Jason Myers

Why B2B CMOs Are Struggling With Content Marketing

Making the Case for Content Marketing

They don’t understand the sales process well enough Marketing’s purpose in the past was to drive branding and awareness about the company and services. Brand recognition was enough for salespeople to get their foot in the door. But branding and awareness is tactic-driven—we’re going to do an ad campaign here, go to a trade show there, send out direct mail or emails this month, and so on. The rules of engagement have changed. People won’t tolerate the perception of being “sold to.” They won’t tolerate disruption unless it adds significant value. And they won’t talk to a salesperson until they’re good and ready. Because of this, simply making a larger investment in marketing tactics won’t get you where you need to go in the digital world.

The Fix: Sales and Marketing alignment

A strong sales culture with an emphasis on prospecting is still appropriate, but marketing’s role must be diverted away from tactics that create branding and awareness and more toward lead generation and lead intelligence for sales. Marketing’s focus in B2B companies should be to drive one-to-one conversations digitally, helping to supplement the sales person’s ability to prospect and qualify. That requires a flywheel of good content, just like publishing a magazine or newspaper. If your content stops, so do your conversations. That’s not a set of projects, it’s a new mindset.
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They don’t know how to buy content services

Marketers know how to buy tactics, they know how to submit RFPs for website redesigns, branding campaigns, advertising spend, and trade show participation. But when they start moving away from tactics, many don’t know where to start. And to make matters worse, they’ve had bad experiences with outsourcing tactics to agencies in the past for the same reasons. Typically the agency wants to steer them in an area of their core expertise (tactic) — whether that’s SEO, advertising, or web development — as opposed to overall strategy, which is to fully understand the audience, why they are looking for solutions, and how to get content in front of them so that sales can get engaged in conversations they wouldn’t have known about previously.

The Fix: Choose a digital marketing partner that understands the role of content in generating sales

When choosing a digital marketing partner to help you transition to content, the following capabilities are paramount:
  1. An understanding of the role of content in the sales process.
  2. A well-rounded set of skills available in-house and fractional to the agency.
  3. Understanding of analytical measurements beyond branding and SEO.
  4. Examples and case studies of similar work.
  5. Superior research capabilities and an understanding of audience personas and how to map their buying journey.
 

They grossly underestimate the costs and work involved to create the flywheel

Gone are the days of publishing a few blog posts and having people find you. There’s so much content now, you’ve got to do better. That means more authenticity, more knowledge and more specificity. Remember, it’s about driving one-to-one interactions digitally and not about broadcasting a message to a broad audience and seeing what sticks. (That’s so last century.)

The Fix: Commit

Again, content marketing is not about assigning tactics to marketing. It requires a constant diligence of understanding the reader, what their issues are, and how you can remain relevant. The consultative sales conversation is all about finding painpoints (and prescribing solutions) and so is marketing now. To get attention at the top of the funnel, you must focus on pain, pain, pain. I’m amazed at how many marketers say they understand this concept, but in practice defer to talking about products and services. One way to fix this is to put marketers through sales training where they’re taught to listen for pain points and only prescribe solutions when you get into a qualified conversation.  

They’re measuring the wrong things

I get asked a lot if content marketing will really work in B2B. The short answer is yes, but it’s not a magic bullet. The long answer is that just like any other successful initiative, the organization has to be committed to the long term, willing to make smart investments, align marketing and sales with a common goal of revenue growth, and above all, be willing to admit that what they’ve been doing in the past is not working. Marketers have traditionally cared about page views, average length of stay on the page, and conversions. All important, but these stats only give you insight at the campaign level. Again, we’re ultimately not trying to measure branding and awareness impact—we want to know how it impacts the ability of sales to get in front of more prospects and close more deals.

The Fix: Measure conversions and track through the sales process

To know whether or not your marketing is having an impact, we need to be able to track how a lead becomes a sale (for the Schoolhouse Rock fans, that could be a good parody!) that will tell you where to invest money appropriately. Start by answering two questions:
  1. Can you accurately measure your sales process now? In other words, where are your deals coming from now, and what percentage of them do you close?

