Death to Saying “Content Marketing is Dead”
July 3, 2018 | Aubrey Harper
This is guest post comes from Aubrey Harper, resident blog expert, word nerd, and Marketing Manager at Kapost, where content operations reign supreme and puppies are invited to work.
If you follow any marketing blogs or newsletters, you’ve probably stumbled across an article with the shocking title: “Content Marketing Is Dead.” In fact, depending on how long you’ve been following the conversation, you’ve probably heard something like this:
“Content marketing is dead.”
“Actually, we just need to rethink content marketing.”
“Wait, it actually might be dead.”
“I take that back, don’t talk about content marketing anymore.”
The latest and greatest comes from Gartner in the Magic QuadrantTM for Content Marketing Platforms (March 2018): “By 2021, the term ‘content marketing’ will be defunct as all marketing content rises to the high-quality expectations of attention-limited audiences.”
Here’s what I want to focus on: These predictions are all claiming the death of the way many brands have thought about content—not content itself. Gartner levels up the conversation by explaining the importance of quality in all marketing content. Gone are the days of thinking of marketing content as simply top-of-the-funnel, viral social posts to draw in massive lists with little to no qualification.
The fact of the matter is that content marketing efforts like social media, eBooks, blogs (ahem, like this one), and the like aren’t about to combust thanks to negative ROI.
However, content is changing.
It must be smarter, more targeted, and capable of educating prospects to become buyers. So, if we’re to forget “the term ‘content marketing,’” what does that leave marketers with? At Kapost, we’ve come to call it a content operation.
A content operation is the set of processes, people, and technologies for strategically planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content. More importantly, it’s content marketing’s older and wiser sibling, and the direction most marketing organizations are heading with their content.
The Future of Content
In the digital age, marketers must think of content as the storefront of their B2B organization. Lacking a physical storefront, content serves as the face of your organization—the digital customer experience by which prospects and customers get to know your company and what you have to offer.
So, let’s agree once and for all: content is not dead. It’s simply maturing into its rightful role within a content operation.
In the transition to a content operation, however, there are a few more statements we can retire:
1. Content Is Only for the Top of the Funnel
I don’t think anyone assumes that once a salesperson makes contact with a potential buyer, the prospect magically stops consuming content. So why would your marketing content be limited to the top of the funnel?
Imagine if we limited our marketing content to exclusively top of funnel prospects—we’d be costing our organization time, resources, retention, and customer satisfaction.
Content is crucial to scaling the customer experience. If content is a B2B storefront, imagine everyone who has direct contact with customers—salespeople, customer advocacy, customer service, and more are all on the floor, ready to engage. And when they’re occupied, it’s the content that keeps prospects engaged. Instead of having to write the same script over and over, they can hand over a video or one-pager to give an on-brand message to prospects and customers alike.
2. Create Content for Everyone
There are two key problems with creating content that appeals to everyone:
- It’s impossible to create targeted content at scale expected by buyers today if you focus on individual people instead of personas.
- You don’t need to talk to everyone—just the stakeholders in the buying decision.
Fully fleshed-out buyer personas are central to a successful content operation. Creating personas comes down to really understanding the day-to-day activities and concerns of the people you’re trying to engage with. The only way to do that is to ask them.
Personalized content must be thought of as persona-lized content because while content creators must hit the heart of every reader’s pain point, it needs to be scalable.
Once you’ve established accurate personas, create all content with a designated strategic context in mind. This is imperative. Overlap several of your most critical contexts—buyer persona and buying stage, for example. For Persona A in Buying Stage 3, you should know exactly what key points to target to really get their attention.
Tagging your content with persona, buying stage, and other critical fields also ensures you’re creating the right amount of content to cover the entire customer experience. Once content is tagged with these key contexts, you can analyze coverage.
Identifying these contexts eliminates the need to create content for everyone because you can see exactly where it’s most needed. Keep in mind that coverage won’t necessarily be even across the board. You can see that Associate AJ has significantly less targeted content—but if they aren’t a key stakeholder in the buying decision, that’s okay.
