What are the challenges B2B marketers face in bringing more sophistication to their content marketing efforts and making a much better connection between producing original content and spiking the bottom line?
The most common challenges B2B companies face are:
Going in blind
Not having the appropriate tools
Not having a plan
Not knowing who can help do the work
Not being reasonable or realistic
Going in Blind
Often, we see B2B marketers challenged with a startling lack of information. This typically means they don’t understand theirbuyer personas (who buys from them, why they buy, where they go for information, what their watering holes are, how to target them, how to talk to them, etc). Buyer personas and understanding whom to target in all marketing efforts should be the most important part of phase one efforts.
Another common blind spot is setting appropriate goals, created by first knowing what you are benchmarking against. It’s integral to know where you currently stand on the KPI’s (key performance indicators) from data so that you can set realistic metrics for success.
Next, establish what is reasonable for your company and its maturity. For instance, if you are a startup company the overall content, tactics, and expectations are different from a mature company with a lot of brand awareness looking for conversions because lead generation is working; sales enablement is not.
Do your homework - conducting an audit to understand where your competitors are spending their time online is a necessary step. Are they active on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? Are they writing original content? Do they have a YouTube channel? Do your research so that when you’re building your strategy you know what the current market landscape is and where your brand fits into your industry’s standards.
Know your market size and potential. Choose a pilot segment wisely. Consider picking a vertical/segment/area of focus to start so you can see what type of content and marketing works and then pivot as necessary.
Ever heard of perfect over done? It’s a huge challenge to know when to hit publish versus revising, re-editing, and reformatting content again and again in the name of perfection. When creating and curating content, it’s so subjective it can be hard to ever feel “done”. Content is just a single portion of your marketing strategy, and a blog or whitepaper is yet another underlayer to that. Making decisions to change/hold content to reach a feeling of perfection instead of getting it out for the world to react to, and then adjusting is, in my opinion, a big challenge and mistake.
Not Having the Appropriate Tools
Another common challenge for B2B companies is not having the necessary tools.
This isn’t about making poor choices or even having the wrong tools, rather it’s about knowing the options in the very wide landscape that is marketing technology. For every single platform B2B companies have heard of or have used, there’s probably another 50 that do nearly the same thing. How can you know where to start, or where to get the most bang for your precious buck? I’ll share what our agency utilizes and why.
The foundational tools we use for B2B companies as it relates to content and data are:
A marketing, sales, and customer service software platform with a free CRM that helps your business grow. This platform can single-handedly automate all marketing efforts to match a holistic campaign goal, track progress on KPI’s, highlight areas and tactics that need to be tweaked or addressed, and marries sales and marketing teams for better unity and transparency. It’s a behemoth of a marketing tool and helps every client we have regardless of industry or budget execute marketing and sales initiatives.
From here, we utilize tools, platforms, and subscriptions that integrate with HubSpot which is our holy grail of marketing software. Databox is a business analytics and KPI dashboard that we peg for reporting. It gathers all client metrics in one place to help our agency deliver the established KPI’s and progress across any device. Databox ensures the data our agency and our clients need is always available and always current.
Hotjar is insider info that leads us straight to UX experience. This visual software platform helps our agency understand users’ behaviors, patterns, and needs when navigating websites. It takes the guesswork out of website design and development and instead, helps us craft a user’s journey tailored directly to what the data is showing us needs to happen to foster consumption and conversions alike. Their educational resources also help us understand what a visitor is thinking while browsing your website.
Grammarly upholds our agency’s brand reputation for excellent, polished content and work. It acts as an electronic editor improving all things language - word choice, spelling, punctuation, voice and tone, and all grammatical errors. It’s an excellent first step in our proofing process and streamlines deadlines and promotes brand cohesion across departments.
Buzzsumo is to content and trends as Hotjar is to design and functionality. It acts as a super-crawler of research and monitoring and allows us to get super granular with agency and client subject matters alike. It highlights content most shared and through which channels as well as indicating influencers related to particular domains and topics. It gives our PR, social, and content teams an easier way to connect, create, and curate regardless of industry or niche.
Lack of a Plan
Another challenge we often see is B2B companies not having a fully integrated plan that aligns with the business objectives.
Often there are one-off tactics, but not a holistic plan that can be measured against overarching business objectives. And, knowing what success would look like while executing on your plan is another crucial part. Honestly, one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen to date is that a lot of companies forget the “obvious” stuff. It’s imperative that B2B, and all companies for that matter, focus on what they want. Make sure you have a “home base” which is usually a page on your website, blog, or landing page that you can drive all efforts to.
Point all users and traffic to the same place. Then, and here is where a lot of companies fail, is make sure you make it clear and obvious what you want them to do when they get there. Have a call-to-action that encourages users to take the next step … download an offer? Watch a video clip? Request a consultation? Whatever it is, make it big, make it obvious, and ask for it.