  2. Do you have the technology in place such as marketing automation and a CRM, and do your sales people actually use it?

If you’ve answered yes to both of those questions, then it should be relatively easy to track some significant numbers that will tell you exactly where to spend money and what needs to be fixed. For example, if you’re generating plenty of leads every month, and the statistics show that you should be closing X number of deals, but you’re not, you’ve got a sales problem. If you’re closing a large majority of leads that come from various sources, but you don’t have enough “at bats” to move the revenue forward, you’ve got a marketing problem. And the measurement can even get more granular. You should be able to add up all of the money you spend on marketing and sales people, divide it by the number of customers you got that year (your customer acquisition costs), and then determine based on how many leads you generated, how much each one of those cost you (and what it’s worth to you). Content marketing done correctly should be completely measureable, giving you the ability to know where you’re going to have the best return on investment.  

They don’t really have the buy-in

Typically in sales-oriented cultures, marketing in any form is a tough sell. Most CEOs that have built their businesses by hiring more salespeople to sink or swim have had bad experiences. Whether outsourcing marketing tactics to agencies or assigning them to marketing, CEOs have trouble partitioning what actually produced sales and what didn’t. See John Wanamaker’s quote: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” So how do you sell the value of content marketing?

The Fix: It’s in the marketing team’s hands

Marketers—here’s your chance to take a cue from the consultative sales person–put your executives in pain. A good salesperson knows that if a prospect is not in enough pain, and committed to solving the problem, they’re never going to buy. Point out expenditures that are definitely not working and how that money can be diverted into a content program. Examine the roles of salespeople and if their time is being used efficiently or not. Research why customers have bought from you in the past and develop content specifically for those individuals. But most importantly, put the measurements in place that cannot be argued. Because if you can prove, even on a small scale, that marketing led to sales conversations that they would never have known about, it’ll be much easier to shift efforts in your direction.]]>

Solve Your B2B Sales Problem With Content Marketing

Making the case for B2B content marketing

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Rethinking your sales and marketing

A strong sales culture with an emphasis on prospecting is still appropriate, but marketing’s role must be diverted away from tactics that create branding and awareness and toward lead generation and lead intelligence for sales. Put another way, marketing’s focus should be to drive one-to-one conversations digitally, helping to supplement the sales person’s ability to prospect and qualify. Doing this correctly is not a simple fix. And it’s not a series of projects that can be assigned to marketing either. It requires a complete rethinking in the way that we approach marketing. Marketing must be aligned with sales in B2B companies with a complex sale if they’re going to grow revenue— period. Its new role can be better defined as generating interest for sales through content that adds value, creates experience, and provides thought leadership to generate conversations at all stages of the sales funnel. In other words, marketing needs to drive one-to-one sales conversations digitally.

The case for content

It is now marketing’s burden to build as much of that trust online as possible by providing thought leadership and other forms of engaging content that creates a unique experience for the consumer. It starts with the creation of content that is going to identify some lead intelligence on a prospect when they interact with it, which is why the content strategy and mapping to the sales process is so important. When marketing produces great content such as a compelling white paper, it can replace some of what the traditional sales professional used to be able to do on their own by knocking on doors, making cold calls, and attending networking events and conferences.

Getting to know your customer

Before you start pumping out blogs and buying marketing automation systems, it’s time to get to know your audience. Involve every part of your team, from customer service, to account leads, to executives. They all know something about the customer that you don’t. The hard truth for many business owners is that no one cares about you. They care about their own problems, and if you have something that can solve it, they’ll be all ears. For a step-by-step guide on creating a content strategy Download our workbook “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy.”

Sales and marketing unite

A good sales prospector should be able to use marketing’s support in the digital world to prioritize his or her prospecting efforts. Content marketing programs done in conjunction with sales creates significant lead intelligence to warm up calls and help the salesperson to prioritize their efforts.
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5 Ways Your Marketing Team is Missing Sales Opportunities

