“If you're serious about your content marketing strategy, you have to realize you're writing for an ever-changing audience, says Jaime Bailey, Vice President of Marketing at VHT
For a long time, the customer journey has been frustrating. As customers seek access to more kinds of information, brand marketers can no longer rely on mass media advertising campaigns to deliver brand awareness and service utility. We at VHT want to offer customers a better journey, but to do that you have to understand what customers want and need.
Our audience values expert content that is well researched, helps them solve a problem, and keeps them abreast of the latest industry trends. That means content that is not only well sourced, but displays a deep technical understanding on a specific topic.
If a content marketing strategy is to make a meaningful difference, it needs to focus away from the marketing side and help our customers understand, engage, and inspire at scale.
1. Keep evaluating your content marketing
There’s so much clutter out there in the world right now, so as a business it’s tough to stand out and be noticed enough to retain full engagement of our audience. When it comes to content, quality over quantity triumphs. It’s the art of developing and distributing curated, relevant, and valuable content that attracts companies and wholesale buyers. So even if we only have a few seconds of the customers’ time, we need to know exactly where they are, what platform they’re in, and what they need to know.
2. Lead nurturing, like lead generation, is of equal importance
Lead nurturing has been around for a while, and yet it's still an effective way for us to educate and reach our personas. Our campaigns are based around these personas, so we tailor the calls to action and the messaging based on what their needs are.
If you want to create content that nurtures your personas throughout their journey, you need to understand your audience’s pain points, what they care about, how they like to access information, and what influences their purchasing decisions. Besides this, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about how the prospect business aligns with your product or service, then create offers that fit.
We’ve realized that addressing their pain points by offering content may help them solve their problems, either through blog posts or an ungated piece of content. Focused content that seeks to help customers rather than sell builds trust adds real value.
And because our marketing strategy is based around personas, we can segment our campaigns according to behavior, demographics and even typical customer challenges. This way, we are sure our audience will want what we’re are offering.
3. Going to (small) events is one of the most beneficial marketing routes you can take
Online marketing strategies may be cheaper than what traditional channels can offer, but nothing beats having a conversation with customers. You can really understand their pain points, where they are in the buying cycle, and how to solve their problems. Depending on the industry, the cost of exhibitions and trade shows do vary. So it's important that you have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it.
If you're going to measure the success of them with just straight sales out of it, then you’ll be disappointed. It’s not about how many people come to the booth and collect your business cards. Success instead might be the number of high potential discussions had in which we've been able to qualify the prospect, and the chance to add a personal touch to your company. It is this emotional engagement which will enhance your customer experience.
And this applies to our content marketing strategy. When you are out on the trade room floor being able to deliver that content with the right message is paramount to beginning to open a sale.
4. Align your content marketing strategy and business goals
If you have a small marketing team with an even smaller capacity to achieve goals, then obtaining the best results from your content may be tricky. We found having a clear strategy has helped can help keep our business on track throughout the year. It allows you to set limits and expectations in order to streamline what is most effective for your business.
A content marketing strategy that aims to gain cheap reach and general awareness will struggle to connect to business outcomes and business strategy in any meaningful way. When you have entertaining content but it lacks a connection to your brand or business strategy, it loses its authenticity.
Engaging an audience is now a form of transaction in itself. Therefore, the content out there has to be informative to customers. The content has to keep in mind what problem we’re trying to solve, versus what product we’re trying to push.
5. Storytelling is crucial to content marketing
People relate to life stories much more so than content that features or promotes a product. That’s how you connect your brand on an emotional level. I would even say that the emotional connection matters more than customer satisfaction, because an emotionally connected customer is more valuable. It makes customers more loyal. So, they’ll stay customers for longer.
To build on that emotional connection, content marketers need to focus not only on providing that emotional connection with their products, but with the entire company as a whole.
Content should reflect customers concerns about the world around them and wider challenges in their industry. This is especially important for younger generations, who are highly connected to and are extremely conscious of, their values. Brands that are becoming more socially conscious today will positively affect their bottom-line, their communities, and the world of tomorrow.
6. Data is key if you want personalized content marketing
Most B2B marketers and agencies understand that in order to do their job effectively, they need good data; data that can add value to the delivery of online experiences. Marketers with access and an understanding of how to use that data have a competitive advantage in their ability to provide relevant offers to the right buyers at the right time.
But data has very little value if you aren’t able to understand it and turn it into actionable, personalized content. So as a company it’s a challenge for us adjusting the metrics and the types of data, and staying on top of which data you analyze. What we should be asking is how will the data we source (and to what degree) to guide our content creation process up front.
A proper data-driven approach to a content marketing strategy has helped us avoid wasting resources by trying to connect with the wrong audiences in the wrong places. Data can help identify target audiences and their trending topics, and the influencers most relevant to those groups.
7. Some content is more important than others
We expect to continue to utilize short and simple case studies. Giving specific examples and real stories rather than vague abstractions is a great way to get attention and links. I also recognize that video and visual content is becoming more important in the B2B world – it provides us with the feeling of being there and experiencing something first hand. So customers are responding a lot faster and more intently to something that’s moving than something that isn’t.
One type of video we have produced is the ‘explainer video’. A succinct explainer video should deliver a straightforward message, and be concise in crafting our message. For us, these videos are useful in showing our potential customers a quick and powerful overview of how your brand can help make their lives better. And it provides another opportunity to keep recapturing people’s attention – provided you make it a priority to give the audience things to pay attention to.
8. Chatbots and artificial intelligence will be the future of content marketing
Messaging is the new frontier of marketing. Bots give us the opportunity to tap into it by creating scalable, one-on-one interactions directly with consumers. Using that as a communication asset, for us, has helped drive better marketing strategies.
It goes back to how consumers have changed their behaviors. Email inboxes have become more and more cluttered, so buyers have moved to social media to follow potential companies. And all any buyer wants is the most direct line between their problem and a solution. As all good content marketers know : meet your audience where they are. If more and more of your audience are using messaging apps or looking for the most streamlined answers, it makes sense to tap into this customer arena.
Find out what other leading CMOs have to say about the trends shaping their content marketing strategies… Read The Future of Content Marketing: 10 interviews with leading CMOs on the trends they’re using to disrupt in 2019.