Quality AND Quantity? A Plea for Content to Do Better
June 19, 2018 | Melissa Nazar
When I was a young content professional, or more accurately, when I was a young marketing professional (since content marketing as a job wasn’t really a thing then) creating good, engaging content was pretty simple.
It was a straightforward process: Write some stuff, make it pretty, educate your audience without selling. And as long as you filled your content with keywords and sent out a couple of emails about it, you would drive solid engagement.
It was a glorious and seemingly distant time, the earliest years of content taking foothold as a real career, back when just the idea of creating a well-designed “definitive guide to [insert your industry]” would get you a hearty pat on the back from your marketing leadership and plenty of downloads by your prospects.
And if you sprinkled in a well-designed infographic? That was the kind of revolutionary idea that would blow the doors off, impressing my boss and getting another step closer to a coveted promotion.
Demand gen masters the formula
At the same time, B2B demand gen marketers were on their own parallel journey, alongside the content boom. They realized that you could actually use content to fuel demand.
The formula was simple:
And it worked. Really, really well.
Suddenly, content wasn’t just a branding and awareness exercise – it was married to demand. B2B companies were hiring content marketers and strategists in droves.
The need was clear – companies wanted to crank out content to supply their demand engines. All those newsletters and webinars and nurture streams and other programs all required content, and a LOT of it!
The content boom was in full swing.
The content explosion ruined everything
The new wave of content meant prospective buyers were seeing lots of informative, educational, fun content and insights from vendors across the board.
Which is great… until you think about just how much content that means.
Think about all the possible B2B vendors out there. Each one of them internalized these best practices and was creating content and driving them through similar demand gen machines.
Every. Single. One.
There’s so much content out there, in so many different flavors – everything from blogs to video to interactive (oh, hey SnapApp). You name the topic, and you’re likely one or two quick Google searches away from finding relevant ebooks and white papers to guide you.
And all of that evolution means that the model B2B marketing invested so much time and money in isn’t working like it used to.
Content teams can’t just expect nice design and clever words to drive engagement. And demand gen teams can’t get away with promising unicorns and rainbows in exchange for contact details, blood type and your first born via a lead gate.
B2B marketing today is broken
In a world where B2B marketers are increasingly being asked to deliver on revenue-based metrics, not being able to capture qualified leads as predictably as in the past presents a major problem. And it’s left demand gen marketers freaking out.
Prospects aren’t engaging with content, so programs aren’t converting. MQL and opportunity targets are missed. Sales gets mad, and demands more leads. Demand gen panics and spins its wheels searching for new ideas.
“We need more video!”
“We need verticalized content!”
“We need content to support ABM!”
“We need funny copy for stickers at shows!” (that’s a real one)
“We just need MORE STUFF.”
And the content team rushes to spin up content to support these new demands, without really thinking about what will truly solve the problem.
Luckily I’ve been blessed to work with some of the best DG professionals in the biz (shout outs to Daniel, Vanessa and David) who have been much more thoughtful about what they need to support their efforts.
Me and SnapApp’s Director of DG David Cunningham showcase the true meaning of content-DG alignment.
But this is a story I’ve heard echoed over and over by my friends in the industry.
And it’s not only that our friends in demand need help – content is a shared resource across companies, supporting everything from product marketing, to sales enablement, to executive presentations. The result is we end up doing lots of stuff but we’re not really solving the larger problem – meeting the revenue-focused goals we’re getting bonused on (coming soon – our research on the unsung heroes of marketing and what they’re measured on).
We need to find a way make good content at scale that is accessible to all parts of an organization, while also keeping the integrity and creativity of what makes a content professional so awesome.
Making content better: My manifesto (and a plea)
Enough is enough.
We need to do better. And stop making things so hard on ourselves.
In B2B content, it feels like there are two content professionals you could potentially be:
1) The stifled creative who is coming up with off the wall, interesting ideas… but they aren’t relevant or can’t be tied to any real goals.
2) The mired in metrics strategist who is at the beck and call of the needs of DG and sales, and never comes up with anything innovative or engaging.
It’s a false choice. You need to find a way to be both. And find ways to serve all of the needs, all of the realities of being a content professional today.
Which brings me to my three key pillars for surviving (and thriving) when building out content today:
1) Simplify, simplify, simplify. Think Occam’s Razor – the solution that makes the fewest assumptions, the simplest one, is usually right. The content you create doesn’t need to always be the most creative, the most beautiful, or the most comprehensive. Elegant, simple, to-the-point solutions also can have lasting impact. Keeping it simple gives you more time to do more, and to do better.
Something we’ve recently been experimenting with is the streamlining how we tell customer stories. For example, we took one of our existing customer stories about Paycor’s interactive journey and rethought the experience. Instead of sticking to a traditional long-form case study, we created a quick interactive version that simplified the message.The content is simple, and easy-to-digest, but it is also very clear about the value Paycor gets through interactive. The app also isn’t over thought or overly designed – it gets the point across in a very direct way, and is easily repeatable for future content.
2) Create balance in your efforts. Thought leadership. Customer marketing. Demand generation. Sales enablement. And so much more. Everyone wants a piece of a content team, so finding the right balance of things is essential. The key is figuring out how core pieces of content you create can serve multiple needs. That guide you’re creating for a demand gen campaign – could it also serve as a tool for customers? Repurpose and reuse wherever you can.
Another way of finding balance is by providing resources that can help make other teams for self sufficient in creating a customizing content for their needs. For example, instead of creating specific slide decks to support sales enablement efforts, why not create a comprehensive resource page on an internal wiki that houses messaging, examples, stats, and more? In this way, you allow different teams to find the materials they need quickly and easily, without overburdening content resources.
3) Make it useful, make it matter.While giving your audience useful, relevant content is a no brainer, making it hyper-targeted is a challenge – unless you just flat out ask people what they want next.One of the biggest problems with B2B marketing today is that we just assume things about our prospects based on things like their titles and certain activities (what web pages they visited, what they download, etc.). But at no point in the standard B2B marketing engine are we really asking what our audience members want to do.
Imagine you just asked what a prospect wanted from you next? Wouldn’t it be much easier to serve up relevant content or follow-up activities? At SnapApp, we do this following events and webinars. Instead of just assuming what a booth visitor or registrant wants for follow-up, we just ask, using a simple SnapApp experience. Not only does our audience respond well to it, but also those that actually say they want to talk to us via the content convert at a higher rate than other prospects – we qualify them faster because we just ask what we want to know.
Content colleagues: This is a call to arms. We need not fear the move to more revenue-based metrics and the increased demands on our tme and resources. Content is being seen as more of a strategic investment than ever before. Let’s take advantage and see it for the opportunity that it is to do even more interesting, and valuable work.