At this point, every B2B company should be exploring and refining some sort of content marketing strategy. We know that customers and prospects don’t just value the insights vendors can provide–they are coming to expect them.
But too many vendors still create content just to fill that dreaded slot in their next monthly e-newsletter–instead of investing time and energy to produce valuable and relevant insights that actually help the target audience do their jobs better. And there’s the rub:
To produce insights your target audience finds valuable and relevant, you have to intimately understand what your target audience needs.
Here are three no-B.S. tips to increase customer intimacy–and the impact of your content marketing:
1. When “content marketing” was conceived, I wish it has been named “insight marketing” instead. This would have helped raise the bar for content marketers to produce useful content vs. drivel. Anyone with a laptop can (and unfortunately does) sling content, but content that doesn’t provide a relevant insight that addresses The Audience’s 4 Ps (problems, priorities, perceptions, preferences) should immediately be scrubbed from your editorial calendar. Replace or rework it with insights derived from actual customer and prospect interactions. What does your target audience struggle with on a daily basis? What are the knowledge blind spots that prevent them from doing their job better?
TIP: There’s an obvious and dead simple way to make sure your content delivers real insight and value: Ask your customers. For example, a great question is: “Let’s say you had a free hour with a renowned industry expert. What’s the first thing you’d ask them about?” They’ll gladly open up to you–and you can use their answers to fuel your content marketing efforts.
2. Most readers can quickly tell when content was written by a non-SME, i.e. a young marcom staffer who may be a good writer but has little or no understanding of The Audience’s 4 Ps. Dead giveaways: An abundance of marketing-speak and one or more exclamation points. The non-SME may have interviewed and SME, but too often, much of the insight is lost in translation…and replaced with vapid narrative.Such content is quickly dismissed by the reader as noise (best case), annoying (next worst case) or detracting from your brand (worst case).
TIP: Read your own content with extreme and brutal skepticism before publishing. The CMO’s job is to be very strict about ensuring that substance and value are obvious to the audience–in their real-world language, not marketing-speak. So don’t just approve a piece of content because it fills this week’s slot in the editorial calendar–or because you’re tired of rewriting it. Send it back again and again until it delivers value to the audience. If the CMO doesn’t understand what the target audience would find relevant and valuable, then you have a much bigger challenge.
3. In the haste to scale the reach of their content marketing via social media, PPC, email, etc., marketers often neglect the audience that most needs–in fact expects–your insights: Existing customers. They crave and often expect knowledge that is personalized to their specific situations; and you as their vendor are uniquely positioned to provide it. Vendors that invest the time and effort to do this will tend to have “customers for life.”
TIP: Don’t just spray content online. Train your sales, sales engineering and support teams on how to (a) review insights with their customers; and (b) help customers take action on the insights by interpreting them into specific steps. By the way, if your sales, SE and support folks hesitate to do this, it might be because the content is terrible. In this case, go back to points 1 and 2 above.
Bottom Line: Consistently creating valuable content requires you to have an intimate understanding of your Audience’s 4 Ps (problems, priorities, perceptions, preferences). The great news is that customers and prospects will gladly share their 4 Ps with you. All you have to do is ask the right questions in the right context–and listen between the lines to understand what’s really important to them.