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Create Sales-Ready Buyers with Marketing Interactions

Ardath Albee

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Pitstop

B2B marketers have taken up the challenge to create great content. They're investing time, effort and money into content marketing. People are reading their content. But, effectiveness remains elusive.

Only 9% strongly agree with the statement: "I know our digital marketing is working."

That's only 92 of over 1,000 marketers. Yet, 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing.  Does this scare you? It should.

What's the problem?

Well, it would be easy to say that there's a lack of strategy,but let's narrow it down to something you can do right now that will help to improve your efforts. One of the biggest failings I see is a lack of orchestration for momentum.

You can write the best content in the world, but without a plan, it's only a pit stop for busy prospects who may read it but then quickly move on. Content must build interest that translates into intent.

In other words, your content must do more than appeal to buyers. I read a ton of content every day. Some of it is a waste of time, some of it is interesting, but very rarely does any of it make me want more. And, if it does, quite often getting more related content isn't easy to do.

If you want to get past your content being just a pit stop for buyers, here are a few things to think about:

Take a Serial Approach

Serial publishing is nothing new. In fact, Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers was serialized in 1836. The reason I bring this up is that short-form content is in demand. For B2B marketers with a complex solution, it's impossible to share all the expertise and guidance needed in short form. But unfolding the story a bit at a time can work very well, especially if you have a very long sales cycle and a number of people who must become engaged to reach consensus before a decision can be made.

Tell Your Audience What to Do Next

One of the things that drives me a bit crazy is when good content is produced without connecting to what comes before or after. It just sits there like an island. And it doesn't count if you have "sign up for a demo" or "contact a sales rep" as the only options for the audience. Marketers need to embrace a guidance approach. Prospects are busy. They aren't going to hunt or search for related content. It's up to you to tell them what to do next. Those who are interested will take action. Reading more than one piece of content on a topic should increment lead score and even trigger more to test the level of that interest.

But we tend to leave our prospects hanging because we don't think about "If they're interested in this subject, what else do they need to know?" We don't create content with follow-ons. Marketers still tend to create content as one-off ideas. This is a missed opportunity.

Provide Cross-Persona Perspectives

In B2B buying there are multiple people with a stake in the decision. Yet, I very rarely see content designed for, say, a Director of IT, that includes an offer of content that speaks to the VP of IT Operations as a "sharing" opportunity. Take a look at all the personas on your buying committee and figure out how to help get your ideas shared among them. This is really helpful in situations where you have problems reaching a persona online, such as those farther up the ranks who may not spend the amount of time on social media as their subordinates do, for example.

Have you thought about how you'll get them involved? Or are you using "hope" as a strategy and just publishing that content online into an audience void?

Go Deeper

Marketers are often told to go create awesome, helpful content. But, what does this mean? If we're going to create content that drives business, we need to speak to what our prospects must have, not to what they merely need.

While "grow your revenues" or "cut costs" are always objectives, the phrases don't mean anything. Take a look at your persona and see what it means in the context of his or her roles and responsibilities.

  • A product manager who can get her product to market three months faster than they do now to gain first-mover advantage that could result in larger market share will pay attention to how that can be made to happen.
  • A service desk manager who can equip his team with the tools to close out service tickets 20% faster at higher first-response resolution rates while working to reach higher levels of ITSM maturity will want to know how to make that happen.
  • An oil field asset manager who can increase proven reserves with a tool that gives his geophysicists greater visibility to the subsurface will have visions of career advancement.
  • A start-up CEO who needs to focus all his team's energy on developing enhancements for his SaaS application and onboarding customers who learns that managed services from a cloud provider can relieve the stress and cost of hiring an in-house IT staff while bringing additional expertise he could not afford otherwise.

You get the idea. Specificity wins hands down against ambiguity. The deeper you can get, the more closely your content matches the context for your prospect's situation and objectives, the more interest your content will generate.

You've got to move them beyond the "So what?" to "That was interesting" to "Tell me more!"

Easy Isn't Good Enough

Marketers must stop looking at isolated clicks and views for one content asset as the most important KPI for marketing programs. Our content must do more than appeal to buyers one time, it must spur them to action. While it's great to know that a specific content asset attracted an audience, if that's all it does, then it's not doing enough.

One view doesn't make an MQL. Three or four random views of content on assorted topics will also not produce a prospect intent on buyng.

Business buyers buy to solve a problem that has the potential to cause them to fail at something they're trying to achieve. So what is your content designed to do?

How are you orchestrating progression for your content marketing programs?

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Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.