August 10, 2020

How to Identify and Fix Problems in Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

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While many B2B companies were deploying some form of content marketing before the term was popularized, the idea of a holistic content strategy that is planned alongside other marketing initiatives like sales enablement, website content and design, customer success, demand generation, and more, is relatively recent.

Like most modern marketing tactics, your content marketing strategy generates data that can help you judge its health. Exactly what you measure and how you use the data will depend on the platforms and tools you use to create, publish, and measure content performance, as well as the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’re using to measure effectiveness.

If your results indicate that your content marketing program is performing poorly, this guide can help you diagnose and treat the problem(s).

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Table of Contents

  1. Symptom: Your content is too product focused
  2. Symptom: Your content marketing feels stale and uninspired
  3. Symptom: You’re having difficulty scaling content creation
  4. Symptom: You can’t measure the ROI of your content strategy
  5. Symptom: You’re having trouble distributing your content
  6. Symptom: You’re having trouble differentiating your content
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Symptom: Your content marketing is too focused on your products

It’s natural for marketers to focus on products because marketers are increasingly measured by how much product they help sell. Your audience, however, needs more than product information. Let’s face it, most of the information about your product features and specs is already available online. To build and maintain a relationship with your business, they need more.

Treatment

Start by looking at the structure of your team and the sources of your content. If most of your content is being developed by product marketing, for example, there’s a very good chance it’s going to focus mostly on product. That’s their job.

Content that doesn’t directly discuss products – which includes top-of-the-funnel topics like thought leadership, your company culture, important trends for your audience – plays an important role in developing and maintaining relationships and growing your customer base. Identifying people who have something to say beyond your go-to-market messaging will help you diversify your content and uncover new opportunities to talk to your audience.

Product-heavy content can also be a sign that your content strategy is too focused on the short term. Monthly and quarterly revenue and pipeline goals often cause marketers to focus on their products. It’s a perfectly natural reaction. But content marketing works best when it focuses on the long game, or perhaps more accurately, the long and short games.

Using content to showcase thought leadership and express empathy for the challenges your audience encounters is about building relationships. And relationships are the secret to growing business and growing your accounts.

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Symptoms: Your content marketing feels stale and uninspired

Developing a content strategy that covers multiple avenues for distribution, like your website, email, social, and more, is not an easy task. Finding the inspiration and information to keep your content fresh requires you to be constantly on the lookout for things you can turn into content.

Treatment

You’re creating content for your customers and prospects, so creating a feedback loop that gives you visibility into what they want to hear is an important part of identifying topics for your content.

The pain points that your products and services are looking to solve are a natural place to start. People research products because they have a problem to solve, so understanding those problems is perhaps the most important element to creating content that engages your audience. Your market research, your sales team, and others in the marketing organization (like product marketers) can provide the visibility you need into the pain points you want to address.

The objections and questions that your sales team faces as prospects move along the buyers’ journey are another good source of information. Communicate regularly with your sales team to stay up to date with what they’re hearing. Prospects do a tremendous amount of research online and often work to avoid sales teams for as long as possible. Content that can address their objections and answer their questions will better position your brand.

User groups are another excellent source of content ideas. The people who use your products and services can tell you what they like, what they need, and why and how they save money, drive innovation, increase efficiency… whatever it is they’re looking to do.

Help desk requests and service tickets are another good source of information you can turn into content. Do certain features seem to cause confusion? That’s not only valuable information for your product managers, but for your content as well. You can, for example, quickly create a blog post or an online article to help sort out any confusion and provide more detailed information for users.

Symptom: You’re having difficulty scaling your content creation

Content marketers are asked to create a lot of content: website content, content for lead generation, blog posts, nurture emails, social posts, thought leadership, and the list goes on. How are you supposed to scale your content creation to meet all of these goals?

Treatment

The good news is there’s never been a better time to find people to create content. The bad news is there’s never been a better time to find people to create content.

Changes in the media industry mean there are a lot of experienced content creators available for hire. As with any potential partnership, you need to thoroughly vet them. You’re likely to see very different approaches to compensation, process, and more. It’s a matter of finding the right content creator for you.

One source of content creation is your existing partners. At TechnologyAdvice, we create content in any number of formats to help our clients meet their marketing needs. Your customers are another good source of content, whether it’s for a case study, an audio or video conversation about the industry, or a roundtable discussion. To learn more about what TechnologyAdvice offers, visit our Content Solutions page.

