By Jonathan Lee, Assistant Editor
The content team of tomorrow will look a lot like the publishing team of today. That was one of the key messages from the Power Panel, titled: Crafting a Killer B2B Content Strategy, which took place at the B2B Content2Conversion conference hosted by Demand Gen Report.
During the panel discussion, Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and Ann Handley, Author and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, explained that B2B marketers should plan their content based on the six “W”s of journalism — who, what, when, where, why and how.
“Content marketing is about telling a story, but the story isn’t about you,” Handley said. “It’s about your customers and what value you bring to them. How do you connect with them? How are you helping them? What do they need from you?”
Handley said that it is important to have a team — with roles such as editorial director and managing editor — driving the content creation process from the perspective of the buyer. “You have to have someone seeing things through the eyes of your customer.”
The key to creating content that resonates is empathy for the buyer, Handley said. Content marketing should be buyer-centered, not product or company-centered. Rather than trying to push the latest offering or service, the aim should be creating content that users will share.
Handley offered OpenView Labs as an example of content marketing that serves the needs of buyers. The consulting firm’s blog resembles a magazine, with comprehensive articles aimed toward small businesses on a wide variety of subjects, including financial management and marketing, and even advice on hiring and health insurance.
“If your customer signed your paycheck, what would your marketing look like?” asked Handley. “Would it increase your empathy for your customer?” Content should be a service that creates loyalty and trust between buyers and companies, Handley said adding that loyalty and trust will ultimately generate revenue.
Content such as blogs, e-Books and videos are the fruits born of content marketing, but not content marketing itself, Pulizzi said. He stressed that content creators must own — not rent — media channels and must also be consistent in delivery.
The goal of content marketing is to change or enhance behavior, but without consistency, no meaningful relationship can be established with buyers to bring about change, Pulizzi said. He cited a figure from IBM, which noted that 85% of corporate blogs have five or fewer posts:. “We’re really good at starting content initiatives but not good at maintaining them,” Pulizzi said.
The dedication to producing consistent content must also be married to a purpose, Pulizzi pointed out. Companies should establish a mission statement for their content campaigns that act as a litmus test. Pulizzi cited Idium Corp., an engineering firm, as an example. The company’s motto is “Help engineers answer the most challenging industrial solder questions,” and all content adheres to that motto.
CMI’s findings show only 36% of companies believe their content marketing is effective, Pulizzi said. “Content marketing is a lot like sex,” Pulizzi quipped. “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you’re any good at it.”
Increasing volume will not necessarily improve content management success, Pulizzi said. “Pull back. More content may not be the answer.”
“Content marketing has got to be about value,” said Trip Kucera, Senior Research Analyst at Aberdeen Group, in a session at B2B Content2Conversion. “There’s an alchemy involved,” he explained, comparing the process to distilling scotch. All scotches use the same ingredient and production methods, but what sets great scotches apart is how those ingredients are used and in the mastery of the distilling process. In the same way, all marketers are using the same methods and channels, Kucera said, but great marketers will master these platforms and methods.
Content is playing an increasing role in revenue accountability, Kucera noted, as he shared Aberdeen’s findings on what companies were most effective at achieving a strong marketing-to-buyer rate through marketing.
In the 2011-2012 findings, the Aberdeen Group categorized companies as either Leaders or Followers. The differences between Leaders and Followers were significant, according to Kucera. “Leaders experienced a 10.2% increase in revenue through marketing contributions compared to marketing contributions from Followers which only averaged at 1.6%. Leaders need 6,345 web site visits to close a deal, while followers need double.”
The success of Leaders can be attributed to several factors. The first is cultivation of talent and resources dedicated to content development and management. In order to produce great content, there must be employees dedicated and trained specifically for content creation who have an intimate understanding of their respective industries, the “smell of the hay and manure,” as Kucera put it.
“You need to understand what’s driving business today to understand how to create great content,” said Kucera. “Content development might be everyone’s responsibility but it should be someone’s job.”
Companies should also have a personal commitment to both content creation and management. More than half (56%) of companies rely on internal talent for content creation with some light external support, 37% make content completely in-house and8% outsource most work while managing internally and no companies look completely to freelancers for content.
The last and most overlooked factor is metrics, Kucera said, noting that 77% of Leader companies can track how a specific piece of marketing is performing. Only 47% of Followers have this capability.
Kucer added: “It’s important to have clearly defined methods of design, ideation, steps of approval and execution to get reliable feedback on effective marketing.”
Kucera ended his presentation by explaining that content marketing is more than just a medium: “It’s a relationship with the consumer that’s tracked by metrics but is ultimately created and sustained by generating value that goes beyond purchasing.”
“Content marketing is the alchemy of intent,” Kucera concluded. “It’s about taking that intent and turning it into revenue.”