Over the past five years, content marketing has become a major strategic theme occupying B2B events, editorials and analysts. Many brands have jumped on the content creation bandwagon – the internet is awash with blogs and white papers, infographics and video. And it keeps on coming.
I’m not disputing the importance or value of good quality content. There is an ongoing need for intelligence-led assets that talk to buyers’ pain points. But the trouble is, the sector has become content rich and effectiveness poor. Despite the surge of B2B content, Kapost claims that 65 percent of sales reps say they can’t find anything to send to prospects.
Assuming these sales reps’ marketing departments are in fact producing relevant, buyer-focused content; why isn’t it being harnessed effectively across the organisation?
First off, brands need to stop pigeonholing content in the marketing department. It might originate there, and naturally it plays an important role raising awareness, achieving engagement and supporting lead generation. But it also needs to infiltrate the wider buyer journey. That means finding ways to help sales teams leverage content in real-time whether they’re building relationships, targeting key accounts or addressing a specific buyer’s concerns.
If you’ve gone to the effort of developing content that’s rooted in buyer issues, it makes sense to help people across the business access it easily. Creating an indexed content library that supports sales enablement is a good place to start.
Rather than structuring a content library chronologically or by asset type, items should be classified according to the business challenges they address. Sales teams and buyers are not really interested in whether you’ve produced a white paper, infographic or e-book. They just need to know what pain points the content answers and the type of decision maker that it is geared towards.
Used effectively, a content library can also enhance the lifetime value of prospects that have converted to customers. Account managers and customer service staff need to be trained and empowered so that they can continue the nurturing process. Signposting customers to bottom-of-funnel assets that help drive more value from your product or service can boost retention. It can also support upsell and cross-sell initiatives.
Marketing Automation Platforms and intelligent content are a powerful combination. But best-in-class brands go one step further, combining this with human-led interactions. They recognise it is the content experience – not the content per se – that delivers value. And they’ve learnt the benefit of enabling sellers to initiate highly individualised content experiences in the latter stage of the buyer journey.
Ensuring content can be used systematically and reliably in this context requires a robust strategy. It involves buyer journey mapping, data driven insights and a sophisticated approach to persona development and management. This is where the art and science of content converge.
Back in 1996, Bill Gates famously wrote an essay titled ‘Content is King’. He said that internet users ‘must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information’. And he anticipated ‘intense competition – and ample failure as well as success – in all categories of popular content’.
Twenty years on, the B2B sector is still learning how to consistently deliver tangible ROI from content. Best-in-class brands are brave enough to risk failure, knowing that it can ultimately light the way to lasting success.
Today, one thing is crystal clear: collaboration and cohesion are vital. The chasm between sales and marketing is an enduring thorn in the side of the B2B sector. Perhaps content is the glue that can finally bind them.