The Business Marketing Association (BMA), Forrester Research and the Online Marketing Institute recently published a benchmark study on content marketing maturity. Download it here. What surprised me the most was that more than half of the B2B marketers surveyed rated their content marketing practices as mature.
In the report by Laura Ramos of Forrester, she writes that there is a fundamental shift from writing about features and benefits to delivering valuable information that drives business results. For me, the focus is on the delivery of that content. The best content in the world is worthless unless it gets into the right hands, and at the right time, via the right channel and most importantly within the right context to help the customer or prospect accomplish the goal, solve the problem or find the answer to their question. In this report, it appears that the focus is still on creating the content that the brand wants people to view rather than looking first at what their audience is interested in.
Sixty-two percent product content on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Not only does that suggest a heavily weighted focus on acquisition, potentially ignoring the rest of the customer journey, but it also implies that the content is not developed or distributed dynamically to acknowledge and respond to the context of the consumer of the content. If I as a prospect, am in the late stages of making a buying decision and I’m presented with a brand awareness campaign, not only will the content not meet my needs, it will feel like I’m still being “marketed to” which I consistently hear as a complaint from B2B buyers.
Its no surprise that 85% say that their content marketing is only “somewhat effective – or less so – at moving the needle on generating revenue, retaining customers, or winning customers’ long-term loyalty.” Not unlike their B2C cousins, too many B2B marketers still rely on traditional brand awareness efforts to attract new prospects, rather than nurturing people through the customer journey by presenting relevant customer experiences and content at every step along the way and personalized to their specific needs at the moment, or within their context.
What’s the answer? While I agree with all of the recommendations Laura makes in her report, especially consistently incorporating customer feedback into the editorial processes, I think there are two important areas of consideration that have been left off.
First, instead of simply incorporating customer feedback, which is a lagging indicator, get into the habit of conducting ongoing customer insight analysis integrating customer analytics, traditional market research and real-time social intelligence. Start with a clean slate by understanding what your audience(s) is talking about, what matters to them and most importantly what content they are sharing. Sharing is the most definitive metric for measuring the relevance of content. Armed with this insight, align your content production with what your audience(s) are actively interested in. if they’re not interested, if the content is not relevant to their needs and their context, they will not respond and the context will essentially be wasted on them. Which appears to be the case in the vast majority of cases according to the research.
Secondly, once you are armed with the right content, you need to really take a look at your publishing and distribution processes and technology to see if you are really able to get the right content into the right hands at the right time. The good news is that with the improvement in content management systems over the last few years and the integration of various marketing technologies into the emerging marketing clouds being introduced to the market, the availability of technology no longer is an issue. The issue is whether you have the organizational agility to deliver omni-channel distribution and if you have sufficient understanding of your audiences to deliver the right content dynamically leveraging the power of recommendation and decision engines and/or lead nurturing tools that are getting more sophisticated every day.
These two capabilities, dynamic contextual publishing and omni-channel content distribution, are what will propel your company up the content marketing maturity curve and more importantly produce tangible, measurable and repeatable contributions to the business. How do we know, because we’re doing it for a range of Global 1000 clients today, both B2C and B2B and its working for them.