5 reasons your marketing is missing sales opportunities

1. Put your content strategy first, branding second. If you’re still marketing from the standpoint of building brand awareness, stop. No one cares about you, your products, your tagline, or your brand—at least, not yet. They care about the fact that they have a problem they must solve, and if they don’t, they might lose their job. If you can solve that problem, then they’ll talk to you. Today’s marketing must focus on digitally replacing some of the sales conversations that sales people used to be able to get on their own. And so the idea of mass marketing is out. People don’t want to be sold to, and they won’t tolerate disruption (which is why Netflix, HBO and Amazon are quickly replacing cable subscriptions.) Branding comes ONLY as a side benefit of a content strategy that focuses on thought leadership and creates experience. In other words, if your content is worth reading, they’ll watch out for your emails and blog posts, and may even reach out to you directly if they think you can solve their problem. And when it happens that way, it’s awesome. I’ve seen numerous situations where someone has read a blog post, picked up the phone, and became a client that day. But since they don’t all work quite that smoothly, you need to focus on lead intelligence, which brings us to:

2. Your conversions aren’t really providing lead intelligence.

People are coming to your website, reading your blogs, and downloading your white papers—but they’re not (and will never be) prospects. If that’s the case, the reason probably comes down to the fact that your conversion asset doesn’t provide any real lead intelligence. Your gated assets are your most powerful opportunities to convert anonymous web traffic into audience—but it can’t just be any piece of content. Obviously, the more value it provides, the better the leads—but that’s still not enough. Whatever it is, it must speak directly to the typical pain points a customer has (and that you can solve) so it triggers a sales conversation either now, or in the future. Remember, it’s not about volume, mass media marketing anymore—it’s about finding the individuals that are sitting at their desks, wondering how they are going to solve a problem. To start:
  • What are the things that keep your prospects up at night?
  • What are some of the typical business challenges they face and are trying to solve?
  • As they’re exploring solutions to those business problems, what are the things they’ll care about throughout their buying process? (For example, are they an early stage shopper, are they looking at vendors, or are they actually narrowing down their selection?)
And here’s the other problem—if the asset that lives on the other side of that gate is crap, the reader might feel tricked and never visit your site again. One of the biggest signs that you’re producing crappy content is that:

3. Your content isn’t fully integrated with your sales process.

Speaking of typical pain points and buying triggers, if you’re not putting out regular content that speaks to these issues on a regular basis for readers to find, you’re missing opportunities. Usually, this happens when marketing still operates within the silo of branding and awareness rather than getting their content topics directly from sales. Sales people are at the front lines of customer and prospect interactions. They know what causes people to look for solutions like theirs, and if marketing isn’t helping to identify more at every stage of the funnel, sales is left to do it on their own, and will most likely miss quota. This won’t work if you’re just assigning blogs, articles and white papers as tactics to marketing. It requires an ongoing process of listening and developing content that meets the pains and objections of prospects on a regular basis. If marketing is producing content this way, and sales isn’t using it to open doors, then that’s another problem, which leads to:

4. Sales and business development are not educated on how to use content to their advantage.

Vendors have far less control over the sales process than they used to. It’s a hard truth for the salesperson who always thought they were awesome at prospecting. They used to be the gatekeepers of information about the products and services from the company. But now, the buyer has significantly more control. They buy when they’re good and ready, and prefer to do research on their own before engaging with a sales person. But when they do, it’s usually a higher level of engagement. “Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle,” Lori Wizdo from Forrester said. “In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told us that they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.” That has also led to the expansion of marketing’s responsibility for the full life cycle of the consumer, and the complexity brought on by all of the different channels. But one of the biggest mistakes that sales people make today is to simply reject marketing’s leads because they aren’t ready at that time to take a meeting. Building an engaged audience means that we’re nurturing prospects with relevant content over time, and when they’re ready, they’ll be receptive to your call. The bottom line for sales people is that it’s not about the number of touches anymore. It’s about how you use the lead intelligence collected by marketing in various formats to prioritize your outreach that will lead to sales conversations based on known problems that you can solve.

5. You don’t have the right collection and analysis tools in place.

In the B2B world, if you’re just sending out emails and tracking open and click-through rates, you’re missing opportunities. For this whole thing to work, you need a marketing automation system combined with a Customer Relationship Management tool to track all digital behavior by that prospect over time. For example, as a sales person, I want to pull up a lead record in the CRM and see everything that prospect has engaged with. This information arms me with several follow up ideas based on what they’ve clicked that might lead to a sales conversation. I also know what else in my content library I have at my disposal to send them and nurture them down a path to buying. Here are some examples of what today’s B2B sales person wants to see for each lead record:
  • Web pages they’ve viewed, webinars they’ve attended, white papers they’ve downloaded, newsletter articles they’ve clicked on, etc. These things provide the sales person with an indication of what to talk about and provide insight.
  • Once a qualifying sales conversation has taken place, who is involved in the decision? What’s their buying process? What’s their timeframe?
  • How far down the sales cycle are they? Are they just starting to research or are they down to vendor selection?
Now that you have some insight into how sales and marketing should work together, it’s time to get to work on your content strategy. Marketing should work hand-in-hand with sales to produce highly relevant content to bring in the most qualified leads.
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The Superior Brand Experience Doesn’t Mention a Brand at all

