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Content marketing is growing in use. Within the next year, 51% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets.However, Content Marketing is owned by the Head of Marketing in just 23% of B2B organisations. Far more common is a split across teams in Digital, Comms, ‘traditional' Marketing, Sales and Events.
As C-suite audiences show a greater willingness to interact with content through web, mobile and social channels, this space between marketing and digital poses the greatest risk to ROI. We believe there are four ways to avoid it:
Rule 1: Your contents must shift
"The best people are the ones who understand content," said Steve Jobs, "they're a pain in the butt to manage, but you put up with it".
No matter how robust your digital strategy, compelling content is the reason your audience will initially engage and then, crucially, return.
Bring in a good business journalist from the start. Any amount of User Persona and trending topic research will not match their intuitive grasp of the topics that will hook and hold your C-suite audience - built from many hours of interviewing them.
But they must think like digital natives. Distinct online reading habits require articles written in an inverse pyramid format - the inverse for print, and structured in an F plan grid distinct from the printed page.
Don't overlook the importance of micro-content. The precise wording of headlines, calls to action and forms can have a startling impact on ROI. When one brand reviewed the wording on its booking form, it increased sign-up by 32%.
Think beyond words. The best B2B content strategies deploy video, infographics, e-books, slideshares, widgets and case-studies at the appropriate stage of the customer journey as this great graphic shows: http://blog.eloqua.com/the-content-grid-v2/
In planning, introduce your Information Architects to content specialists. Getting a user to navigate your site isn't just about a frictionless User Experience, it needs a storyteller's art to hook, hold and direct readers.
Rule 2: Hold your audience's attention
The web's success in flooding the world with free content has shorted the attention span of B2B audiences. Deloitte's research shows sustained attention span for audiences has dropped from 12 minutes in 1998 to 5 minutes in 2012. For the stressed C-suite exec, 5 seconds would be a good start.
Pithy digital copywriting skills can help snare attention. But such skittish eyeballs do not necessitate the death of long-form content.
As this great example from ESPN shows, storytelling can live online: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=Dock-Ellis
The Economist's ‘Leanback 2.0' research into C-suite reader habits shows a strong continuing demand for ‘lean-back' content on big picture topics. However, it is migrating to tablet devices. Readers of the Economist iPad edition average one hour. Eye-tracking research also show a greater focus of attention than on websites.
You shouldn't immediately turn your print titles into Apps. The root of the word ‘magazine' is the French ‘magasin'; a store. Focus first on audience role and objective, and build packaged content assets in response. For example, we've built an App for Finance Directors, which focuses on long-term planning strategies.
Rule 3: Your Content Marketing Strategy must transcend digital
The website sits at the heart of the content funnel. It qualifies leads, signs-up visitors to further content, and convinces prospects. This is only part of the journey.
At the top is lead generation. Digital plays a role in link-building, content discovery like Outbrain, and seeding through social channels.
But the B2B journey does not always start digitally. Print media partnerships, thought leadership, advertising and PR all have a role to play. And in relationship-driven sales, the journey will often end in person. Digital must integrate with face-to-face channels, such as events, and equipping the front line with interactive content assets.
It is the failure to vault organisational silos between these activities that leads to the biggest failure in B2B Content Marketing. The Head of Marketing should bring together digital, marketing, social, PR, and sales teams. Together they should produce a single Content
Marketing strategy that integrates every content approach into a single content engagement funnel and then plot this customer journey across the year.
Rule 4: Look beyond the clicks
Digital analytics can provide some powerful metrics such as click through, bounce rates, downloads and social activity. The next step is to put a notional financial value against activities based on conversion levels in the sales funnel.
The full picture only comes into focus by plotting the entire customer journey from hook to conversion, sustained over time. In relationship-driven B2B marketing, coming up with a robust single number is almost impossible. However, by mapping the journey across all touch-points, you get a clearer context of how effective each content activity and channel is at driving engagement towards a final purchase or conversion. This can form the backbone of future plans.