B2B marketing has changed dramatically in the last decade and will probably continue to do so for years to come. These transformations have affected content marketing at every stage along the way, completely changing the game.
Through the rise of social media, the almost ubiquitous adoption of marketing automation platforms, the shift towards account-based strategies and the advent of Big Data, the way B2B marketers produce content has continued to evolve.
Some brands have worked hard over the past decade to get content marketing right, but we have often seen organisations and marketers fall into common content traps that waste valuable time and resources. These traps largely stem from misconceptions about what content marketing is or how it should be done. Here is a list of the most common and costly misconception traps, and how to correct them:
Trap #1: Your content should highlight your product and services
As marketers we will always need content that displays our products and convinces potential customers to choose our solutions over those of our competitors. However, when potential customers start their buying journey, they are usually focused on gaining a better understanding of specific problems or challenges.
In fact, they are unlikely to be aware that they have started a buyer's journey. And if all your content merely glorifies your products while discrediting others, they will gradually begin to see your brand as annoying and opportunistic.
It is far more important - for your organisation and your potential customers - to present your brand to your target audience as a credible and useful source of information. To do this, your content should start to educate your audience about their specific needs and concerns and also provide potential solutions unrelated to your products.
Trap #2: You don't need a lot of content, just repurpose what you have
There is certainly a lot of value in repurposing content. Different people prefer to consume content in different ways - podcasts versus e-books, infographics versus blogs, etc. However, the ways in which individuals perceive their challenges are as different as their content format preferences.
Marketers need to embrace these different perceptions with empathy. Problems need to be framed from the perspective of the potential customer and then provided with useful information and potential solutions in a way that is likely to be understood by that particular segment of our target audience. This process obviously requires the creation of a lot of content.
Trap #3: Content Marketing Equals Inbound Marketing
As we know, inbound marketing alone rarely produces the level of demand that B2B marketing teams are increasingly expected to create. This is partly due to the large shift towards account-based marketing (ABM) strategies. For most brands, it's impossible to expect enough target accounts to come across your content through your website and social posts.
In addition, a saturation of inbound marketing tactics - blogging, webinars, SEO, social media, etc. - has made scaling inbound performance more difficult, time-consuming and expensive.
While inbound marketing will always be important, B2B organisations can multiply the impact of their content investments by also using resources to support sales efforts and fuel third-party demand generation campaigns.
By third-party demand, I'm referring to any demand (i.e. leads, contacts, requests, etc.) initiated through a third-party channel or source. One of the most effective third-party demand generation channels is content syndication, which has seen a major rise in 2020.
Expanding the reach of your content beyond your website and social media is very important. In fact, expanding the marketing surface beyond inbound efforts allow teams to focus more on deeply effective communication and education, removing the pressure for each piece of content to “convert or die."
Trap #4: Digitization of content has made decision-making easier for potential customers
It's true: potential customers can access the content they need to inform buying decisions more easily than ever before. However, the typical buying group now consists of six to 10 decision- makers. So, when each of these decision-makers consumes four or more pieces of content independently of each other (as Gartner's research found), the result is a lot of conflicting information, frustration and a slow decision-making process.
Marketing teams too often forget the amount of content through which decision-makers must wade. Winning new business requires us marketers to help potential customers navigate through information overload by first understanding their primary concerns and needs, and then providing them with the most relevant and useful content.
When used correctly, data can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, by uncovering the search activities of target accounts, signals of intent can inform your content development and distribution efforts at every stage of the buyer's journey.
Trap #5: Prospects and clients are your only audience
ales and customer success teams can greatly benefit from marketing content. This is especially true for start-ups and small organisations that don't have content resources dedicated to these functions.
Not only is it a good idea to frequently poll sales and customer success representatives to improve your understanding of prospect and customer needs, but you should also think about what types of content could support their efforts. As more and more B2B organisations adopt cross-functional account-based strategies, such collaboration will become increasingly important.
Trap #6: What worked yesterday will not work today
This last year has well demonstrated this point. The last few months of the 2020 saw COVID-19 dramatically influence content format (e.g. webinars and online conferences), tone (e.g. sensitivity about economic insecurity, social inequality, politics), and distribution (e.g. a shift from in-person events to content syndication programs).
While similar events are unlikely to make content marketing efforts fade away, it is worth stating the importance of context in content marketing. Audiences do not just accept any kind of content. Experiences and circumstances shape the way we all absorb ideas, concepts and news. Being aware of what your potential customers are experiencing when creating content for them is key to ensuring it has the desired effect. "Content is King but, Context is God"