B2B marketers are not lacking when it comes to content. According to research from eMarketer, 91% of B2B marketers are using content marketing, and 60% create at least one piece of content a week.
Research from the Custom Content Council found that 42% of the $43.9 billion spent on marketing in 2013 was allocated to content marketing.
However, many marketers are still struggling to yield results from their content creation efforts. Of the companies employing content marketing, fewer than half (42%) say their efforts are effective, according to research from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.
To improve content effectiveness, modern B2B marketers are turning their attention to identifying and filling gaps in their content inventory. Filling the gaps in a B2B marketer’s content offerings can enhance overall engagement by creating valuable messages that resonate within target audiences.
“We see clients who have a lot of product-focused content that is not necessarily engaging or encouraging a dialog with buyers,” said Matthew McKenzie, Content Director for Content4Demand, a sister brand of Demand Gen Report.
The era of “more content is better” is over, according to Jeff Freund, Content Strategy Consultant and former CEO and CTO of Clickability. “I see a ton of content marketing execution happening without a strategy. For content to be effective, companies need to understand the current state of their content and develop a strategy for developing content that is more closely aligned with the buyer.”
Start By Taking Inventory
Taking stock of each piece of content is the first step in identifying content gaps. “As part of a recent content audit for one client, we looked at about 150 pieces of content,” McKenzie said. “We categorized each piece of content based on the client’s buyer personas and different stages of the buying cycle.”
As more team members become involved in the B2B buying process, the need to address multiple personas is critical, McKenzie explained. “Even when companies have a lot of content, it doesn’t necessarily align with the personas that are most important to closing a deal. Often, even late stage content isn’t geared toward executive personas.”
Identifying target segments and honing persona profiles are essential components of a comprehensive content audit, according to Freund. “This will tell you your personas’ motivations and interests, content consumption habits, business drivers and priorities.”
While it is important to evaluate the content that prospects need at various stages of the buyers journey, the content needs of the sales team should also be factored in when assessing content gaps, according to Freund.
Freund noted that a content gap analysis should examine the content needs for these stages:
- Discovery: Understanding the problem and committing to change;
- Learning: Exploring solutions and committing to one;
- Choosing: Justifying and making the decision; and
- Procuring: Preparing for ownership.
Freund noted that through an analysis of Clickability’s content, team members found that it was too heavily weighted to the learning stage, with gaps in the later buying stage when it came to certain personas. There also were too many pieces of long-form content, and web content dropped off before the end of the buyer’s journey.
Where Should Your Content Audit Begin?
When deciding how far back to go in assessing content, McKenzie said there is typically a natural demarcation. “It can be when there was a change in leadership, a change in market focus, or a change in messaging.”
A good starting point is to assess the content that was created in the past 12 months, McKenzie explained. “You don’t have to do a full-blown audit to reap the benefits of a content gap analysis. It can be shorter, smaller and simpler. The key is to start. If you never start, you will end up continuing down the same path.”
Marketers should be mindful that some older content may still be relevant, according to experts. “We work with clients who have some great pieces of content that were created a while back but still effectively tell their story and engage prospects,” McKenzie noted.
Sizing Up The Competition
Taking stock of internal content is just one part of the process in identifying content gaps. Progressive marketers are using tools to monitor the content being produced by competitors. They also are tracking their current content against the latest keywords buyers are searching for and discussing on social media.
“The next wave of content gap analysis and auditing is really about competitive intelligence,” said Dayna Rothman, Director of Content at Captora. “One of the biggest challenges for content marketers is determining what they should write about. Maybe I am planning to write an E-book on one topic, but the competitor just published an E-book on another topic on a term that buyers are searching for. That’s extremely powerful knowledge to have when determining my next content move.”
By identifying the content and topics competitors’ are finding success with, marketers can make more informed decisions about their own content strategy, according to BrightEdge CEO and Co-Founder Jim Yu. “You have to start with understanding where the demand is — looking everywhere potential buyers are accessing content — and mapping your content to the buying cycle.”
BrightEdge recently unveiled a Community Edition of its content marketing platform, including access to Data Cube To-Go, a repository of content from across the web, and Content Optimizer To-Go, a recommendation engine for content optimization.
After examining internal and external content, marketers need to take steps to fill the gaps identified during the assessment process.
It may not be necessary to create new assets to fill the content gaps, McKenzie said. “A webinar can be the inspiration for a series of blog posts. Parts of an E-book can be updated to reflect the latest research or trends.”