As buyer preferences continue to evolve towards efficiency, convenience and a need to binge, marketers must deliver on their expectations to keep their companies and products top of mind.
Content consumption, for example, has transformed from the days of TV Guide channels and Friday-night trips to Blockbuster. Now, buyers are accustomed to personalized Netflix feeds and on-demand TV shows — and they expect this kind of experience in their professional lives.
Streaming was a key theme of Uberflip CMO Randy Frisch’s keynote address to kick-off the event. Much like the personalized content hubs Netflix offers its customers, B2B content must be packaged accordingly and distributed in a way the buyer wants to consume it.
“This streaming mentality that we have to think about from a marketing perspective is helping companies win,” said Frisch during his keynote. “What are you streaming to your buyers? What works for your audience to lock them in?”
Going Beyond Content Creation To Drive Profitable Action
“What’s the point in creating content if we don’t use it and distribute it to drive profitable action from our customers?” @randyfrisch @Uberflip #Conex Great morning keynote to start day 2! pic.twitter.com/NQF31GXIeV— Demand Gen Report (@DG_Report) August 21, 2019
Content is used in a variety of different ways — even going beyond inbound. Vendors have a small slice of buyer’s time, Frisch said, showing research that stated they spend 82% of their time researching and 18% of the time talking to vendors. “[We must] earn the same proportion of that 82%,” he added. “That changes the way we think about marketing and the purpose of content.”
Content marketing is more than just creating content, according to Frisch. It’s also about how that content is distributed to target audiences.
“What’s the point in creating all this content if we don’t use it and distribute it to drive profitable action from our customers?” said Frisch. “The reality of what we need to do is think about content marketing as much more than just creation.”
Even companies like G2 and Forrester are categorizing content strategies beyond just “content marketing.” G2 now files companies under creation, experience and distribution categories. Forrester also acknowledged activation and experience as part of its Wave Report.
Frisch went on to share a blueprint for what marketers should focus on when it comes to the content experience:
- Environment: “It’s the environment around us — all that leads to more engagement,” said Frisch.
- Structure: The idea of related content by structuring content around challenges and pain points, not by content type.
- Engagement: Frisch said to focus on delivering a better experience at the end of the day. Get away from emails that have one piece of content and give people choices.
Companies such as Medtronic, Blackbaud and Snowflake are already seeing success from the way they package and distribute content.
Medtronic has a heavy focus on sales enablement. The company segments their content by account and adds banners promoting content in emails to gather attention. The CTAs lead the recipient to different content experiences. Each one is tailored to a sales rep and the content they want to deliver.
Blackbaud’s focus is more on demand generation. The company segments around personas and [leverages] different engagement strategies. Emails, for example, don’t just link to one piece of content. All emails are linked to a content experience — a collection of content to encourage an accelerated buyer journey. They also use AI to suggest content on the fly.
Snowflake is all about account-based marketing and they target up to 2,000 accounts. The company has taken personalization to the next level by completely customizing the experience to gain attention. Snowflake does so with display ads, personalized direct mail packages and email signatures. Each engagement/distribution tactic is linked to a tailored experience. The company has found that deals are 2X as likely to close at 3X the deal size.
Slowing Down The Experience With Thoughtful Storytelling
A true content experience is really all about the story you’re trying to tell. But today’s buyers are not interested in product-centric messaging that talks about how amazing your company and/or product is, they want to know how your company is going to help them solve their pain points.
Stories deliver experiences: “Your hero (buyer) sets out to solve a problem but is confronted by a villain (obstacles) and finds a mentor (your company) to help them reach their goal.” @ardath421 @ #conex #CONEX19 @Uberflip pic.twitter.com/ag9CIzFoIU— Demand Gen Report (@DG_Report) August 21, 2019
During her session at Conex, Ardath Albee, B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions, discussed three key criteria that define an experience: consistency, story and takeaways.
“Whatever content you post on your channels needs to be relevant to your personas,” she said. “A story delivers experiences. Your hero (buyer) sets out to solve a problem but is confronted by a villain (obstacles/pain points) and finds a mentor (your company) to help them reach their goal.”
“73% of marketers are producing more content than we did a year ago. Yet, 35% of us really know that the content we’re producing is effective. Volume is not the key ... we don’t need to produce more stuff. Be more strategic and thoughtful.” -@annhandley #conex pic.twitter.com/sGCOAO7a39— Demand Gen Report (@DG_Report) August 22, 2019
However, delivering that story and approaching conversion campaigns as an arm’s race is not the way to tackle it, according to Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs. During her presentation, she revealed that the smarter approach is to slow down and think strategically about what value you’re providing your prospects and customers.
“Seventy-three percent of marketers are producing more content than they did a year ago,” said Handley. “Yet, just 35% of us really know that the content we’re producing is effective and gaining customers and building relationships. Volume is not the key. We don’t need to produce more stuff … [we need to] be more strategic and thoughtful.”
Handley emphasized the need to simply slow down and question what you think you know about your prospects and customers. Instead of thinking, “We need a piece of content for _____,” marketers must focus on, “Our audience needs _____.”
Both Albee and Handley also shared the importance of shedding the “marketer voice.” Marketers often forget they’re talking to real people, so the jargon and business-speak can often turn people off.
“Marketers are perfectly engaging and normal in real life,” said Handley. “Then they go to write an email and they sound awkward and weird. We need to shed it. It’s so important now in this busy world. It’s a real opportunity to have a real connection.”
This is especially important to note when writing emails or sending email newsletters.
“Ninety-two percent of marketers are using email,” said Handley. “There is a tendency in marketing to focus on the first part of the word ‘newsletter,’ because we have something we want to say. We think of email newsletters as a distribution strategy. Instead of thinking about it as a distribution strategy, focus on the ‘letter’ because the strongest email marketing programs don’t focus on the news, they focus on the letter.”
Renewing Old Content Is More Important Than Ever
As Uberflip’s Frisch noted during his keynote, content marketing has been mainly thought of as “creating content” instead of “creating, packaging and distributing content.” However, with so much new content coming down the pipe, marketers often forget about older content and how much they miss out on if they don’t simply refresh it.
During his session at Conex, Neil Patel, Co-Founder of Neil Patel Digital, argued that marketers spend too much time and money creating new content and not enough time updating their older content. Renewing and refreshing old content — and even promoting it months after publishing — is an easy way to gain more traffic, according to Patel.
“I write one blog post a week,” said Patel. “But I have a team of people who help me update my old content. We update roughly 90 blog posts a month. I get five million visitors because I fine-tune my existing content.”
Patel also noted that re-posting blog content on different channels, such as LinkedIn or Medium, and re-sharing old content also helps boost traffic. “Google doesn’t penalize for duplicate content,” he said. “You can share your old content over and over again, and a lot of time, you’ll get more love from when you shared it the first time.”