Despite the billions of dollars B2B companies spend on content marketing each year, their content is less and less effective. Two years ago, 42% of B2B marketers surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) said their content was effective. One year ago that number fell to 38%. This year only 30% of marketers said their content is effective, according to CMI Founder Joe Pulizzi during his opening keynote at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio.
One of the reasons behind this lag in effective content, Pulizzi noted, is a lack of strategy. He said that when content marketers have a defined strategy, their content is four times more likely to be effective. Several keynote and session speakers repeated the message: Effective content comes from effective strategy, which comes primarily from inquiry.
"The reason we are struggling with content marketing is that we haven't talked about 'Why,'" said keynote speaker Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web and CEO of Brain Traffic. "Content strategy has been lagging behind content development, and now people are paying attention because of the [effectiveness] numbers."
Halvorson said content strategy first and foremost must align with business goals, which fall into two categories: achieving business outcomes or satisfying customers.
Align Business Goals To Buyer Needs
Content marketers should start by asking how business goals and buyer needs align, Halvorson said. This will begin targeting scope, which is what strategy ultimately achieves.
"Strategy is a decision to take a path and say no to other paths," Halvorson said. "It's the guardrails you need to keep your company from" doing things that won't be effective.
Halvorson said other important questions to ask as you develop strategy include:
- Where are the opportunities?
- How does the buyer want us to show up?
- Where and when do they want us to show up?
- What do our resources allow us to do?
- Where do we lack information, make assumptions, and instead need to find data?
By going through this inquiry exercise, marketing teams can start to define the components of their strategy: content substance (topics) and structure (formats); workflows (technology and tools); and governance (what gets priority and what doesn't).
"As marketers, we have confused activity with productivity," Halvorson said. "We are curious and creative, and we like action, and we like to say yes. But when you say yes everything, you end up doing a lot of little things instead of making an impact on the important things."
An example highlighting this is over-emphasizing social "engagement" as a measure of success. People use social engagement to justify content or job success, but views and clicks rarely have an impact on business goals or customer satisfaction.
Another non-strategic waste of resources Halvorson shared is mimicking brand leaders. "We want to be Disney, Intel or Red Bull, but how many of us can actually achieve that, and why would you want to?"
Instead, find out where clients and prospects need help and then figure out how you can help them, Halvorson noted. "If we lose sight of the people we are ultimately trying to reach, then it's all for naught."