We've recently expanded the popular B2B Marketing University series to include a monthly Webinar component -- which we're calling our 'Virtual 201' sessions. In these sessions, we take a deeper dive into specific topics that both a.) build on the B2B marketing basics and b.) can help you take your skill set as a B2B marketer to the next level.
The first webinar in this new series -- held earlier this week -- was titled, "Content Marketing Basics: Improving the Success of Your B2B Marketing Campaign." It focused in part on the context surrounding the evolution and importance of having a 'holistic' content marketing strategy (i.e., why 'all eyes' are on B2B content marketing). It also identified key strategies for finding success with content marketing.
Joe Pulizzi, founder and Chief Content Officer of Junta42, as well as co-author of Get Content Get Customers, joined me for this Webinar. His recommendations and the dialogue with Joe were great, and so I wanted to share with you some of the highlights.
We also had many great audience questions -- so many that we weren't able to tackle all of them in the timeframe -- so Joe and I took notes on the questions and are presenting an even deep(er) dive here.
First, a quick overview of the core presentations, which we delivered in two parts:
> Context for content marketing: I opened the session with several slides that explain why the average B2B marketer increased his/her budget for custom content to nearly 32% of total budget in 2009, according to a report by the Custom Publishing council. I highlighted the fact that a changing B2B marketing environment -- where the buyer is more empowered and in control than ever before -- is pushing marketers to adopt new approaches, especially content marketing. There is a growing body of research that suggests that B2B buyers are doing more of the education for their buying cycles online and on their own time, versus calling a live salesperson. Thus, they are consuming large amounts of substantive content -- particularly peer-authored content -- to form initial opinions and to conduct early assessment of where they might find solutions to their problems. "[I]t’s common to take ... partially defined need and flesh it out through online research," explained Canadian Web firm Enquiro in a 2009 report as part of The Buyersphere Project. "The result of the research is fundamental in determining potential candidates, defining comparison criteria and formalizing the purchase plan." I also highlighted how content marketing, lead management and marketing automation work together as critical elements in building buyer-centric demand generation programs.
> Success strategies with content marketing: Joe followed my presentation by focusing on what it takes to successfully leverage content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy. To really understand content marketing, it’s important to understand it’s more than just marketing with content. Content marketing is your story as a B2B company. Before getting into the B.E.S.T. Process, Joe described the biggest problems we’re facing as marketers. First, we are too focused on our own content. We create our content to be all about us – our products and services – in ways that make us look as sexy as possible. But customers don’t care about us – they care about themselves. Your content needs to meet the informational needs of the customers. Second, good enough content is no longer good enough. Your content must be the very best there is or it will be ignored. To make your content the best out there, we need to follow the B.E.S.T. Process. First, you have to maintain a behavior – your content should be around the products and services you offer but that shouldn’t be the content itself. Content should be essential to your customers – it must solve their pain points. Next, content should be strategic. This is your story remember so everything you put out there needs to be in line with the overall company goals. Finally, your content should be targeted to each and every persona you might see in a buying cycle. You don’t just have one customer you have several and you must speak to all of them.
[caption id="attachment_686" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Source: Junta42; click to enlarge"]
To watch the entire Webinar on-demand, follow this link.
Webinar Q&A with Adam Needles
Following the presentation, I had a number of key questions for Joe.
Adam: What is a succinct definition for content marketing?
Joe: My definition is: Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
And I've expanded on this definition on the Junta42 Website.
Is there a new way marketing departments should be organized in order to find the best success with content marketing?
First, brands need to find an owner of the brand story – a chief content officer. That means, someone needs to be listening, in order to constantly stay on the cutting edge of how customers’ informational needs evolve. From there, integrate that brand story into your traditional marketing efforts and across all mediums.
You talk about the importance of driving behaviors through content marketing. What are you recommendations for better creating content that is aligned with behavior you would like to encourage in your targeted buyer(s)?
