3 Steps To A Killer Content Strategy

Originally posted on Salesforce.com Blog at http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2013/10/killer-content.html   30% of B2B marketing budgets are spent on content according to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report, yet a whopping 50% of vendors’ content is ignored by prospects according to New Business Strategies’ research. You can sidestep this expensive loss of money and prospect-attracting opportunities if you follow this approach: deliver the right content, through the right channels, at the right times for your kind of customers. In our increasingly digital world, most buyers look online for helpful information, often in ways that are invisible to you, yet some don’t have to be. As buyers evaluate a business purchase, they go on a journey that includes evaluating different ways of achieving their objective, researching solutions and getting input from their peers.  Along the way they interact with a lot of content.  Where does vendor content fit into their journey? Vendor content should inform, educate and establish the vendor as a trusted resource throughout in the buyer’s process. The challenge is that vendor content is not as trusted as customer- or peer-generated content.  Even before the white paper is read, the buyer assumes the vendor will be biased and not objective.  The trick is for vendors to understand and deliver a content strategy that takes into account buyer perspectives.  Instead of delivering content that ‘sells’, vendors must adopt a strategy of delivering content that ‘enables’. While the steps that B2B buyers go through are fairly consistent, their specific content needs and expectations are unique to each brand and market-segment.  Vendors with the right content strategy can out-perform their peers in conversion by three-fold or more.  There are three steps to creating a content strategy that drives revenue:

1. Know Your Buyers

The first step in establishing a content strategy is to understand, in detail, your customer’s needs and expectations at each step of their purchase journey. For example, in the journey mapping that New Business Strategies conducted for Good Technology™, during the Search phase buyers looked for information on the pros and cons of different technology architectures. In most cases, prospects just used Google to find the information online. A third party blog post with the right keywords, a technical whitepaper promoted through Google Adwords and a webinar or video on the topic could collectively dominate the search results on this niche topic.  Once the buyers’ journey is discovered and documented, you’re ready to start aligning content to your buyers’ expectations and drive conversion.

 2. Dump What No One Reads

While downloading a white paper might “earn” the buyer 10 points in your marketing automation system, the action is only relevant if the buyer acts on the content and, because of it, goes on to the next step in their journey. When your team understands the buyer’s content needs and expectations at each step of the buyer’s journey they can compare it with current content inventory and do some house-cleaning. Knowing what content buyers need and where they look for it enables content marketers to facilitate strategic, surgical strikes rather than bombarding the web and “seeing what sticks.”

 3. Craft Your Content Strategy

Best practices in content strategy are to align every content asset, regardless of whether it is created by a vendor, customer or influencer, directly to a specific step in buyer’ journey.   Leveraging journey maps, marketers can define their content strategy in four steps:
  1. Match each content (and channel) to a step in the journey, by persona.
  2. For each tollgate, identify the corresponding call-to-action content.
  3. Define content assets in detail for each target audience.
  4. Expand lead scoring to include the sequence of content buyers interact with.
Don’t forget to update your content strategy quarterly to reflect evolving buyer expectations and market conditions. Now that you have a clear, actionable content strategy here are a few tips on operationalizing content:
  1. Use language and messaging that matches your buyers’ tone, terminology, and definition of value.
  2. Let your journey maps define campaign/touch frequency.
  3. Match Call-To-Actions to specific tollgates to help buyers successfully navigate their internal processes.
  4. Narrow down digital channels to those buyers told you that they trust and visit.
Organizations that intimately understand their buyers’ journey can convert views into revenue more effectively. By creating content customers look for that solves a specific need content marketing can evolve from a carpet-bombing approach, to a laser precision shot that produces real, measureable, business results. It all starts by first understanding your buyers’ journey.

