Content marketing isn’t about creating and publishing more content; it’s about creating relevant, lasting relationships that result in profitable outcomes for your company—from awareness to advocacy.
But, as in many things in marketing, “more” has gained a foothold. More leads, more content, more channels, more marketing functions, more marketing technology, and so on. “More” has become the rallying cry for B2B marketers.
The ease of publishing has opened the floodgates for content saturation, but more isn’t necessarily better. In fact, more is often worse than less. In their quest for “more,” B2B marketers make the mistake of forsaking relevance for volume.
The problem with “more” is that the concept is embraced individually by various teams across the company without any orchestration or collaboration. Without coordination, there is no consistency in the experiences produced for your prospects and customers.
Marketers with a “more” mindset are lead astray from the big-picture concept of the customer journey to isolated incidents they mistake for purpose-driven momentum. One-off marketing tactics are not indicative of profitable outcomes. Nor are they purposeful in isolation.
But this quest for “more,” rather than better, needs to stop. Consider the following:
It takes 52% more touches to close a deal in 2015 as it did in 2014.
This type of research causes a “more” mindset. It makes marketers think they need to get the content hamster wheel spinning faster.
But what if it really means that it took more touches to close the deal because the content that buyers engaged with didn’t build the problem-to-solution story in a way that made sense? What if the content was confusing and fragmented, so it actually took that many touches for the buyer to make sense of the story?
55% of B2B marketers said that it is unclear within their organization what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like.
This could be the biggest culprit in the quest for “more.” If more than half of B2B marketers don’t understand their content marketing effectiveness, then pushing out more content is the act of desperation they think will help them hit the tipping point for success. This is the approach of continuing to do what you’ve always done but expecting different results.
62% of B2B buyers find vendor content to be useless.
This finding pretty much speaks for itself. Creating more of that content isn’t going to help.
Making the Shift from More to Better
It’s time for marketers to step back and take a look at the big picture. The shift from offline to predominantly online interactions and the continuous availability of information means that content plays a critical role.
Content should be the driving force behind each function and team’s role in the customer journey. Additionally, it should become the catalyst for conversations held among buyers and customers with peers, colleagues, and partners.
But not just any type of one-off content will get the job done—each content asset must have a purpose and play a role in the customer journey.
In my book, Digital Relevance, I talk about the necessity of developing a continuum approach for the practice of content marketing.
In the third section, I write:
Marketing is no longer effective when comprised of one-off events, messages or campaigns. The buying experience leading to a complex purchase must be fluid, connected and engaging across its entirety. Content marketing programs are the threads that weave together to create a fabric of engagement that accelerates pipeline velocity, putting salespeople in viable opportunity conversations sooner—rather than later.
There are no stops and starts in a continuum. The flow is consistent, steady and designed to build the problem-to-solution story with buyers by providing the education, expertise, and evidence they need to conclude that your company is the ultimate choice to help them achieve business objectives. Taking a continuum approach will generate a transformation in marketing, from standalone efforts to integrated, continuous digital strategies that are proven to have a positive effect on revenue performance.
While many marketers have found creating the volume of relevant content they need to engage buyers overwhelming, a continuum approach will help them learn to create efficiencies with content re-invention and expertise hubs that will reduce the effort. Adapting to a continuum approach also takes a shift in mindset and reinforcement to ensure it becomes a natural response to approaching marketing strategy.
Removing the convenience of the boxed-in campaign approach opens up a lot of possibilities that can seem overwhelming at first. But once marketers adopt the conversational format, they’ll find that keeping the dialogue going is much easier to sustain than starting conversations from scratch with the launch of each new campaign.
Making the shift from an interaction or campaign focus to a continuum approach depends on how well you know your audience. If you have developed active and intelligent personas for buyers, customers, and brand advocates, then you have the insights to construct an end-to-end map of the customer journey. This is the key to establishing the flow of the storyline.
By stepping back, looking at the big picture, and creating content that transitions seamlessly across each phase of the customer journey, the different teams, functions, and groups that publish or produce content will be able to see how their pieces of the story fit with the rest.
The people who actively use content in their jobs—including salespeople and customer service reps—will also be able to look at the map and see just what they need for each conversation or exchange.
When content is designed to address what’s needed, your buyer’s confidence in the value of your company increases thanks to the consistency of their experience along the way.
When content is designed to address what’s needed at each step and stage of the customer journey, your buyers will find what they need when they need it. Their confidence in the value of working with your company will increase due to the consistency of their experience along the way—no matter with whom it originates. By telling a consistent story from end to end, the transitions from marketing to sales to service will no longer be conflicting and off-putting.
As the keepers of the story across the customer life cycle, B2B marketers have a huge opportunity to impact the growth and sustainability of their companies by putting and keeping customers at the center of the overall content marketing strategy. Yes, it will take some effort, collaboration, and time, but I have faith that you can pull it off.
Oh, and if you need an illustration of what it’s like for your buyers and customers if you don’t make this shift a priority, check out The Tale of Securita presented by Kapost CEO Toby Murdock.