Although the business-to-business community is still successful because of referrals from existing customers, potential clients in even the most traditional industries have started to look to digital channels first when they need someone to solve a problem.
Having digital channels gives potential buyers of B2B services easier access to what is most important to them when determining if you are a good fit for their needs – your expertise. This is echoed in our own research.
The top marketing priority for high-growth professional services firms is to make their expertise more visible through educational content.
Why the uber focus on content? Isn’t there enough noise already, with every company having a blog and posting on social media? Although you can fake many things in the digital universe, it is difficult to fake expertise.
You can certainly try. Having a blog does not necessarily mean that the blog is informative. Here are some of the most common reasons why companies make mistakes, and how your company can avoid making the same mistakes.
1. Content that isn’t Relevant to the Target Audience
Content fails when it is not relevant or important to the target audience. The above approach will not work if the content is only about topics that you are already familiar with and that are important to you.
Your content will only be relevant if it is about something that you know and that is also a key priority for your clients. Staying disciplined in regards to the content you produce is important if you want that content to be relevant.
Writing about everything you know won’t cut it either. Rather, think from your audience’s perspective. They are trying to determine what your area of expertise is.
When you try to produce thought leadership about too many things, it confuses potential clients and makes them wonder what your firm actually does.
Place a mental image in your head similar to the one shown below. What are the couple of services that are really critical to your firm’s growth? What are the challenges and problems that keep your prospective clients up at night?
This exercise will help you to come up with a set of issues that you can use to create your thought leadership. Here are several criteria to consider when choosing your topics:
- Relevance to your customer and your services
- Aim for issues where there is lack of consensus on the solution
- Write on topics that are not likely to go away in the short-term
- Avoid issues that are already “owned” by a competing firm
2. Content that is More Promotional than Educational in Nature
You’ve probably found a lot of business blogs that talk about the company’s latest move, new employees, or services.
There is a time and place for all types of content, including promotional content.
Buyers of professional services don’t want to be sold or marketed to right away. If all they can see when they first come across your company is sales and marketing, they probably won’t contact you again.
If you make a good first impression and seem like you could solve their problems, they will be very impressed.
If there is no educational, relevant thought leadership in a content marketing strategy, it is not really a strategy. It is just a promotional brochure.
By sharing your expertise through content, you are encouraging potential customers to learn more about your product and eventually buy it.
3. Content that doesn’t Take Into Account how Your Customer Wants to Learn
When it comes to funneling new business, it’s all about creating a journey for prospective clients to follow as they learn about your organization. The challenge to marketers is to know where prospective clients are on their journey and what they need from the company in order to make a purchase.
There is no one way to reach all of your potential customers. Each person has their own journey, and there is no one size fits all solution. A content strategy done correctly is very valuable because it is the basic unit of all your digital marketing efforts.
Take a look at the funnel below. Thought leadership in education affects every stage of the sales process.
It’s the promises you make and the shiny exterior that first attract the attention of those who are unaware of your existence. Once you have their attention, you need to keep them motivated by convincing them that you have the solution to their problems.
4. Content that Exists only on Your Website
You can’t just post your content on your website and call it a content marketing strategy. You need to do more than that to make it effective. Your articles and blogs should at least be present on social media channels where your audience is networking.
It’s important that you have an active social media presence because, based on our research, about 60% of potential buyers will look you up on social media to learn more about you and see if you’re a good fit for their organization.
The more you share your content on social media, the more people who could potential customers and referral sources will see it. If you keep producing high-quality content, over time people will begin to associate your organization with being a reliable source of information.
You should also consider pursuing publishing opportunities in digital publications your audiences reads or where your competitors are placed.
When someone else supports your claims, it makes Convincing your audience that you are worth their time. Also, articles with backlinks can improve your website’s domain authority.
Content that customers can’t easily find. Even if your content is great, it will fail if potential customers can’t find it. Before you create your content, do some research on which keywords your audience is searching for.
If you want your content to appear higher in people’s searches, use the keywords they are searching for in your content’s headlines and body copy. Utilize keyword phrases that are relevant to the topic, and that your organization can rank for in order to be successful.
5. Content That is Random or Ad Hoc
One of the worst things you can do for your b2b content marketing strategy is to write content randomly. You should avoid filling your content bucket with everything you know or everything you love.
Even if Joe is very passionate about topic X, he shouldn’t spend company time writing about it unless it is strategically important to both your audience and your organization’s growth.
One way to keep your strategy in check is to create an editorial calendar. Sounds simple, but not everyone takes this step.
You should focus on a limited number of topics that you want to be known for and use keywords that match those topics. A content calendar will help content writers focus their energies in a strategic way.
6. You haven’t Defined the Precise Content Tactics You will Use
Content marketing alone is not a tactic. It includes all kinds of tactics. There are a ton. Here’s a sample:
- Case studies
- PDF downloads
- White papers
Different types of content will have differing results. Some types of content will cost more than others.
What types of content will you produce and promote? Most organizations choose multiple types of content marketing tactics. That’s entirely appropriate.