Finally, one approach to scaling your content that we recommend is what we call the Pillar Approach. In the Pillar Approach to content, you create one long-form piece of content — for example, a video roundtable discussion – and use that longer piece to help you create a number of short pieces in various formats. Your long-form video can be broken into a number of shorter videos and soundbites, you can extract the audio file for a podcast, create a paper based on the discussion, use the insights in the video to create social media content, and the list goes on.

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Symptom: You can’t measure the ROI on your content marketing

We’re in a data-crazy world, so you need to measure the return you’re getting on your content investment. The key to ROI is visibility. If you can identify what the audience is reading and what actions, if any, they are taking after they engage with your content, you can begin to understand how your content creates repeat visitors, prospects, and customers. If you don’t have visibility into your content performance and audience actions, you’ll be unable to accurately measure your ROI.

Treatment

You can help measure your ROI by using the right tools. Go beyond simply measuring eyeballs by using some type of marketing automation software like Hubspot, Eloqua, or Marketo.

Measuring how many views a blog post receives is not terribly difficult for most people. But understanding how those viewers found the blog post (search, social, etc.) and what they did afterwards – fill out a form, click on a CTA, have a phone call, etc. — is how you really paint a picture of how your prospects are using your content (or not).

The data generated by these platforms can help guide your content strategy across media platforms, including email and social. It can also help you determine the formats and subjects of the content you need to create to help drive your prospects further along the buyers’ journey.

Symptom: You’re having trouble getting your content in front of your audience

It’s a crowded market and B2B buyers are bombarded by messages. As a marketer, you can’t get a return on your marketing content if no one sees the material you’re creating.

Treatment

Broadly speaking, there are a pair of treatment options available that can work together to help get your content in front of eyeballs: organic and paid distribution.

Organic is the distribution you don’t directly pay for; foremost among the tactics here are your website and unpaid social media, as well as your email newsletter. Unlocking the content on your website is a job for search engine optimization (SEO). Your social media accounts and your email newsletter are your proactive forms of distributing content.

Paid reach consists of your search engine marketing (SEM) and paid social media, whereby you target the users and topics most relevant to the people you want to reach and pay for the distribution to help reach them.

Most content marketers are well aware of their organic and paid options. Another tactic to explore is working with your business development and sales teams to make sure they understand the content pieces that are available to them and how they can use them.

Whether in their prospecting emails or during conversation with clients and potential customers, your sales team should be able to easily locate and distribute content relevant to the conversations they are having. It’s also important to establish a feedback loop, because you can use information about what’s performing, what isn’t performing, and the gaps in your coverage to help inform your content strategy.

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Symptom: You’re having trouble differentiating your content from other content in the market

In a big, noisy market like B2B, vendors create a lot of content. For both readers and vendors, differentiation can become a serious problem. When the readers find it difficult to keep your content straight from another vendor’s content – or if they start automatically tuning out a lot of content sent to them because it all sounds alike – then you have an issue with differentiation.

Treatment

There are three areas to explore if you’re trying to improve your differentiation:

  • The voice you use in your content
  • The topics you choose
  • The content formats you use

The voice of a company is often determined as part of its larger brand strategy. Is your voice more formal? Is it irreverent? But even within a brand, certain elements can use a different voice. A specific newsletter or campaign doesn’t need to match up with the overall brand voice if it’s trying to stand out or target a different prospect. Your voice will likely differ, for example, when you target senior executives, compared to software developers.

The second area concerns the topics you write about. One of the biggest differentiators for many organizations is their people and their ideas. In many markets, your products are only going to differentiate you for so long before your competition catches up. Your people, on the other hand, are your people, and no one else has them or their ideas.

Ask yourself if the topics you cover in your content tell stories and provoke an emotion, like empathy or curiosity from your readers. In a world full of thinly (and not-so-thinly) veiled product pitches, talking about something other than your product will help you differentiate. It’s also important to consider the challenges and pain points your prospects are facing. This includes the challenges your company can help them meet, and other challenges around strategy, people, and more. People and organizations are multi-dimensional. Strive to address as many of their dimensions as possible.

Finally, explore the formats you’re using to create content. Marketing today is about experiences, a point from the B2C world that B2B marketers are starting to pick up on. Experiences are more memorable than static content. They can be more visual, but they can also be multimedia in nature, using audio and or video to tell a story. In a world awash in whitepapers, most of which have nothing in common but their label, creating an experience is an important part of differentiating your content.

To learn more about how TechnologyAdvice can help you overcome our B2B content challenges, visit our Content Solutions page.