Every once in a while, we’re going to take a hyperdive into critical strategies for the companies we work with. This is one of those times. Buckle up and enjoy.
How do you create content that’s relevant — that speaks to those fickle buyers and results in high-value leads and landing great accounts? Here’s what we tell clients: Don’t think about creating content. Think about a culture of content.
Content is everything you put out there: website, blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts, social media, whitepapers, gated offerings, often produced at substantial investment. But if it’s not created within a larger whole, it’s not carrying enough weight. Countless organizations treat their content as a series of one-offs, hit or miss, and we’ve found that often it’s more miss than hit. And unlike B2C, your target B2B accounts may amount for a pretty large fraction of your business. So that’s a big miss.
57 percent of B2B sales occur mostly on the web — before a client even contacts sales. If your content is ineffective, unoptimized and inconsistent, you’re losing out. If a prospect can’t find the information they want or the contact they need, they walk. No one wants to be stuck in an echo chamber.
Holistic and Inclusive
Stop thinking about content as a maybe it’ll attract some attention and start thinking of it as a must. That means building a stronger system — including why, how, who, when and what — for generating it. Break out of the marketing bubble and bring in the sales team, leadership, and those experts in your company whose knowledge and wisdom is usually overlooked in your content. Sales has to be involved as they know buyer behavior. Leadership is the heart and soul of the company. Your subject matter experts have information buyers need.
Get them involved and you can engineer content to bring in buyers, not just visitors. You can optimize it for SEO and conversion points, share it avidly across social channels, recycle it into other forms, track and measure for effectiveness and adjust, and continue the process. Content stops being a passive artifact and starts becoming part of an inclusive, collaborative, proactive system of boosting business. In essence, you’re giving content more responsibilities, so you need to make sure it’s set up for success.
Bringing in Sales
Marketing and sales sometimes have an uncomfortable relationship: they’re not synced up and don’t always communicate. When sales and marketing aren’t aligned, it can cost a business up to $1 trillion annually in decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts. But when they work together, it can generate up to 209% more revenue. The beauty of creating a culture of content is it requires you to break down the silo between sales and marketing. It’s not just your content that gets better and then benefits your business efforts. Your business directly benefits too.
Why is feedback from sales so important? They’re the canaries in the coal mine, the lighthouse keepers, the boots on the ground. They often know when content isn’t working, though they don’t always get the chance to say it. Here are some examples we’ve seen of sales feedback that gave companies great intel to act on:
- They lose leads because there’s no place to capture contacts.
- They say target accounts don’t know what the company believes in or does.
- They lose business to competitors because new product rollouts aren’t announced soon enough.
- The blogs sound like they’re written by robots.
- Marketing spends its budget on splashy websites but they lack spec sheets and white papers.
Given the opportunity to have input into what content gets out there, many in sales are thrilled to weigh in — if action will be taken and their involvement isn’t a time soak. Instead of being relegated to bystanders, they get to be active participants. Set up a feedback loop that keeps them in constant communication with marketing. Here’s a for-instance:
- Set up channels and a cadence for conversations and comments.
- Give sales eyes on the existing content of all forms, as well as the content calendar and proposed coverage. Welcome their unvarnished opinion.
- Ask sales to share their upcoming campaigns with marketing so they can sync on relevant content.
- Create a content calendar that factors in those sales campaigns.
- Get sales’ feedback on buyer behavior, preferences, issues, search terms.
- Collect and consolidate all their feedback.
- Acknowledge, respond, and pursue if you need more information.
- Share proposed solutions and, with sales’ input, start implementing.
- Test out with metrics — then keep tweaking, refining and improving.
- Adapt to new conditions inside and outside the company as necessary.
- Celebrate the wins and do what works.
What’s in here is all part of a frequent and dynamic give and take between marketing and sales. But notice what’s not in here: asking salespeople to write their own blogs. Go to sales for insights and reality checks. Go to them for clarity on buyer behavior. But don’t ask them to wordsmith. It’s not their job.
Involve Leaders and SMEs
Most companies are far richer and broader in knowledge than what’s reflected in their content — because the goldmine of information and wisdom among their own leaders, VPs, R&D team, or engineers is completely untapped. Conveying a CEO as an authentic thought leader is a huge opportunity to build trust and shape perceptions of the brand. As with sales, there are effective ways to include these players in a culture of content that don’t drain their time or energy:
- Start a feedback loop on what they would love to see covered, similar to the sales-marketing process. Make the communication short and sweet: pulse surveys, quick chats.
- Share the sales team’s feedback so leaders and SMEs see the reasons behind upgrading and reconceiving.
- Have skilled and respectful pros work with leaders and SMEs to craft content with their name on it or their presence in it. (Hint: most CEOs don’t say “Now we are going to take a closer look at the basic principles of ….”)