Another challenge I often see in B2B marketing and content creation is to not forget the importance of your current and past customers. Often, marketing and executives get so hungry for the new leads they forget about the value and importance of keeping those who know about their brand already. And, another gap I see is companies using content and marketing to cross-sell services. It’s almost as if it is so obvious, it is nearly forgotten. Or, if they do market to current customers via content, companies often forget to “count” the value and ROI of those efforts. Don’t make that mistake.
Not Knowing Who Can Help Do the Work
Content creation comes with its own set of problems … who can do it? Who has the time? And, who has the expertise?
The most common challenge/fear is who is going to create the content. There are a few options when it comes to creating exceptional content. You can do it internally if your team is equipped to know both the business and possess the writing for conversion chops and understanding of the inbound methodology. Other options would be freelancers or marketing agencies with in-house content creation teams. If you go the outsource route, a challenge we, as an inbound marketing agency, faces is that we understand inbound and content creation, but often are not the product experts.
We are marketers, we are not the makers, sellers, or developers of Your Product or Your Service. This is where time and trust comes in. No matter what, there's a natural learning curve and onboarding period of time connecting on behalf of content between agency and client. We have the innate ability to know what users want and need to consume, style and method-wise. Our client teams own all the subject matter and thought leadership behind their brand. We have to fall together to create content that’s indicative of both.
I can’t emphasize this enough: take the time to help your marketing or content partner truly understand your product, people, and process so they can also become experts on your behalf.
Not Being Reasonable or Realistic
The last challenge is really being both reasonable and realistic. This seems to be a given … but it’s not. This is something we face every single day at our agency. How can you be realistic and reasonable with your content marketing … knowing that content marketing is a long-term game? It takes time. It takes trial and error. It changes. It will bring great rewards if you don’t give up on it. Time means money in most cases. This will become an asset for your company if you let it. Building an empire of content and paths for conversion is just that; a process of building it piece by piece and watching it grow taller, deeper, and wider.
Egos can get in the way of content marketing. How? Because writing is so subjective, as I noted previously. And, people write differently. There are many writing styles and ways people get different information across and being open to that can be a challenge if it doesn’t immediately sound or feel familiar. And, seeing your name at the top of a Google search for a term only you use may help your ego, but likely not your customers or prospects. Put your ego aside and write content that is helpful and meaningful to those we are trying to influence and stop worrying about the other stuff. Getting found should trump everything else; offering users credible, simple, and straightforward content tailored specifically to help them is the entire basis of content marketing. There are plenty of other ways to share your nuances, your brand’s jargon, and uniqueness.
The 80/20 challenge. This is a hard one for many when it comes to content. The 80/20 rule means crafting or sharing content is not about you 80 percent of the time, instead sharing heavy decision-based content about your brand, service, or products 20 percent of the time. Many B2B companies think “why would we spend our resources writing content that isn’t a sales pitch”? It is hard for many to understand that being helpful may not mean directly selling your product in every piece of content, and this is not only okay, but it’s also necessary to the inbound methodology. Write content that is compelling and you will win. Often people don’t like the non-salesy content we create, but in return, it often drives the most traffic. So, make sure you have in your strategy a mix of helpful content and content that should help drive conversions.
Talk about the elephant in the room. Your content should address the common questions your customers and prospects want to know, even if you don’t want to talk about it. The most common topics people try to avoid in content marketing, which is a big mistake, in my opinion, are things like cost, negative reviews, who it is not right for, and any other topics that you feel inclined to say “we will talk about that when we meet with them”. Don’t assume you will get that chance, talk about those things up front and openly.
What are examples of B2B marketers deploying a content marketing strategy rooted in data and driving business objectives?
In the best scenario, the client is the hero and we make every effort to let our clients’ brands shine on behalf of their own customers and employees. That’s how a true B2B client-agency partnership should unfold. We’ve told quite a few stories of how inbound marketing has changed B2B clients of ours for the better and sometimes, against all marketing odds. Here are a few of our most favorite - and powerful - tales.
What is a Good Process for Connecting Content Marketing and Data?
A good process to connect content marketing and data is to know what you are trying to accomplish with it, trying all kinds of tactics, employing the right tools and platforms to streamline and uncomplicate your process, and reporting on efforts. Being nimble and having the fortitude to pivot when needed is an absolute secondary need as well.
What Mistakes Can Easily be Avoided?
Know your stuff before you start
Invest in the proper tools
Make sure you create a strategic plan that aligns with company goals
Don’t get paralyzed by not knowing who can help you
As the Vice President, I build strong, personal relationships with each and every client that partners with Leighton Interactive. I love helping clients achieve their goals, dreams, and visions in ways they never thought possible. My daily schedule consists of meeting with clients, communicating client information to the inbound marketing team, and managing account managers. When I'm not busy with client work, I love to relax and spend time with my two amazing kids.