Andrew Gaffney is the Editorial Director of Demand Gen Report, a publication focused on demand generation best practices for B2B marketing professionals. Janelle Johnson, Director of Demand Gen for Act-On, has a solid track history of using content to create successful campaigns. Recently the two sat down together for a webinar – “The Secrets to Successful Content Campaigns” – and shared strategies for the development of content marketing programs that convert to revenue. The takeaway steps are:
Step #1 – Build the right foundation for your content campaigns
You must know your key target markets and understand your buyer. Some marketers develop buyer personas as a guide. Get your key thought leaders and subject matter experts in a room and dissect roles, titles, common interests and needs, and key triggers. You may discover, for example, that your buyers predominately use certain tools, but your messaging has never addressed this. Nearly half of B2B marketers have not developed personas; this may be an opportunity to outflank your competition.
Understand the buyer’s journey. Typically a buyer begins with curiosity about the space and whether a solution will offer business value. As they continue, they want to validate value and answer more specific questions. Then they progress to assessing different vendors, and thinking about pricing, return on investment, and related factors. Knowing the journey will help you determine how to organize your content for each stage of it.
Do a content audit. It’s typical that sales and marketing will have different messaging; it’s very valuable to discover what’s working for sales and bring that into the marketing content creation. It’s also typical for a company to be well-stocked with top-of-the-funnel material, but be lacking in later-stage content that maps to when the buyer is looking to validate a solution or assess how different vendors stack up against each other. A content audit will show where your gaps are.
Step #2 – Identify the right content formula
When you tell your story, what should it look like? Here’s another place where knowing your buyer comes in. If you’re selling to designers, for example, your content should be highly visual. If you’re selling to people who tend to be very busy, create short, accessible, easily digestible content. If your buyers tend to use mobile devices, you should use content that works well on mobile.
Know the preferences in your markets. At its annual “Content to Conversion” conference, Demand Gen surveys 100 executives about their content preferences to determine how those are changing. Most recently, 88% of executives say they still prefer to read white papers, but 72% perceived webinars as a good way to commit 30 to 60 minutes to getting an overview of a topic. (Side note: Webinars also provide content you can scale and splinter to create more content.) The more visual formats are gaining: 44% of executives liked video, and 38% cited infographics as useful content. Don’t neglect white papers, but give serious consideration to these other formats as well, especially in light of your target markets.
Step #3 – Get maximum mileage out of your content
Create content with scalability in mind. Andrew commented that many of the clients his company works with want big pieces, like eBooks that tell the entire company story and run 30 pages or more. These can be cumbersome for a reader to get through.
In some cases a longer piece may be necessary, and may be valuable. “We recommend construction projects…and then deconstruction projects,” said Andrew. When you’re taking the time and making the effort to tell that big complete story, be thinking of ways you can make that modular. If you’re creating an eBook, say, that has ten chapters, can you pull each of those chapters out and turn it into a deeper dive or quicker snapshot to provide more value to readers? Also think about whether one of those chapters would pertain to a mid-stage topic or a later-stage topic; can you put an ROI spin on it and use it strategically?
As you’re creating content, keep in mind how you’ll be able to part it out and use it in multiple places, with emphasis on how to turn it into quick, easily digestible pieces.
“Less dense.” It’s worth noting that in the content preferences survey, 48% of executives suggested that content be condensed and shortened; 45% suggested not overloading content with copy. “’Less dense’ is a phrase we hear a lot,” said Andrew. Use white space, callouts, graphics, charts, and sidebars to lighten copy. Make it easy to scan.
Step #4 – Utilize content in lead gen/lead nurture campaigns
Many companies feel they don’t have enough content, and correspondingly don’t have the time to create it. One solution is to make sure you can use every piece you create in multiple ways. Janelle gave the example of repurposing a white paper titled “Getting Started With Marketing Measurement.” The paper is very prescriptive, with lots of tips and how-tos. The plan for this paper included:
- Posting on the website in the Resource library, which help with SEO and helps people find the paper (and thus the company)
- Using the paper in a lead generation email campaign. When an email recipient is interested in the paper, they fill out a registration form to get it. In the process, they provide the company with information that populates a contact profile
- Using the paper in a lead nurture campaign, mapping it to an early-mid point of the buyer’s journey
- The act of downloading the paper is scoreable, so it creates or adds to a lead score that helps indicate sales-readiness
- Creating a webinar around the paper’s findings. Some people prefer to read; others prefer this more auditory mode of learning. The webinar is done for a live audience, then recorded and placed in the Resource library to remain accessible and continue providing SEO
- The slide show created for the webinar is posted on SlideShare
- Third-party syndication for greater distribution
- Slicing it into as many blog posts as possible, giving readers short, digestible pieces of information
- Using the blog posts to invite the reader to get the paper (again, by registering and so demonstrating lead qualification)
- The publication of the paper itself, the webinar, and the blog posts are all promoted through social media
Noteworthy: Sales cycles are getting longer. Content is a critical component of your lead nurturing campaigns, educating the buyer and keeping your company top of mind. Using progressive content for nurturing often helps accelerate sales cycles. Forrester’s research shows companies that nurture leads have 50% more sales-ready leads (at 33% lower cost!) than companies that do not nurture.
Step #5 – Measure the impact of your content campaigns
It’s important to track the impact on your content and know what people respond to. You’ll start to see what the triggers are, and begin to understand your buyer’s preferences better. It’s also intelligence for your sales team; when they follow up, it’s helpful if they know what content the prospect is interested in. They’ll know which talk track to use to help the prospect get more educated on the issue. Additional benefits of measuring:
- More search engine optimization: get more of the right people to your website, downloading your content and attending your webinars
- Increase your database of qualified leads
- Accelerate leads with nurture campaigns
- Measure where leads are coming from, so you know which channels perform best for you. This helps you plan your budget and your time
The webinar includes a show-and-tell of how to map content to a nurturing campaign, and a dive into measuring results from social media. We invite you to get the full story of “The Secrets to Successful Content Campaigns” in the on-demand webinar.