3. Entice Prospects with Your Product
The days of product-centric content leading the way are over. With so many options, buyers want to feel heard and understood, not pitched.
Since you’ve already established your personas (right?) you likely already have a host of pain points to inspire solution-centric content. Of course, your offering is probably one—and hopefully the best—solution to the pain points you’re discussing. But even more likely, your prospects need some education regarding how to tackle the larger issue at hand, whatever that might be.
Marketing isn’t just creating content that gives the illusion that buyers are in control while we secretly brainwash them. Buyers are too smart—and skeptical—to be fooled by a thinly veiled pitch.
The danger of hitting a lead with product-centric information instead of solution-centric? Lost trust. Once you aren’t a trustworthy source of information, you can bet your product will lose authority.
4. Just Get it Out There
The mentality of “just get it live” needs a makeover. In a recent webinar with SnapApp, I was on a panel of blogging experts, answering questions from fellow marketers about how to run their blog. This was one of my favorite questions:
This question was meant to have a simple, likely numerical answer, but the reality is so much more interesting than that! Here’s what I said:
If, at any point, the volume of blogs you’re producing begins to affect the value the reader gets, you’re doing too much.
This applies to all content, not just blogs. Customer experience relies on content, so a half-baked asset will probably do more harm than good.
A quick disclaimer: Of course, MVPing assets is still valuable, but the standard for “minimally viable product” status has increased. With video and interactive content becoming the new standard, all content must be optimized—but maybe not in the way you’re expecting.
No, not stuffed with keywords until your SEO tracker gives you the green light. Content must be optimized for the customer. That means providing high value in an on-brand way. Creating consistency and value throughout content is an imperative, yet so often gets rushed in order to meet a deadline.
5. Every Asset Must Be Brand New
Content teams are often strapped for resources, so don’t be afraid to use what’s already in your arsenal. There are a couple key ways to work smarter with your content: reuse and repurpose.
Perhaps the simplest of the options, reusing content is simply sending an on-brand asset that was previously launched to prospects who haven’t seen it before. That can mean sending a follow-up email to everyone who didn’t open it the first time or regularly checking to see what high-performing assets should serve as a bridge campaign to new names.
The key to doing this well is picking the right content. If you’re so lucky as to be among the many marketing emails making it out of the promotions tab wasteland and into someone’s inbox, you had better make it an asset that sets you apart from the pack.
Ultimately, you should be constantly promoting your content—via as many channels as applicable. It’s a colossal waste of resources to pour your entire content team into creating a high-value asset and then let it sit around, only being seen by organic traffic.
Repurposing content requires a bit more effort but is infinitely simpler than starting from scratch. Say you have an eBook that’s hugely popular with the Director level, and your coverage is looking a bit sparse for the VP level. Quite possibly, much of the content will be relevant but needs some messaging tweaks to really speak to the new persona. What usually required involvement from multiple stakeholders can now be done with a simple revision process.
Repurposing can also take other forms. Assets that aren’t performing as expected? Do some deep analysis—interviews, metrics analytics, send it to your mother, etc.—and revamp. Instead of wasting the time already spent, you can do a quick clean up and make the asset better targeted.
Another way to repurpose is to break larger assets into smaller pieces. Perhaps every page of an eBook could be a blog with a CTA to download the full eBook, or bits of an infographic could serve as social media teasers.
Evolve Your Content Operation
The conversation around content is changing. Hopefully, the era of seeing “Content Marketing Is Dead” articles is over—though you now have a snarky link to fire back.
But as we move forward, we can’t just ignore content marketing’s history. To content marketing, we can’t say, “No.” The correct answer is, “Yes, and.”
Yes, and targeting content to match buyer personas and strategic contexts that influence buying decisions.
Yes, and constantly analyzing content success based on metrics that matter, like contributions to won deals and engagement across target accounts.
Yes, and using content to truly educate buyers about the best ways to solve their most debilitating problems.
Marketers are constantly being held to higher standards, which is honestly quite exciting. The days of ranking high in Google through keyword stuffing are long over, so it shouldn’t surprise you that half-baked content isn’t going to cut it, either.
Yes, and a content operation.