently
- constantly monitored and re-analyzed for efficacy and “ROI”
It’s no wonder that this is the first order of business. It’s simple: without buy-in from executives, no amount of stellar content is ever going to be effectively conveyed to audiences, even if the B2B content marketing team has managed to produce leads.
2. Have it Written Down
High achievers, top performers, world class athletes: They all have written goals. Written, because goals on paper give these individuals something to refer back to in times of review and times of “It’s-not-working-I-want-to-give-up-oh-wait-here’s-why-I-can’t”.
And this is true of B2B content marketing strategy. A strategy, like a brand formatting guide or a company style guide or even an operations manual for Apple sets up language, expectations, standards.
Most important of all, an articulated strategy will go into detail about tried-and-true techniques for customer acquisition and lead generation. That doesn’t quell the need for innovation or review — it simply makes it so that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 67% of content marketing teams say that having a small team is the main reason for failing to develop and articulate a coherent strategy.
But this is based on a false premise: that in-house B2B content marketing departments must develop in-house strategies. There are plenty of indie agencies, specialized content marketing firms and freelancers that exist on the chain of content production.
These integral and innovative players in the B2B content marketing world will rely on your metrics, information-gathering and leads to set up a marketing strategy that can be used time and time again. Or, have them do the heavy lifting and take care of market testing as well as strategy.
Having a “small team” simply isn’t going to cut it as a legitimate excuse anymore.
3. Audience Building Matters
In 2018, audience building is what approximately 80% of content marketers are focusing on, which is an 18% increase from the previous year.
There’s no doubt that building an audience is key for nearly all parts of marketing: lead generation to guiding the nitty-gritty copy of sales pages, to having actual customers to nurture into a purchase, ensuring referrals and even repeat business.
In the B2B content marketing world, audience building for B2B “customers” focus primarily on the creating highly-actionable content that exudes expertise and nurtures trust. For B2B content marketing, says WordStream, the whole point is to be able to deliver content that “helps”.
If the piece of content — via blog posts, emails, case studies, etc — has failed to do this, then it has duly failed to execute its main objective. Contrast this with B2C content marketing initiatives, where the main objective can be to install brand loyalty or recognition.
Expect a focus on audience building in 2018 and beyond for B2B content marketing. It’s not just the channels of distribution that matter, of course, but the quality and type of content, as you’ll see next.
4. For Best Results, “HQ”
When it comes to content creation, 78% of B2B content marketing teams say that “HQ” or high quality content has allowed them to do two very specific things:
- better direct the flow of monies to initiatives that are “worth it”
- become more efficient in the creation of this content because there’s social proof that it’s working
High quality content creation doesn’t exist in a silo, of course. And this is the mistake many B2B content marketing specialists make. Quality content without any strategy for distribution, targeting, tools for automation and measuring results simply cannot work.
These previous factors are also major reasons why B2B content marketing strategies worked in 2017, according to CMI’s report. So don’t discount them — incorporate them into a holistic process.
5. Email is not dead
Super-star marketers love to warn about the oncoming apocalypse. Hint: in the content marketing world, that’s a lack of attention. Which equals major destruction, doom and gloom. And, rather than the three horsemen, the harbinger of the content marketing apocalypse starts with people simply not opening emails anymore.
It’s a stat that’s not really a fact but accepted as such because it’s so oft-repeated: email is dead, open rates are down and down even get us started on click-rates.
And, yet, there are more than signs of simply survival. There are signs of thrival (okay, that’s not a word, but you know what we mean). Over 2.5 billion people use email, set to grow to 3 billion by 2020, according to this study by the Radicati Group.
And even if it’s “down”, it’s reach is deepening and widening: 77% of your consumers prefer email, says the marketing firm Main Street ROI, and it provides a $44.25 return on investment for every dollar spent.
So, perhaps numbers being down simply means weeding out the masses and keeping the cream. Excuse the mixed metaphors but these final stats should get you laser-focused on email marketing initiatives in 2018:
- 70% of B2B content marketing efforts depend on email marketing technology (this means more than simply sending content or automating sales funnels — email marketing gives key insight into consumer behaviors using tagging)
- 93% of content marketing firms use email in the form of newsletters and welcome sequences to communicate and distribute
- Let’s narrow in on this: 51% of marketers rely on emails to nurture leads and the most successful form of email marketing is via automated sequences
6. Focusing on this Type of Content Could Yield Surprising Results
Hint: it’s not those cheesy quotes you see on Facebook and Instagram.
B2B content marketers who are not sure where to start — infographics? video content? webinars? blog posts? all of the above? — should focus, for B2B purposes of course on this:
After social media (the very obvious suspect), case studies are what 73% smart B2B content marketers use. E-Books and white papers are the most effective and, at 71% of users, take the next spot.
Of course, delivery accuracy of information, backing up stories with facts is what highlights a brand’s expertise and trustworthiness.
And, with 94% of marketers agreeing that delivering credible, reliable and fact-based content (rather than “fluff”) is of the highest priority, case studies become the clear content type to do this.
Blog posts are being used very strategically in this case, almost in service to larger case studies, a whetting of the reader’s appetite, if you will. Take, for example, this franchise SaaS, who sets up the blog post as a “teaser” and delivers the rest of it via a PDF case study.
This makes it partially an opt-in, partially a content upgrade. And it’s a great way to both validate a content type as well as list-build.
7. You Gotta Give More to Get More
Now that you have the most salient areas where you can make just minor improvements and see major gains, let’s leave you with this. As all marketers know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
If you’re fired up and inspired for all the changes you suddenly see you can make — tweaks that can really give you leverage — and you’re a leader, great! Glad to have you on board. Now let’s tell you what it’s going to cost.
The truth is that you’ve got to give more to get more. On average, B2B content marketing firms spend 26% of their budget on marketing. There are those who spend 14% and fail so miserably, we ask them why even bother spending a dime? Do yourself a favour and just shutter out the department completely because, at 14%, your heart is clearly not in it.
B2B content marketing is a unique animal. There’s no ceiling to the number of firms in play and, yet, they’re not “all in”. In order to really give your content marketing efforts a winning shot, plan for 40% of the company budget.
Yes. Really. 40%.
Yes, these numbers mean something. Just ask the 70% of marketers who can pinpoint, with the accurate specificity of metrics, a distinct ROI of audience engagement, increased sales and customer acquisition.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving — as long as you pour into it first.