He hasn’t worked there in years, but among the many companies exhibiting on the show floor at Content Marketing World 2019 is a B2B firm that taught Joe Pulizzi some of his earliest lessons.
Before it became part of Informa Engage, the Content Marketing Institute’s founder explained in his opening keynote address Wednesday, he helped lead what was then known as Penton Custom Media. This was a division of Penton Media, a more traditional publisher. When a restructuring of the firm gave him a new boss, Pulizzi said he was eager to show off one of the bespoke print publications he and his team were creating. The response, however, was lacklustre.
“He picked it up and said, ‘Why did you make this? You should have sold them ads,’” Pulizzi recalled. “This was when I wondered if I should start looking for another job.”
Instead, Pulizzi began sending out regular packs of information to others in the organization to help educate them. This has since become one of the first “laws” he shared with the Content Marketing World audience: that others often have no idea what you’re doing and that the need to “sell” content marketing internally never stops.
“And if a content marketing program gets cut, it’s your fault,” he added.
Develop A Better Strategy
Of course, most B2B marketers prefer to make the business case for an ongoing content marketing budget by showcasing their results. That becomes easier when you base your strategy upon what Maliha Aqeel calls the “three Cs” of customers, content and culture.
In other words, the assistant director, brand, marketing and communications, EY said in a CMWorld 2019 session, organizations need to tie the stories they tell both to the values they hold internally and what their external audience is telling them they want in terms of format, frequently and subject matter.
Aqeel gave the example of her time with the Institute of Corporate Directors, which had a goal of increasing it membership from 7,000 to 10,000 people in a three-year period. After going through a branding exercise, she said the organization determined its current and prospective members were largely retired C-suite executives who sit on multiple boards, travel often and value peer insights over all else.
That drove a decision to create more interviews with other members and offer it in channels like a print magazine that could be read on an airplane. The content was grounded in the ICD’s values of helping improve boards so that they could make companies more successful and, by extension, boost economic development.
It worked: the organization achieved its goal within only two and a half years, Aqeel said.
Build Better Buyer Personas
In many other organizations, though, finding the right insights into what a decision-maker needs is more complicated, argued Adele Revella, founder and CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute. Building personas based on demographic details is largely a waste of time, she said, as is interviewing customers who likely already feel positively towards a brand. Instead, she said 81 per cent of those her organization has surveyed said they have disqualified a vendor because they failed to properly answer their questions.
Getting at what those questions are means vendors should ask questions of representative buyers first, Revella added.
“It’s not about whether they like to travel,” she said. It’s how do they make the choice to get into a market for a solution, what pain points do they have and everything they did to decide who to consider and which provider to choose.”
This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, according to Revella. An initial question like “Take me back to the day when you first decided you might need (X) and tell me what happened,” for instance, is probably going to be less important than a follow up. This could be: “It seems like you would have already had a need for (X). What changed?”
B2B firms may need to create as many personas based on the kinds of specific needs or problems come out of such interviews, Revella said. Twenty or more is not out of the question.
“The goal here is to get the whole buyers’ story,” she said.
Build Greater Trust
Once you have those personas developed, a content marketing strategy should not only aim to generate leads or convert prospects into customers but build trust with the brand, said Katie Martel an executive director at Boston Content.
Some examples of this include demonstrating a clear path to the future, Martel suggested. An audience might be far from achieving a particular objective but content should go beyond predictions of what’s coming in their industry but the steps they should take to prepare themselves. And if the company’s products and services can’t fully meet those needs, the content should reflect that.
“Get false promises out of your content,” she said. “Not only are buyers sick of it, but when you don’t meet that expectations you’ve set, you’re in the hole.”
Like many other speakers at the event, Martel said content marketing needs to be treated as a discipline rather than a stunt. In that sense, she likened thought leadership to product marketing.
“If you don’t have all the answers that’s fine. That’s not what this is about,” she said. “Prove you’re dedicated to finding the answers out.”
Content Marketing World 2019 runs through Friday.