It all comes down to your marketing strategy. What customer behaviors will profitably affect your company? That’s the focus for building the content strategy – just like any other marketing strategy. From there, we need to find the intersection between where the brand needs to be the expert to drive that profitable action and the informational needs of the audience.
How do you better empathize with your buyer? I.e., how do you get away from that product-centric view -- that 'you, you, you' reality you have commented that companies get caught up in -- and instead design content that meets that buyer's needs?
Take your sales hat off and start thinking like a publisher. Understanding your brand’s story means that you totally buy into the needs of your customers. This is nothing new. Customer-centric marketing has been around for decades. The difference is that, now, we are driving customer behavior through great content, much like what a traditional publisher would develop. That type of content is what will enable the brand to get involved in the right conversations and attract the right types of customers to the brand. This type of buy-in needs to happen at the highest level in an organization ... so if your CEO doesn’t believe in the philosophy of content marketing, you’re going to have problems.
How can you better design content to be 'shared' via social media?
Content that is designed to be shared must be free (ungated – no subscription form). It must be great -- the best content -- it must be consistent. Content is your promise to your customers, and viral/shared content doesn’t just happen.
Webinar Q&A with the Audience
Then we opened the Q&A up to the entire audience -- with some great questions. And we weren't able to get to all of the questions, so we've had Joe re-iterate his answers he did have time for and now answer here the ones that he didn't have time for.
Audience member: Do you really see [content marketing finding success with] all B2B segments or more specific to technology and IT B2B?
Joe: In order to survive today, brands must see themselves as the go-to resources for information in their particular niche. This is not defined by any sector. As traditional marketing efforts become less efficient, we need to position ourselves as the magnet ... attracting and retaining customers through great content.
How do you define Web 2.0 in a content marketing context?
In a content marketing context, Web 2.0 is the creation of content that can be actively shared and platforms that enable sharing. Web 1.0 was your basic corporate brochures and ecommerce. Web 2.0 is the understanding that the consumer is in control and can share and communicate with others at will.
Everything I hear regarding Web 2.0 buyers factors in the fact that we don’t have time to read 1,000 word byline articles, so does great content have a length?
Understand the needs of your customers. Long-form content, like that found in magazines, is still very powerful, but may not translate, say, into a blog post or a tweet.
What examples do you have where content marketing is directly responsible for increasing sales and gaining a competitive advantage?
There are several examples of good content having a direct positive impact on the business. Here are some websites where good content has had a huge impact.
In the B2B space, do you think it’s possible (and advisable) to give useful information AND ‘show ‘em a good time’ -- at the same time? In other words, not only provide good information, but in a compelling format or integrate it with an interactive experience?
There is a perfect example of this online on this site: http://willitblend.com And 50% of Blendtec’s sales are B2B.
Does this mean we need to increase our spending on marketing that is not direct selling? Doesn’t that mean it's less trackable?
Content marketing needs to integrate with direct sales, not stand separately. As long as you have a clear marketing objective, everything is trackable today. The problem is marketers dive into a tactic (blog, social media) without clear objectives. How do you measure content that doesn’t have a goal?
Many marketers are good at producing content. My biggest hurdle is figuring out how to distribute that content. Any suggestions on this?
First, find out where your customers are hanging out. Is that Twitter, Facebook, online communities, blog sites? Get involved in those conversations. Then, your message can be heard as people “want” to listen to what you have to say (i.e., you have earned permission by your activity). Then, be sure the content fits the distribution channel ... helpful tips on Twitter, short video tutorials on YouTube, instructive posts on your blog, etc. Building the media channel takes time, but you have to put the work in. People just won’t follow you because you create great content.
My sales force will require extensive training to grasp these concepts. This is not just a paradigm shift for them – it’s completely disruptive. Do you have any suggestions on how to bring them on board?
Two great books to read: Get Content Get Customers and The New Rules of Marketing & PR.