Ten Steps for Keeping Your Content King
Even after all of these years, I still hear the common lament which comes in two forms:
“Marketing produces all of this content and nobody reads it”
“Marketing produces all of this content but we don’t know if any of it is of value”
One of the key pillars of any marketing plan, especially in the B2B world where purchase decision are increasingly complex and where buyers typically consumer 6-10 pieces of content before making a purchase decision, is the creation and distribution of content. For many, content creation is a thankless job… you’re asked for more datasheets, more whitepapers, more infographics and it never ends. Without some structure, this “content-of-the-day” strategy can be very wasteful, very discouraging and actually hurts the business more than it helps. Yet, there is no denying the importance and impact of great content.
Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. (Content Marketing Institute, 2017)
So, here are some tips on how to put some sanity and impact in your content strategy:
1. Understand your Buyers. Too often, marketers jump into “we need 1 whitepaper per quarter” planning without having a solid understanding of their audience. Do you know what media your buyers read? What online websites do they turn to? What content do they find valuable? How do they view eBooks vs. case studies vs. whitepapers vs. research? Without having this insight, you are simply creating content and a content strategy blindfolded. Solution: Conduct some primary research of your users about the information consumption habits, processes and preferences.
2. Map Content to… Something! Any content needs to be created with a purpose. For example, is this content designed to help the customer better understand or frame their problem? Is it designed to help them understand potential alternatives? Or maybe the content is designed to highlight the superiority of your offering? You can also look at the content in terms of the audience. Some members of the buying team may want more technical content (e.g., CIO, Engineering, QA, etc.) where others may want more financial content (e.g., CFOs, etc). To optimize your content, you need to map out your buyers, the stages of the buying cycle and then slot-in the various content elements.
Even something as simple as this is a good place to start:
3. Take Inventory. Many times, Marketing teams have no idea about the quantity and relevance of the content they actually have. Taking some time (note: this is a great project for a new hire or even an intern) to document the content on-hand is immensely helpful. Be sure to capture all of the elements of the content including:
· Creation Date
· Last Modified
· Type/Category (e.g., whitepaper, brochure, etc.)
· Audience (if possible)
· Location (website, Sharepoint, network folder, etc.)
4. Do the “Logo Replace” Test. Take your favorite or top 3 pieces of content. Cover-up any logos or company contact or boilerplate information with that of your top competitor. Now read the content as if it came from them and not you. Does it still “work” and seem like it fits? If so, your content may not be as unique and compelling as you think. Take another hard look at your content and look for ways to differentiate it based on your company’s experience, customer insight, market research or differentiated offerings. Content that could just as easily come from one of your main competitors probably isn’t as effective as you think.
5. Learn from your Competitors. Another comparative exercise is to print out a datasheet, brochure, whitepaper and eBook from each of your top 3 competitors. Put them on a conference room table along with your own content. Invite in some members of your sales, support and product functions and have them compare/rate the various pieces. Find out what they like and don’t like. If you can do this exercise with some trusted customers, even better! The important point is to constantly evaluate your content relative to the competitive environment your customers face.
6. Avoid “Content by Committee”. One caveat about steps 4 & 5 is not to fall into the perilous trap of “content by committee”. Everybody wants something slightly different, so you end up creating multiple versions of everything to appease everyone. This approach doesn’t scale, is impossible to maintain version control and should be squashed the minute you start to feel you’re going down this path.
7. Don’t be afraid to experiment. As with any marketing element, some level of experimentation is useful and should be encouraged. Perhaps you want to create content for a specific segment or around a specific topic; or maybe you’re experimenting with the distribution of the content and working with a content syndication partner like NetLine or Outbrain; or perhaps you're shifting from traditional written content to more visual content like videos and infographics.
Studies show that people can recall 65% of the visual content that they see almost three days later. (HubSpot, 2017)
Regardless, having some element of experimentation in your content strategy keeps it fresh and can uncover new opportunities.
8. Measure. Whether you’re a fan of heavily-gated content or you prefer a more freely-distributed model, the important thing to remember is to measure. Web page visits, time per page, content downloads… they’re all important. In addition, adding in capabilities to allow your customers to rate or comment on your content can provide you with valuable insight into their content consumption needs and preferences. Remember, establishing some usage/download baselines when you create a new piece of content will make it much easier to assess its performance and compare to other content.
9. Don’t be Afraid to be Ruthless. Underperforming content needs to either be re-worked or removed. It’s that simple… not easy, but simple. Yes, it is hard to admit that this really sexy, slick brochure that everyone labored over really isn’t working. However, content needs to serve a purpose and if it isn’t working, you have to replace it with something better.
10. Communicate and Align. While content is clearly in the domain of marketing, it touches many other functions. Don’t become so hyper-focused on content creation and measurement that you become siloed and distanced from sales, support, product and other functions. Be open with them about what content is working, what content isn’t, what content you need, what competitive content is working and so-on. It may be worthwhile to have a quarterly, cross-function content review meeting. Keeping everyone current and aligned on the “state of content” is critical to crisp and successful execution.