I’d like to build on a series of excellent content-marketing strategy insights from my former colleague John Siefert. His blog emphasizes time and again the business and revenue impact of content, which is not surprising given his background in sales and business leadership.
These issues are especially relevant today because you’ll soon be developing your 2018 content development and marketing plans.
Siefert on who we really market to:
“We are dealing with people and teams, and we need to remember this throughout the content marketing process.”
Email response data and digital body language are excellent but they usually tell just part of the story. We strongly believe that as you advance leads down the funnel, there’s a need for human outreach (via telequalification and other tools) to capture data about individuals in an interactive fashion. You need to peel back the onion to get visibility into plans, objectives and timing as described by people. In certain cases, there’s no substitute for a phone conversation to capture the data you need, to set appointments and so on. That work requires a unique skillset from individuals who specialize in requesting and capturing information in ways that don’t scare off the prospect. That’s all about personal engagement and establishing a comfort level that technology can’t achieve on its own.
Keep the person in mind when it comes to content development. Specifically, establish your business goal—in human terms, around engagement with a target customer—before beginning any content development effort. A common error is developing content in a vacuum: “Such and such department says we need messaging around….” Or “we need content to support a product launch or company event.” Those development projects are necessary but they aren’t customer-centric and they’re not delivering value directly to the person who will buy your products. That value is the centerpiece of content marketing and it must drive everything you do.
Siefert on content mistakes and how to avoid them:
“As we create content, it is important to keep the finish line in mind, and that’s usually demand generation.”
Many marketing organizations play to their strengths: creating top-of-funnel, thought leadership content when they employ brand journalists, and detailed product-centric information when it’s a product marketing org. Similarly, most marketing teams tend to have acumen for marketing their content in one or maybe two channels, but not the complete range of channels. As marketers, you must NOT let your history and expertise color everything you do. As the saying goes, just because you sell hammers, you can’t view every demand-gen or content marketing program as a nail.
Sitting between your brand and your business goal (which is usually creating pipeline) is an individual with business/career objectives and challenges. The more your content resonates (right topic and tone, right format, right delivery channel) with those individuals, the more likely you are to engage them and make progress toward your business goal. Don’t have tunnel vision when it comes to your history and expertise; rather, employ that expertise to leverage your content in support of the goal.
Siefert on technology and data:
“The technology should be used to enable your strategy; it should not be the strategy itself.”
Data about content usage and audience engagement is invaluable in creating your content strategy, but you need the people, the content development and the marketing expertise to make that strategy hum. Content marketing requires a comprehensive body of content in various formats, optimized for a variety of channels. Since most marketing teams aren’t expert across the full range of channels (unless they have teams dedicated to email, inbound, social, mobile, paid, live events and phone), you will most likely need to engage outside experts to leverage at least some of these channels. Technology and data is one part of the equation in content marketing success. Audience, content and channel-targeting expertise all have crucial roles as well; success requires you to be adept—or hire firms that are adept—in all these areas.
Siefert on a single data point as an indicator of buying readiness:
“There is no ‘magic bullet’ data point that says a lead is ready to buy, it is the collective view across their entire engagement.”
It’s incumbent on demand-gen marketers to obtain the most complete possible picture of a lead. That means leveraging demographic data from diverse sources, engagement data from various channels (including what’s captured in your CRM system about past sales contact) and augmenting your sources when/where possible (think of LinkedIn profile data, to use one obvious example). Correlate any company data you have at your disposal to determine if there are connections between an individual’s actions and the picture that can be created about his or her employer’s business plans.
Create the most complete picture possible before drawing any conclusions about buying readiness. If in doubt about sales readiness, seek to qualify an individual further before passing to sales.
What are your big content lessons from 2017? What will your highest content priorities be in 2018? I’d appreciate feedback and ideas.
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- Keys to Content Success: Prioritize People and Business Goals – July 20, 2017