I'll just come right out and say it. There is no such thing as a magic bullet for B2B content marketing. This was a question brought up recently during a B2B Year in Review roundtable where I was one of the panelists over on Focus.com. I've been thinking quite a bit about it since then.
Carlos Hidalgo (@cahidalgo) posed the question:
Why are so many vendors & consultants making it sound as if B2B Marketing (technology, content development, etc.) is simple & should be done in weeks?
The simple truth is that none of this is, well, simple.
I know this is probably not what you wanted to hear, but as you head into the New Year you need to set the appropriate expectations for the evolution of your B2B marketing programs. For the purpose of this post, I'm only taking on the content marketing challenge.
Content marketing is a practice that it takes time to learn and, face it now, you'll never master it because it changes along with technology, tools, channels, buyers, preferences, trends, the economy, markets, industry evolution, and more. Heck, I've been a practitioner of content marketing for a few decades and I learn something new every single day.
But that's what makes it so vibrant, exciting and worthwhile. When you've put in the effort and you get it working well, it's about the best thing, ever. Yes, I'm a content wonk.
Here's the thing about content marketing. Where you start is important.
If there's a chance that I'm wrong and there is a magic bullet for content marketing, this first step is the closest to magic you're going to get.
Start Here >> Build Buyer Insights
That's right. What you don't know about your buyers will tank your content marketing programs before they even begin to roll down the runway.
When I work on projects, this step sometimes takes the most effort (depending on how many segments, profiles, personas — whatever you want to call them — are identified) And, in B2B marketing, there is always more than one. Research shows that most companies average at least three. I'm working on several projects right now that each have five.
What gets really interesting is when you dig deep enough to start seeing the real differences between them. Priorities shift, orientations are different, social behaviors vary and even career paths follow different patterns.
Why You Must Build Buyer Insights
Without buyer insights, you have no idea who you're developing content for. Remember that last high-level white paper that you read? The one where the focus was so broad that it was basically useless to you. The writer had no clue who the readers were. This is also usually when content devolves back into solution speak, because that's what IS known. Oh, sure, the writer may have been told to target the content to IT executives in global manufacturing companies with revenues of one billion or more.
What the heck does that mean?
Compare that to this instruction:
Target the content to "Ed," the Director of IT in a global manufacturing company. His latest challenge is to help distributed product development teams collaborate seamlessly to shorten time to market.
He not only needs to address allowing personally owned mobile devices, tablets and laptops on the network, but to make sure that the company's data stays secure. But his legacy infrastructure is giving him fits and starts as the complexity of managing it increases with each new service his team must deliver.
Ed craves simplicity, but he can't get approval from the CIO and the CFO for the hefty price tag a "rip and replace" would cost, nor can he afford any disruption to end users while he straightens out the mess — not if he wants that promotion he's in line for when his boss retires next year.
Would the content you write for Ed be positioned differently than the content you write for an IT executive in a company with one billion or more in revenues?
You bet it would.
Where do you get this information?
- LinkedIn profiles of people like Ed (don't forget to review the groups they've joined)
- Interviews with customers
- Interviews with salespeople
- Job boards
- Annual reports from companies with similar firmographics
- Twitter streams for specific #hashtags
- Blogs written by or for people like Ed
Building buyer insights takes a bit of time, but it's worth the effort. It's not a magic bullet, but it is the first pill you should swallow if you want to form a solid foundation upon which you can create contagious content that your prospects want to read and use to take next steps.
And that's the whole point, isn't it?