Make the Short List by Connecting with Content
With content marketing gaining in mindshare and importance, it’s valuable to keep pace with developments in this area. For the latest research on content marketing, I encourage you to download the 2012 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs (full disclosure: I helped author the report).
The second annual report by CMI and MarketingProfs, the 2012 edition offers a glimpse into the impact of content marketing across organizations and industries. Highlights of the findings:
- On average, B2B marketers employ eight different content marketing tactics to achieve their marketing goals.
- 60% report that they plan to increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months.
- Marketers, on average, spend over a quarter of their marketing budget on content marketing.
The report is chock-full of terrific information and statistics on:
- Usage and effectiveness
- Goals and measurement
- Budgets and production
- Practices of the best in class
Why Marketers Struggle to Create Engaging Content
I’m going to focus on challenges. Just as respondents reported last year, the greatest challenge is “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers” (41% of respondents).
Being relevant starts with understanding your audience and developing content customized to prospects’ and customers’ concerns. Unfortunately, though B2B marketers have made some strides in this regard, many still fall short.
Of the B2B marketers surveyed, 88% segment their audience. While more respondents segment based on the profile of the decision maker than in years past (57% in 2011 versus 49% in 2010), only 39% of respondents align content with the buying cycle (or sales funnel) stages.
Being in sync with decision makers is certainly a good practice. However, if you don’t take your segmentation far enough, it could undermine your efforts. I like using the example of content aimed at “the CIO.” The problem is that CIOs come in many flavors and unless you do your homework, you can’t be certain which type your organization most often engages with. That means the content you produce for “the CIO” is just as likely to miss the mark as resonate.
Accompany Buyers on their Journey
To develop content that helps advance prospects in the buying cycle, you need to cultivate a deep level of insight into your ideal customers by conducting research and developing buyer personas.
In addition, more than ever, it’s critical that B2B marketers align their content with the buying stages. After all, if you’re not answering prospective buyers’ questions at every step of the research and purchase process, how likely are you to connect in a meaningful way and make the short list? A little over two years ago, the Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class companies are 5X more likely to maintain a library of collateral, copy, and messages that map to prospects’ buying stages.
Here’s how this mapping looks for a single stage and buyer:
And here’s an example of how this mapping looks across the entire buying cycle:
To do this mapping, be sure to you uncover prospects’ information needs and preferences at every stage as part of developing buyer personas.
Put these basic foundational steps in place, and you’ll be the vendor who has taken the time to understand its prospective buyers and is committed to delivering value at every step of the buying process. That’s what will get you on the short list.