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Ardath Albee

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Digital Relevance: The Introduction

I really appreciate the great reception my new book, Digital Relevance, has achieved in the first few days of its launch. For those of you who would like to know a bit more about the book, I thought I’d publish a few excerpts to give you a “look inside.”

This first excerpt is the Introduction:

Digital Relevance“A few years ago, I spent a lot of time convincing marketers about the value of investing in content marketing. Today, I get calls from marketers saying, “We bought into the idea of content marketing. Weve created great content. People read it. But its not moving the needle.”

When I go online to take a look to offer feedback and advice, I usually see decent content. What I don’t see is any strategic plan for orchestrating engagement with prospects and customers. I don’t see any attempt at relationship building. Mostly, I see areas for improvement in relevance, context, and connection. This is because companies tend to talk about what they know best—their products. Even when marketers think they’re developing content for buyers, they’re not—not really. The problem remains that they don’t know their buyers well enough to provide the level of valuable information mixed with an emotional connection that buyers are searching for. Quite often, they also don’t know their customers very well. But compounding the issue is a one-off mind-set that inhibits storytelling over the length of the buying process. Rectifying these issues gets to the heart of context and relevance.

I wrote Digital Relevance for the marketers, corporate communications professionals, consultants, and entrepreneurs faced with the need to build relationships with elusive buyers whose context can change in a nanosecond. Technology was billed as the answer. But it’s only confused the issue because the strategy is lacking. Marketing has changed—and changed fast—leaving marketers adrift without the foundation, mind-set, and skills they need to master the dynamics of digital engagement when faced with shrinking attention spans and the increasing noise and velocity of content publishing. Meanwhile, the pressure for accountability builds every day with marketers unsure how to prove what they do matters. Yet matter it does.

Marketers, to be successful, must implement highly personalized and integrated programs today in channels and manners they haven’t ever used before. The breadth of skills required to succeed in marketing has increased dramatically. For marketers used to coordinating the activities of external agencies and focusing on one stand-alone campaign at a time, a large gap in competency has been exposed.

Filling this gap will require that marketers develop customer-oriented communications, identify the distinct value that differentiates their company, make the shift from one-off communications to a continuum approach, and ensure that data and metrics are used to relate their programs to the achievement of business objectives.

More than $40 billion is spent globally each year producing and using custom content in marketing programs. But how much of that money is bringing quantifiable return on investment? How long will companies continue to spend on marketing programs that don’t help achieve business objectives?

Publishing content without a strategy isn’t moving the needle. Time, effort, and money are flushed away without a quantifiable impact on business performance. This is a serious problem for marketers. Their companies expect results. Their jobs are on the line. If not now, then soon.

Many of the marketers with whom I speak are concerned that their marketing isn’t as effective as it could be. They know that buyers and customers prefer digital information and communications, but they’re not confident in how to go about creating relevant content successfully. And, they’re deeply concerned that they won’t be able to reach their customers as the competition for attention online increases. Much of the marketing content I see lacks the personalization and targeting that is needed to do more than engage prospects or customers briefly, in the immediate moment.

This just won’t do. Buyers have changed. They’re demanding, exacting, and averse to risk. They want confident vendors that bring more to the table than their products. Buyers need strategic partners that bring expertise they don’t have to solve problems that are becoming ever more complex. Marketers have the knowledge to do so. They just need to match it with the skills required to create strategies and approaches that will result in successful execution tied to business objectives.

Creating content your audiences find useful has been the rallying cry for content marketing for at least the last five years. Quality content can be found in every medium and channel. It’s no longer enough. Business-to-business (B2B) buyers crave meaning and connection—not just utility or value. That’s a distinction that raises the bar for relevance and what marketers must achieve to create sustainable growth for their companies in the future.

Given the ease of publishing, marketers have gotten themselves into a bit of a pickle with buyers. They’ve published so much content without a strategy or the ability to speak to what matters to target markets that prospective buyers continue not to trust content produced by vendors. Buyers think vendor content is biased and lacking substantiation for the assertions it makes. Therefore they trust it less, just when we need for them to trust it more.

There is a silver lining. Buyers want to buy. They want to do so faster than they do now. They’re also solving problems they’ve never had to solve before. Your buyers know they need help finding and deploying the right solutions. But they’re stymied by the information they find online that doesn’t address what they need. They’re expending so much effort to make the right decision that it’s taking longer, involving more stakeholders, and introducing risk that keeps them from making a choice. And the inconsistency they experience across channels isn’t helping.

Marketers know relevance is critical, but they need to understand what it truly means in action and how to accomplish it. Digital Relevance will arm marketers with a comprehensive approach to learn the skills they need to correct these issues and iterate their way to being so damn relevant that their audiences can’t help but engage with them for the expertise needed to solve their problems. With this competency, they’ll help their companies reverse the credibility gap and help their buyers get on the fast track to problem resolution by creating better connections with depth of meaning. They’ll be equipped to master the contributions that content marketing can make in any digital situation, with any stakeholders, be they customers, buyers, sales teams, industries, or the executive board.

As buyers and customers become more self-sufficient at researching solutions to their problems, marketers are shouldering more of the responsibility to make sure their companies build awareness, are viewed as credible, and display enough expertise to get invited into the purchasing conversation. Digital Relevance is your guide to ensuring that this happens.”

Buy the Book on Amazon

*Note: This is an excerpt from the book Digital Relevance, Copyright 2015, Marketing Interactions, Inc. If reproduced, it must be used as-is, without edits or revisions of any kind.

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

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.