Think like a publisher! That's been the rallying cry for content marketing for the last few years. But, I'd like to submit that content marketing takes a whole lot more than publishing — especially for B2B companies with complex sales.
I've been getting a lot of calls lately from B2B marketers who are saying:
"We bought into the idea of content marketing. We've created great content. It's getting read. But it's not moving the needle."
Quite often, what I find is that they do have pretty good content, but it's based on random acts of publishing. This means, there's no apparent strategy behind it. Nothing to orchestrate buyer progression and next steps.
People may be reading it, but then they just move on. It hasn't impacted their perception of the topic enough to motivate action or sway opinion.
Why not? There are a number of reasons, but most often what I see is:
- Too much focus on the company's perspective rather than the buyer's
Does your content show that you really understand what your buyers care about? Or have you made assumptions that leave your content short? Do your products sneak into your content? How about feeds and speeds? Do you use "we" and "our" more than "you" and "your"?
- No call to action
What comes next after the content the buyer has just viewed? Do you tell them? They are not going to go looking for it, they'll just move on once they're done reading what's in front of them. People are often multi-tasking. You have to give them a reason to spend more of their attention with your content.
- Too much effort perceived to take the suggested action
Does your form ask for the kitchen sink? Do you only offer a video link without a transcript for those who prefer to read? Or vice versa? Are you trying to send them to a different channel that they don't use or a place where they have to set up an account to gain access? Too much effort can manifest in many different ways.
- Gaps in the story - aka leaps of faith
When I ask marketers when was the last time they experienced their content as if they were their buyers, most of them can't say they have. They often think they've covered all the bases, but they are stuck with the curse of knowledge.
Marketers know the whole story. They think it's reflected in their content. But, often it is not. And, because they don't have a strategy, they haven't orchestrated the story, so they may be asking their buyers to leap from one concept to the next without any foundation. This is a problem that costs the company in credibility and in progressive engagement with buyers. Goes to the effort thing, as well.
- Not taking ownership of expertise
A lot of content doesn't take a stand because it's trying to make everyone happy. But that's not the point. Sharing expertise must be done with authority and confident ideas that help people visualize what your knowledge will bring to the table that they can't get elsewhere. Show them you mean what you say and feel strongly about it. Tell them why. Make your case.
- Staying too high level
Phrases like "grow revenues" or "cut costs" can mean anything. Content that motivates action must do a deep dive into the specifics applicable to the audience it's intended to sway. But quite often it just does a white wash across the benefits that does nothing to differentiate your company or your expertise.
- Not targeted to a specific audience
This is why a lot of content stays high level. Marketers don't know their audience well enough to get into the nitty gritty. But, if you don't get to know them, they won't go on the journey with you. They'll go find someone who delivers more value that helps them visualize their problem being solved.
It's great to publish content. We need to do this to attract and engage our buyers. But an editorial calendar with a list of random topics you think are interesting won't cut the mustard. Quarterly themes won't do it either. All the switching will just alienate people who were finally getting invested in the story you were telling last quarter.
Random acts of publishing won't get the level of engagement and intention needed to move the needle because you won't be able to sustain engagement long enough to help buyers learn what they need to know to move to a conversation.
What you need is a content strategy. A method for the madness that is solving complex problems. A plan for strategic storytelling across channels. And, as you can see, there's much more to content marketing than publishing.
What else should be on this list?