Companies produce different types of content because they know that each type affects customers in different ways. Different types of content can help push customers further down the purchase cycle, depending on where they are in the cycle.
TIP: Don’t assume that blogging is the right tactic. Not every business needs a blog. Although having a blog is effective for businesses, there are many other types of content that may be more effective for your specific business.
The image below shows that you should “diversify content types”.
Be careful, though. When you have a clear brand and concise messaging, it’s much easier to be “top of mind” for potential clients If you want to maintain a clear brand, don’t diversify too much or your message will become diluted. It’s better to be “top of mind” for potential clients.
It is often better to use a single tactic which is executed well, rather than a dozen tactics which are executed poorly.
Go and dominate one or two content tactics.
7. You Aren’t Measuring Your ROI
It’s common for marketers to feel frustrated when trying to measure the ROI of their content marketing. This can be difficult to do, especially without a well-defined plan.
I’ve found that companies that have a strategy and track their ROI are very effective. The two go hand-in-hand. If you have measurable goals, you can usually measure the return on investment.
What is the method for determining the return on investment?
The frustrating answer is, there’s no one way. But there are definitely ways to do it. The method that works best for your organization is the one you have to choose.
If you want to maximize your return on investment for your AdWords campaigns, try adopting the technique used by David Meerman Scott. It involves measuring your ROI in terms of AdWords equivalency.
Scott Severson came up with a way to measure ROI, and it not only helped his clients get moving forward, but also showed how much progress they were making. He tracked specific keyword data.
They calculated the value of the improvements in SEO based on the amount of money generated from clicks. There are alternative methods of measuring ROI. Find a method that works for you and stick with it.
8. You don’t have a Clear Perspective on the Eventual Outcome
What’s the goal of content marketing? The question is how to gain more customers, and the answer is easy – just work harder.
Although the issue seems straightforward, there are several underlying factors that make it more complex. Many marketers get lost in the details of their content and forget the overall goal.
Instead of working towards a goal, they are continuously producing more content without stopping to realize that it will not get them anywhere unless it is related to a goal.
The attainable goal isn’t just more clients. A true attainable goal should be more specific. Joe Pulizzi recommends these possibilities:
- Brand awareness or reinforcement – This is a strong goal for businesses that may not sell a product online.
- Lead conversion and nurturing – The types of leads vary according to business, but this is a common goal.
- Customer conversion – Many e-commerce sites simply want their content marketing strategy to drive up actual purchases.
- Customer loyalty/retention – An advanced method of content marketing is the retention strategy – keeping the customer post-sale.
- Customer up-sell – The more that a customer interacts beyond the initial sale, the better. Content marketing can help him or her do that.
Be sure that your goals are attainable, or you may set yourself up for disappointment. You need to focus on metrics that matter to make the desired outcome attainable.
9. Your Content Marketing Strategy doesn’t Actually Target the Business’ Goals
Many organizations use content marketing without taking the time to integrate it with company-wide goals. The marketing department often pursues growth for growth’s sake, while the rest of the company is more interested in stability and profits.
The marketing department of a company is often more interested in growth than the rest of the company, who may be more interested in stability and profits.
Content marketing will only be effective if it is linked to business goals. Sometimes, I encounter businesses that, for example, sells software as a service (SaaS). The marketing department, however, was in the business of promoting webinars.
Is that a good approach? Sure it is. Webinars are a great way to draw attention to your brand, establish yourself as an expert in your field, grow your follower base, and achieve impressive results. I have been increasingly using webinars as a means of providing value to others.
What’s the problem? The problem occurs when the goal of the webinar and the goal of the business are not aligned. If the webinars aren’t effective in increasing sales of SaaS, then they are a waste of time and money.
For those webinars to be successful, they should contain calls to action that drive attendees to sign up for the SaaS. Content marketing is a funnel. The company’s business goal should be at the skinny end of the funnel.
If content marketing is done well, there could be positive marketing outcomes even after a sale is made.
The content marketing funnel for every business is different. Make sure that your content marketing strategy is aligned with your marketing funnel.
10. You don’t Know When You’ve Succeeded
Does content marketing ever end? I highly doubt that we will get rid of contemporary marketing channels. Content can be used to serve customers, and customer service is an ongoing process.
Some argue that content marketing isn’t a sustainable strategy. One reason for the decline in readership of newspapers is that there is so much content being produced and people are not consuming as much of it.
In order for content marketing to be successful in the future, we need to be able to measure our progress and know when we have reached our goals. A goal is not successful unless it has a logical endpoint.
Your goals can change over time, but you shouldn’t keep them going forever. As content marketers, we can continually strive to improve, but we should not get caught up in the never-ending quest for perfection.
When coming up with your content marketing goals, make sure that each goal has a clear end-point so that you can tell for sure when you have completed it.
The rapid expansion of content marketing is a positive development for the marketing industry. We are still in the early stages of defining and understanding how digital technology can be used. We have not yet figured out how to make the best use of digital technology.
If you have specific and well-defined goals for your content marketing, you will see it improve. SMART goals can help your marketing efforts be successful by pushing them to new heights.