Become Customer-Centric in 4 Steps

There's a lot of discussion in marketing communities about how important the customer is and the role of customer experience programs, but few offer a prescriptive pathway to improving customer centricity; Probably because the exact steps that need to be taken are not as obvious as it is in other aspects of business. The CEO may know that their corporate culture needs to be adjusted to focus more on the customer, instead of internal politics, but not what steps to take to achieve a cultural transition. One of the ways New Business Strategies differs from other customer experience and business strategy consultancies is our concrete methodology for consistently aligning organizations with their buyers with pre-built programs we have implemented before. Everything about our methodology is based on our Sellers' Compass, which provides a framework to map the journey buyers go through in their lifecycle as a prospect and customer. Clients that understand what influences a buyer's decision to buy, renew and evangelize their products develop a North star that guides their path to aligning with the customer's decisions that contribute to revenue. I'm happy to announce today that we have finally committed our methodology to paper in a new whitepaper that serves as the industry's first actionable, how-to for building a customer-centric organization. Read the whitepaper at: http://www.newbizs.com/resource-library/papers-stories-webinars/experience-to-revenue-white-paper/

14 Articles Every CMO Should Read

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post “The Myth that Marketing Automation Reveals Buyers’ Journeys” that explained there was increasing consensus among analysts, academics and consultants about changes in the buyer’s journey and the mandate for vendors to adapt to those changes in order to grow. Consolidating the research in one place demonstrates the flood of voices urging vendors to align with the customer, break down silos and bridge marketing and sales departments. Below is a collection of reading materials every marketing executive should sift through. Customer Centricity • A study by Booz & Company found that companies that offered valuable customization in a cost-effective way outperformed their peers in revenue growth two-to-one and had profit margins 5 to 10 percent higher than competitors. • A Forrester report on content marketing emphasized that the right content “requires a deep understanding of the buyers, their information needs, and their content sourcing preferences.” • An article in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management recommends an approach where “all business processes and all individuals are focused on identifying and meeting the needs of the customer.“ • Forrester has published a wealth of research aligned with the recommendations we give at New Business Strategies, including reports like “Transform To An Experience-Driven Organization” and “Become Customer-Centric, Service-Focused, And Automated.” • Forrester analyst Ronald Rogowski wrote a post urging readers to improve the digital customer experience. Forrester has also written reports about webinars, social media and other aspects of marketing and how to align them with the buyer’s journey. Marketing & sales alignmentHubSpot wrote a good post about overcoming the blame game between marketing and sales with open communication and more accountability. • One of my own blogs last year offers three metrics to measure the degree of sales and marketing alignment within your organization. • A report by Oracle says the friction between marketing and sales has gotten “cliché” and found that a lack of communication was at its heart. • Research by CSO Insights and IDC have identified four problems with a lack of marketing and sales alignment: longer sales cycles, missed quotas, lower productivity and less sales efficiency. (source) • A study by The Red Herring found that sales and marketing alignment was ranked a nine or ten on an importance scale of 10. (source) Breaking down silos • According to an article in HBR, executives identify silos as the top inhibitor of innovation, but silos can only be overcome if executives can embrace change. • Businessweek provided an overview of silos and some common approaches to overcoming them. • Forrester’s 2012 Tech Marketing Planning Guidance noted that marketing hasn’t made the drastic changes that are needed, because each year’s plan is based on last year’s marketing strategy. • IBM’s 2012 State of Marketing Survey called upon marketers to expand our role in the customer experience and break down silos.

Chief Revenue Officer: A Failed Experiment or an Evolutionary Step?