- If someone is comfortable doing livestreams, podcasts, or webcasts, capitalize on that.
- Loop leaders and SMEs into social sharing campaigns to maximize reach.
- Do the tracking, measuring, metrics and refining. Be inclusive with perspectives, but ruthless on performance. If something doesn’t work, don’t do it again.
Get Down the Funnel
We know that content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional marketing, and that the conversion rate is six times higher. 68% of people read about brands that interest them and people spend 20% of their time online on content. But before you pat yourself on the back for getting all those hits on that new blog, did it generate any leads that led to real sales? If you say “Well no, but we did build awareness,” I have a bridge to sell you.
Top of the funnel content does serve the purpose of building awareness and can build trust and engage people on high-level topics. But that’s it. Same with mid-funnel material: it’s all well and good to be considered a potential solution, but you don’t want to be the runner-up. Reaching prospects in the consideration stage still isn’t enough. Unless they feel like you’re the solution, you’re still wasting your $.
The bottom of the funnel is where decisions happen. At the BOFU stage, content can be the push an account needs to take action. That may include live demos, gated questionnaires with a reach-back response from sales, proprietary details, pricing, and service information. This is the content your sales team uses and depends on — and if they’ve been part of the process to improve it, all the better.
Build a Culture of Content that Works in 7 Steps
Say you’ve got buy-in from sales, leadership, and some great SMEs. Great start. But now it’s time to craft the strategy to keep that culture alive:
- Goals. Line up your key goals — such as boosting a new service or capturing more high-value leads. Work far in advance, with sales and marketing aligning their upcoming campaigns. Commit to being creative but with purpose.
- Personas. If you haven’t yet, harness data to collaborate on accurate buyer personas — with the traits and habits that represent your real customers and your target accounts. You need to know:
- Who they are.
- Where they are.
- How they work, act, and think.
- What their role is in the decision-making process.
- Their communication, social media, and buying habits.
- Their challenges or pain points and how they feel about them.
- When they’re most likely to want to take the next step.
- Calendar. Use these profiles to create targeted content and slot that content into a content calendar. Every single piece of content to be created should be built out from this core source — and should be created with a clear target and purpose. Schedule content to align with rollouts, campaigns, industry news, company events. The calendar keeps content varied in form and voice, spread evenly throughout the fiscal year, sufficiently promoted, and recycled.
- Data. Nothing should run without data watching. Run analytics to assess the performance of content — where are the traffic, the hits, the leads? Look for gaps and weak links. Track open rates, unique downloads, visit times, the strength of keywords and topics. Look at the content calendar and analyze what content really moves the needle. If it fell flat, don’t repeat it.
- Pillar Pages. Pillar pages aren’t just about your website — they act as the hub for an incredible amount of traffic and conversions and really boost SEO. A pillar page provides an overview on a particular topic and leads to a cluster of related content that goes into greater detail. Pick a subject you want to rank for — like content creation — and route people to more specific blog topics off that page — such as how to write captions for social media, optimize keywords, and create effective conversion points. Along with the content calendar, they help free your blog of redundant and disconnected content and focus on what’s targeted, focused,and traffic-rich.
- Social. Social media promotion is a must for content: it gives your content legs. Experiment and test out the best platforms, approaches, and cadences. In a culture of content, social media is part of the whole program — and seeing it that way can open up a whole range of effective strategies — social amplification, paid and organic, cross-promotion, influencers, CTAs.
- Recycle and update. Repurposing and repacking content extends the power of your spend and radically boosts ROI — if you don’t wind up duplicating the same efforts. Always revisit content that hits big and find ways to slice it, reshape it, re-offer it. Update frequently. Don’t be shy about turning a great webinar into a blog Q&A or lift the infographic from a whitepaper and reframe it as a visual blog. Take long content and split it into a series of shorts. Maximizing your content’s reach and spreading it across more platforms is a best practice. And don’t be shy about promoting the new iteration.
Grow, Sustain, and Transform
All of this is about creating an inclusive and collaborative ecosystem of content that’s intentionally designed. It’s there to provide all the information buyers need to know. It proactively imagines and anticipates how, when, and why they need to see it. It speaks to modern buyers because they don’t come to you – they visit your content, and then, maybe they take that step.
While you need to have a great team in place to tend, manage, produce, and measure, the more minds at the table when it comes to brainstorming and providing different voices, the better. Sharing ownership and investing in the outcome is always a great business strategy. But content’s been left out of that model for too long, and its power has suffered as a result.
We see the transformations that go on in a company when content suddenly becomes part of the overall mission, purpose, outreach and sales strategy. It’s an amazing experience we’ll never get tired of — like flipping a switch that brings the whole company together. No matter your industry or size, you can leverage a culture of content to drive your business. Reach out to us to find out how you can turn your content into a selling powerhouse.