A lot of companies have embraced the idea of content for use in marketing. This being said, there's much more to the practice of content marketing than just cranking out content. B2B companies with complex sales that overlook the strategy and process will find themselves in the weeds in short order.
I'm working with a lot of companies who are really trying to evolve the practice of content marketing, but I'm also talking to a lot of companies who just want content and quick-fire campaigns. Which defeats the point of sustainable marketing performance that optimizes the buyer experience for complex sales.
There's a reason why nearly 80% of marketers have said that they'd "better prepare their organization by building better processes and content offers to feed the automation system" if they had it to do over again. - DemandGen Report
Content is indeed the fuel for today's marketing programs (in all its forms), but if marketers are actually going to generate high-quality leads, nurture them in a way that drives pipeline momentum, and produce demand that turns into closed business, there must be more.
This often means that skill sets need to evolve, as well as thinking. Just take a look at an off-the-top list of my top ten (in no particular order) for what else is needed to make content marketing a high-performance practice:
- Buyer personas - this is more than just title and industry. They're only helpful if they help you to identify the priorities, needs and interests of your target audiences. Yes, that includes influencers.
- A clean database - this should be obvious, for so many reasons
- Segmentation capabilities - content marketing is NEVER one-size-fits-all
- Lead scoring - you must monitor profiles and behavior to judge interest and quality. This process can also help you refine your cadence and assess what's working and what's not.
- Content strategy - what overall story are you sharing across markets, where should your company be represented, what will you accomplish and how will you measure it, etc.?
- Editorial calendar - how does that story roll out with content? Who's developing the assets, how will it be distributed, where are the overlays, what are the calls to action, etc.?
- Lead management process - what defines a lead in different stages? What defines a sales-ready lead? How will the handoff to sales be handled? What are the rules of engagement? Etc.
- Performance metrics - how will you prove the value contribution of marketing programs as related to revenue and customer acquisition?
- Testing and optimization - you won't be right the first time and, even if you are, things will change. What's the process for the testing and refinement of messaging over time? Your "gut" doesn't count.
- Sales enablement - how will you help salespeople step into the conversation gracefully? If buyers are spending 56% of their time with content (IDC), salespeople need to know just what that means so they can adjust accordingly and provide more value in the conversations they have with buyers.
Of course it should go without saying that all of this cannot be accomplished without marketing automation.
I'm not trying to make content marketing hard. In fact, I've helped companies successfully get started with a few core elements and layer on more of these as they develop competence they can build upon. Keeping it simple is a good rule of thumb for getting started, but failing to realize the importance of any of these components and plan for their development and integration into your content marketing practice is not a wise choice.
I'd be curious to know which of these you think are the most difficult to accomplish - and why?