Why B2B Content Marketers Are in Trouble: An Interview with Carlos Hidalgo

8 minute read

Upland Admin

Last week, Carlos Hidalgo, author and CEO at ANNUITAS, self-published an open letter on LinkedIn pleading B2B content marketers to STOP creating content:

Dear B2B Content Marketer:

First let me say that I am one of you. I spend countless hours each week writing about, thinking about and helping my clients maximize the value of content. I am passionate about content marketing and believe that there is no better time to be a B2B marketer and we have so much opportunity ahead of us. However, I need to write and ask you to stop!

Wait, what? Creating content is what a content marketer does. Why would ever we stop?

The letter goes on:

“Only 22% say they are successful with content marketing and only 35% have a documented strategy (which is most likely why so few are seeing success). Despite these kinds of results, the overwhelming majority of marketers responded to the study saying they will continue to create more and spend more on content marketing.”

Well that’s insanity—literally!

Fellow content marketers, we’re in trouble. Research conducted by Gleanster and Kapost found that poorly managed and cumbersome content management processes bloat bottom line costs, leading to an estimated $958M each year in inefficient and ineffective content marketing spend for mid-to-large B2B organizations. That’s an expensive problem to have.

If we’re going to be successful we need to get strategic. We need to create less content and instead take the time to find out what our buyers truly need. It’s time to turn off the noise.

We caught up with Carlos to explain why B2B content marketers keep creating more and more content, despite much of this content being utterly ineffective. And, moreover, how can we move forward as the new class of strategic, modern marketers, producing content that actually drives real business results?

Here’s what he had to say:

The Problem: We’re Afraid to Get Off the Hamster Wheel

First of all, thank you for writing your open letter to content marketers. It’s an important message that I think a lot of us content marketers are feeling, but the fear of stopping is real. Why is it so hard to stop creating content? 

Carlos Hidalgo: I believe there are a few factors at play here that make this so difficult. The first is the pressure that is on marketing departments today to produce. While the pressure is there, most times the patience at the executive level is not, so this puts marketers in a difficult position and therein lies the problem.

Companies are creating content for content sakes

Rather than being given the ability to plan and execute in a strategic way, the response is tactical—one campaign after another and the creation of more and more content in an effort to show that the “engine” is running. The problem is, it is often running in idle as it is not necessarily producing the desired results.

Secondly, I believe that we have put so much focus and so much of our efforts into content without taking the time to ask the who, what where, why and when of content. Could be to my point above about not having time, but I also think this has to do with skill set.

Related: Who Do You Think You’re Talking To? An Interview with Ardath Albee

To develop strategic content is not a skill set that has been part of a marketing legacy. We see that today most content is driven from corporate communications. Why? They are the ones who traditionally have been the content producers for their companies.  However, there is an issue as we are now required to have content that engages buyers throughout their purchase process, and this necessitates content that aligns to buyers and their purchase process.

In order to do that, you have to have the necessary skills to develop buyer insights, conduct industry research, and mine for data points that are important to your buyers. This is a whole new skill that is still being developed in companies. In the meantime, companies are creating content for content sakes and trusting some of it will work.

So we need to take a step back from “blind” content creation. To quell some of the fear, what can we expect to see happen when we “scale back” our content creation efforts in order to put together a content strategy? 

Carlos: I do not necessarily agree that efforts have to be scaled back. I believe they need to be redirected.

Once you take the steps to align the content with your people, process, technology and data to support the buying process, you will realize greater returns overall.

The truth is when looking at the ANNUITAS survey and the CMI survey, the majority of marketers are not highly successful in accomplishing their content goals and objectives, so there is not much to scale back.

I think redirecting our efforts in getting a detailed understanding of our buyers—how they buy, who is involved in the purchase and creating the relevant content that aligns to each stage of their buying process—is where the focus needs to be. THAT is when we will see more success.

Related: The Ultimate Playbook for Your B2B Marketing Strategy

What about revenue goals? Do these need to be adjusted or scaled back during the initial planning process?  

Carlos: I do not believe they do. What they will see when their program is launched is that their content is rich and their buyers will consume more of it.  Once you take the steps to align the content with your people, process, technology and data to support the buying process, you will realize greater returns overall and an increase in buyer engagement and higher sales conversion rate.

Stepping Off the Wheel: How to Move Forward with Content Creation

What does a documented content strategy cover, and what should it include?

Carlos: First and foremost it should include the purpose of the content. Is it to support brand, demand generation, product marketing, corporate communications, etc.?

Once we understand to whom we are writing and their vantage point, we can document that strategy and produce some kick-ass relevant content that drives revenue.

You cannot just create content and expect it to address a host of needs. Additionally, the target audience should be defined both at a corporate (i.e. account) and individual level. We are in the age of consensus buying, it is crucial that we understand the needs, wants, challenges the buying committee is trying to solve and simultaneously understand the roles and individual biases that will exist with each person in that committee.

Once we understand to whom we are writing and their vantage point, we can document that strategy and produce some kick-ass relevant content that drives revenue.

What are the “right skills” that make content marketing successful, and where does technology fit in?

Carlos: As mentioned earlier, I think you need the skills of a journalist –someone who can compile facts and insights that are taken from data, interviews with customers and buyers, research and understand the consistencies and what they mean. Content marketers need to be driven by insights and not insights as their organization sees them, but from the outside in, we call it being “buyer centric.”

As for technology, it is simply not the answer to better content. It is an enabler to get the content to your buyers and customers when they need it. Technology helps facilitate a dialogue and will not create anything on its own.  Many organizations I see generate content so they can keep their technology going, I heard one refer to it as feeding the beast. If all you do is feed the beast noise, it will generate noise at a chaotic level.  Define the strategy from the buyer perspective first, then use technology to enable an ongoing discussion with your customers and buyers.

What do you think the future of [great] content marketing will look/act like?

Carlos: Great content is simply content that engages your buyers and fulfills the intent. I believe the future of great content is written to address the needs, challenges and wants of the buyers. It is truly about what the buyer wants and needs to hear and not what we as vendors want to say.

The difference is between doing it right versus doing it right now

When we have content that does this, we will have great content. There are some organizations that are doing buyer-centric content exceptionally well and seeing the corresponding results—their content is now actively contributing to pipeline and driving revenue.

Any last comments or advice?

Carlos: Start doing this now! Over the last three years in the US the effectiveness of content has dropped by 12%! We cannot continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results—that’s the definition of insanity. B2B marketers can and should do better.

We have to understand this will not be done overnight, but it’s a longterm approach that will yield great dividend. The difference is between doing it right versus doing it right now—marketing organizations that want to be strategic and drive corporate growth will take the time to do it right.

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