According to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute, summarized here, 89 percent of B2B marketers say they are using content marketing, and 62 percent believe their efforts are now more effective than a year ago. In short, “A majority of B2B marketers rate content marketing as being an increasingly successful marketing tactic, but only with a clear strategy in place and a commitment to follow it through.”
However, the report also noted that many marketers continue to struggle with a “lack of time, absence of strategy, inadequate budget, low priority” in their content marketing efforts.
The Challenge is Change
Why the disconnect? Reasons vary from one organization to the next, but a common culprit is, very simply: Change.
Creating and executing a content marketing strategy would be so much easier if nothing changed. You’d develop buyer personas, map out their buying decision process, plan content for each stage based on your current products and services, then produce and promote the planned content.
But of course, things do change. Constantly. Even if nothing changed inside your company, external changes alone would upset the best-laid content marketing plans.
Buyer needs and preferences change. The way they find information changes (e.g., greater use of voice search on mobile devices, migration from Twitter to Instagram, etc.). Competitors upgrade their offerings and change pricing. Entirely new types of competitors enter the market. And so on.
The Enemy is Us
But as challenging as competitors, technological change, and market forces can be to maintaining a coherent content marketing strategy, it is internal change that is often the most disruptive. As Walt Kelly’s famous Pogo cartoon reflected, we (broadly speaking, across the business) inadvertently build many of our own obstacles to content marketing success.
Lack of time, budget, and strategy may be identified as key challenges, but the underlying causes often run deeper. The issue is often not so much a lack of content (or time and money to produce it), but rather too much or not enough of the right kinds of content.
Marketing and product content can easily get out of balance in situations where:
- A company has grown rapidly (particularly if the growth is through M&A activity)
- A company has had significant internal turnover on the marketing or product management team
- There’s been turnover or change in the agencies and/or contractors the marketing team works with
- There’s been significant change in product structure (i.e., one product split into several, or separate products rolled into a “suite”) or format (e.g., a shift from on-premises applications to a SaaS offering)
- A company is highly decentralized, with different business units / regions / product groups operating largely independently of each other
Audits and Funnels to the Rescue
If you suspect a content imbalance exists, the first step is to conduct a content audit. Start by creating a template in Excel or your favorite project management tool to capture your findings. Among the types of data to log for each content asset are:
Location: Where is the asset stored—in a central marketing content repository? (Does your company even have one of these?) On a shared network drive? On a shared cloud storage service (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box)?
Format: What type of asset is it: a white paper, infographic, video, eBook, presentation, etc.?
Title and Description: What’s the content about? Capture enough detail that someone who has never seen the asset could make reasonable judgments about when and how to use it. For indexing purposes, particularly if you’ve got a lot of content, you may also want to include tags or keywords.
Disposition: Is the content ready to use as is, or is updating required? You’ll also need to decide how to handle content that’s obsolete: depending on company policy and any applicable industry regulations, you may choose to keep a record of it and archive it—or just get rid of it.
You may want to ask additional questions about the content, such as whether it is search optimized and has a consistent voice.
Finally, one of the most crucial characteristics to capture is the stage of the purchase funnel where each piece of content applies: top (awareness), middle (evaluation), or bottom (conversion), also known as TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content.
The goals at the top of the funnel are to raise awareness among prospects that they have a problem, and there is a solution. TOFU content typically includes:
- Blog posts
- Social media updates
- Video (introductory, concept-oriented)
In the middle of the funnel, prospective customers understand your product may solve their problem(s)—but so will competitive offerings. So the goal here is to assist with evaluation and differentiate your brand. As HubSpot describes it:
“People in the middle of your sales funnel are likely to be looking to you for content showing that you’re the experts in your industry. That’s why the most effective types of content in the evaluation stage are things like expert guides, webinars, live interactions, and whitepapers that compare your features and benefits with that of your competitors.”
MOFU content may also include:
- Free trials
- Case studies
At the bottom of the funnel, some of the content from the MOFU stage still applies (comparisons, webinars, trials) but BOFU content will also include:
- Industry-specific case studies
- Detailed product specifications
- ROI calculators
- Product-in-use videos
- And even price quotes
What’s most important at the bottom of the funnel is to provide content that is personalized and (if possible) interactive.
The complete content audit will reveal where you’re in good shape, and where new, updated, or different content is needed. What’s frustrating your content marketing success may turn out to be not so much a lack of time or budget, but a focus on the wrong areas.
Content marketing success isn’t about having more content—it’s having the right content. A content marketing audit, with all assets mapped to their stage(s) in the sales funnel, can reveal gaps and help get your content marketing strategy back on track.
At least until the world changes again.