Magic 8 ball in a maze reading 'revamp your brand'

Ask any digital marketer what it means to create an experience and you’ll probably get a different answer every time. But as marketers, our job is to figure out how creating an ‘experience’ applies to our customers and prospects, or else our engagement efforts will fall short.

The most forward thinking brands create engagement because they have an innate understanding of their audience and what it takes to get their attention. So whether you’re B2B, B2C, or a combination of both, it all comes down to how well you know your buyer.

True that if you’re a big brand with huge dollars to pour into branding campaigns, it becomes part of the overall marketing mix. But with some evidence that advertising is continuing to have diminishing returns, many of the large brands are adopting big time content strategies.

Behaving like a media company

In the content marketing world, we like to use Red Bull as the premier example in that they’ve come out and said publicly that they’re a media company and not a products company. When on their website, you have to dig pretty deep to find information about the energy drink amidst videos and events focusing on extreme sports. In fact, Red Bull has their own channel on Apple TV — now that’s creating an experience.

Yes, the athletes are wearing Red Bull logos. But that’s about the extent that it’s about them.

Going full media company is probably too extreme for most brands, but you do need to at least marry old line marketing services with more media company tactics.

Think about how a magazine works for example. A magazine has a narrative that’s based on what their readers want. They then map content to those wants.

Thinking experiential in our campaigns

If full-blown media company is too much to fathom, we simply need to adjust our thinking at the campaign level. What can we do to engage our prospective customers in such a way that we generate an experience AND communicate our brand messages?

One great example is a campaign that GAF did to engage their channel partners. If you’ve ever worked with channel partners, you know how difficult it is to get them to pay attention to you, let alone the cost of sending reps out to give their spiel that’s destined to fall on deaf ears.

GAF wanted their Home Depot reps to know six basic things about their roofing material when recommending it to customers. So what did they do?

They created a digital game that incorporated the basic messages they needed to hammer home. To add to the incentive, they offered a store-wide pizza party for the winning Home Depot location after three months of play.

The result was an unheard of 10-minute average user engagement! Talk about creating experience.

The editorial mission statement

So how do you go about creating a more engaging campaign for your customers? A clear and defined editorial mission statement, to start.

Check out the following mission statements from Forbes Media and Cooking Light:

  • Forbes Media is a global media, branding, and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and affluent lifestyles.
  • Cooking Light empowers people to cook more for good health. Built with fresh, accessible ingredients and weeknight-friendly techniques, our recipes enable busy home cooks to make healthy and delicious food choices for their families. Our modern approach to cooking and eating healthfully allows everyone to enjoy all the foods they love in a balanced and mindful way.

Notice that these statements are NOT the mission for the company. They are also not the brand missions. The biggest difference is that company mission statements are about what the brand aspires to be (about the company) and an editorial mission statement is about what the niche audience wants (about them).

[Tweet “Editorial mission statements are about what the niche audience wants.”]

Noticing a trend here? It’s not about us anymore. It’s about the audience.

Why is an editorial mission statement important? Prioritization of content. It keeps you on track for what you should be publishing and what you should not.

With established brands, sometimes the brand strategy gets in the way of what you should be developing to engage your audience. You don’t clearly understand the “who” and the “why” for your content and your brand. Not only does this provide a lackluster and inconsistent experience for your audience members, but it can make you feel like you are creating content for everyone that satisfies no one.

The point is to add value to your prospects and create an experience—that’s what gets them to engage with your brand in the modern digital era.

Creating a more effective customer engagement strategy is certainly not easy — it’s something that we spend all day every day thinking about for our clients and customers. But we do know the foundation of a superior brand experience: keep your brand out of it.

[Tweet “The foundation of a superior brand experience: keep your brand out of it.”]

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