We help a lot of our B2B technology clients with go-to-market campaigns that typically start with an audience-focused message, a set of content deliverables to communicate that message, and a plan for measuring the effectiveness and ROI of the content. Unlike old-school push-marketing methods, content-driven marketing employs a more holistic approach by connecting buyer behavior, marketing messages, and actual sales results into a productive feedback loop.
Most tech companies are joining the digital content marketing bandwagon in one form or another. And as tech companies get more skilled in this marketing approach, more nuanced insights and opportunities are starting to emerge. We have a few insights of our own to share.
Plan in new dimensions
It’s always a good idea to start your marketing efforts with a plan. But content marketing requires new levels of planning. It’s still essential to define your target audience, know what challenges and issues they face, research how they’re influenced, and understand what value proposition will resonate for them. But that’s no longer enough.
Today, customers are doing their own research online, before they even contact a vendor, and you’ll want to make sure your content is there when they go looking. This means:
Developing the buyer’s journey as a key dimension of your marketing plan and creating appropriate content for every stage of that journey. Adding search terms as another qualifier of your target market, since online searches are typically the first step in the B2B buying process. Creating an editorial calendar, so you can manage the distribution of your content and gain exposure where it’ll have the greatest impact. Planning your analytics upfront, so you’re able to track and measure in real-time and know what content and placements give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Cater to the stages of your buyer’s journey
Content marketing requires a lot of content, but it doesn’t mean beating the same drum over and over again. It means paying closer attention to your buyer’s state of mind and making sure your content—and tone—addresses the appropriate concerns at each stage. While some companies identify as many as five stages in the buyer’s journey, we typically recommend a minimum of these three for a successful B2B content campaign:
Stage 1: Awareness. The buyer becomes aware of your brand or product and makes a connection to their own experiences, needs, or challenges. The best content for this stage is aspirational in tone, offers a promise or allays a fear, and establishes an emotional connection to your brand. This is a key starting point for establishing thought leadership. Typical tactics for generating awareness are blogs, paid advertising, social media, contributed articles, and events.
Stage 2: Engagement. Once you’ve achieved awareness, the next stage is to engage the buyer’s interest. Content aimed at this stage needs to establish a clear and relevant value proposition, with a tone that is practical and engaging. This is where your marketing efforts can effectively make a case for your product. Tactics include case studies, email campaigns, webinars, white papers, and other educational materials.
Stage 3: Purchase. Once the buyer has had practical or educational engagement with your offer, the next stage is to support final purchase considerations. This is typically where competition, price, peer recommendations, and implementation planning come into play. Marketing becomes more hard-hitting and informative in tone. Tactics can include sales presentations, TCO calculators, product roadmaps, and planning guides.
Design for forward momentum
All content should ideally include some form of a call to action, designed to move the buyer forward through the stages of the journey and, ultimately, point them to a purchase location or contact. The website landing page can act as the content hub, with all content links mapped to the buyer’s underlying journey roadmap.
Connect sales and marketing with analytics
The ultimate goal of marketing is to increase sales of your products. This reality can sometimes get lost, but content marketing analytics allows you to bring it front and center. Marketers can get great value from the new marketing automation tools, since they offer exciting opportunities to track budget dollars all the way through to a closed sale.
Technology companies often have a more complex link between marketing and sales – including direct sales staff, channel partners, events, and other elements that today’s automation software doesn’t easily account for. But don’t let this deter you from collecting metrics. We’ve worked on many campaigns that required manual accounting for sales leads, event attendees, and other trackable metrics. Even with cumbersome work-arounds and manual data collection, it’s still worth planning for analytics in every content campaign. Even when your metrics are not perfect, they’ll teach you a lot about how to improve for your next campaign.
When done well, content-based digital marketing creates a process with data-driven feedback at every stage of the buyer’s journey and valuable insights to help you optimize your marketing and sales efforts.