The clash between marketing and sales departments has fostered the growing popularity of a new position – the Chief Revenue Officer – to bring the finger-pointing under wraps and align the two functions under shared revenue goals.   In theory, the CRO role makes sense. It allows the CEO to delegate marketing and sales alignment to someone with experience under both functions to optimize the teams and manage differing charters, personalities and performance metrics. Many Chief Executive Officers have risen through the sales ranks. They may not fully understand the charter of marketing and are prone to take sales’ side in arguments, instead of creating an environment for collaboration.   In the best of cases, Chief Revenue Officers have gotten sales and marketing to stop blaming each other for lost revenue opportunities and created a customer-focused attitude, aligning both departments with customers rather than lead numbers and superficial metrics.   But in most cases CROs have made matters worse. Instead of leading both functions to a shared, common-sense vision of serving the customer, they inevitably play mediator between two warring sides. Like the CEOs before them, the favor of the CRO is won by sales, who has a more direct way of measuring their influence on revenues. The CRO role has developed into giving sales a seat at the C-suite – almost like a Chief Sales Officer.   The CRO is not dead however, it is an experiment and an intermediary step to the Chief Customer Officer position. As progressive companies realize that it’s more effective to focus on the customer experience, relationship, satisfaction and loyalty that drives revenues than on the numbers themselves, Chief Revenue Officers will inevitably become Chief Customer Officers.   Most Fortune 100 companies are at some stage of the transformation to a customer-centric organization. From strategic planning to job description and performance metrics, enterprises are retooling themselves to align with customer expectations. In this transformation, it’s natural for CROs to move into the position of a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) that manages the lifecycle of the customer experience from marketing, to sales and support.   Only by stitching together these functions into a cohesive fabric can companies consistently deliver experiences and nimbly change in lock step with their customers.

Buyer 3.0 (a.k.a. What Social Tells You About Buyers)

The klaxons are ringing in corporate halls. To use an old praise, someone “moved the cheese”.  Marketing programs are struggling to consistently produce qualified leads that convert; prospect conversations are more challenging; customer co-creation expectations are wreaking havoc on product roadmaps; and customer service has lost control as customers turn to social media and peer-groups for help.   What’s happening?  The adoption of social technologies moved the “cheese” and heralded in the arrival of Buyer 3.0.  

How CMOs can use Social Tactics to Outsell Sales

I'm presenting a session about embracing Buyers’ Journey during DemandCon, taking place in San Francisco during March 5-7, 2012. Click through to see more details...  

6 Laws of Social Transformation

As uncertainty continues in the economy, winning new revenue is increasingly challenging. How B2B companies purchase their direct and indirect goods and services has changed. For vendors selling to B2B companies, their sales cycles are changing and gaining the attention of new prospects is becoming increasingly harder and more expensive. Recent polls have found that over fifty percent of vendors are seeing their sales cycles lengthen or change and they are not sure why. The B2B buying process is now social, trust-based, transparent and self-directed with the buyer in full control. If companies want to grow in 2012 and beyond, they have will have to redefine how they engage, enable and build enduring relationships with their target markets.  

Big Thinkers, Wine, Lithium and the Perils of Social Change

The catalyst was a book launch of Lithium's  chief scientist Dr. Michael Wu.   The location was the Prospect Restaurant in San Francisco's trendy south of Market.  Invited was a veritable 'whos who' of social media bloggers and big thinkers. Walking to dinner after flying in from Austin, TX and being up since 2am, I thought this could be a great experience or one very long night if the room was full of people talking about social marketing tactics. I was hoping for the former as I wanted to share my experiences around the Buyers' Journey with others.  

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

The Buyers' Journey methodology we developed and help companies implement was born from my days as a serial CMO.   There just had to be a better way to drive Marketing ROI and pipeline.  The principles of customer centric marketing, integrated marketing and so on do little to dramatically 'move the needle' on understanding how B2B buyers purchase in the social era. These marketing principles are much like sales training, another artifact of yesteryear.  Do more of what 'appears' to work without really understanding the 'whys' and 'hows'.  The Buyers' Journey came out of trying to understand, from the prospects' and customers' perspective, how their approach to buying a piece of software, equipment or technology service had changed and why.  

Solving the Riddle of Demand Generation

Driving demand that results in customers is Marketing’s primary mission. Yet Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) struggle to deliver predictable pipelines which has hurt its credibility in the Board room.  Every year, they embark on a quest to solve the same riddle with programs based on what industry analysts/experts say are effective; past experience of what yielded quality results; and a dose of new ideas to try.  In other words, there is a good amount of educated guessing going on.