Content strategy is your single most important tool for bringing your company's unique value into every buyer and customer interaction. But most companies do not do content strategy well.
Consider the following:
- Although 8 in 10 B2B companies use content marketing, less than 4 in 10 enterprises have and use a buyer journey.
- A full 71% of decision-makers say less than half of the thought-leadership content they read or watch gives them any sort of valuable insights, the 2021 LinkedIn-Edelman 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report found.
- Most marketing-generated content never gets used by sales or customer success teams; estimates of unused content vary between 60 and 90%.
Why is something as important as content strategy so hard to get right?
Many marketing teams make one simple but grave mistake: They treat content as standalone assets rather than as a pathway of assets that tells a story about buyer and customer value.
Fixing that one mistake can shift your content strategy and accelerate revenue growth in your business.
Here are four actions you can take to make that shift.
1. Start with buyer value
Marketing departments often organize their content road map around content categories, listing out plans for blog posts, webinars, whitepapers, case studies, infographics, etc. Instead, marketing departments should start with a focus on how each content asset aligns to buyer value. Fully 68% of B2B buyers want to see vendors organize content by issue/pain point, according to the 2019 Demand Gen Report.
Your company's product or service may help your customers increase revenue, reduce costs, drive processes' efficiencies, improve business insights, optimize staff productivity, increase asset productivity, create higher user persistence, support faster teams, or a variety of other outcomes.
Your content should be clearly organized around and tagged according to those buyer outcomes. You can tag website content to one or more areas of buyer value. You can create a highlight box in your blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, or infographics to explicitly share the specific use cases addressed by that content piece.
Connecting content to a specific buyer's goals creates a content pathway that helps tell a story about buyer value. It will lead to much higher content engagement both by your buyers and by your sales teams.
2. Prioritize your customer stories
Customer stories and case studies are perhaps the most important content type, but they are often underused. Case studies rank only fourth out of the six top content types, a recent study by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute found. They should be No. 1 for any marketing team.
Customer stories are important because they create a subtle but powerful shift in a buyer conversation: They shift the conversation from "me and you" to "we." Rather than holding a vendor at arm's length, customer stories turn you into a peer, collaborator, and trusted adviser. You, both, are looking for solutions to a shared problem.
Customer stories also make it a lot easier for sales and customer success teams to resist product-pitching. Stories put a company's product or service capabilities directly into the context of a specific customer and show how your product or service capabilities solve that customer's problem. The customer becomes the hero of the story, not the company and the company's product.
Customer stories are neglected often because they are harder to create than other types of content. You have to find time to spend with your customers, capture their stories, iterate, and revise. But, the differential impact of customer stories makes them worth the work.
3. Optimize content for the buyer journey
Many companies and marketing teams think of content as just for marketing purposes, particularly lead generation. However, a content strategy has its maximum impact on a company's revenue growth when content pathways linked to buyer value also support sales and customer success conversations.
To support the entire buyer journey, however, content needs to align to the amount of time buyers are willing to spend learning about your company and capabilities at each phase of their journey. Marketing and prospecting teams need content snippets that quickly engage buyers who are just learning about your company. Those snippets could be customer testimonials, thought-provoking questions, or bullet points capturing a buyer outcome or whitepaper findings.
Sales and account management teams need content that maps value from the buyer's goal to the company's capabilities. Customers in active consideration want to hear stories about "people just like them." To tailor conversations to each buyer, sales and success teams need sell sheets, customer stories, and positioning slides with a "problem-solution-result" structure to fluidly respond to each buyer's situation.
Customer success and product teams need content that extends value from one buyer goal to another. That content might be a full customer case study with an initial and an expansion use case, a capability maturity framework, or whitepapers that connect deeper implementation to deeper value.
4. Make content strategy a collaborative process
Many companies make the mistake of developing their content strategy within the marketing department alone. The age-old differences in attitudes toward messaging and buyer engagement between Sales and Marketing should create healthy rather than dysfunctional tension.
The reality is that sales teams talk to potential customers all day long, and customer success teams talk to actual customers all day long. Both teams are in a strong position to know the types of content and content themes that will engage buyers and customers. Having the sales team codevelop content themes and messaging leads to much stronger content pathways that align to specific buyer goals.
Ideally, Marketing would have a weekly or biweekly meeting with Sales and Customer Success counterparts to get input on individual content assets and ways to link those assets to specific buyer goals and content pathways. Such meetings could be used to road-test content and get specific, targeted feedback on the use cases, language, and stories that really land.
If yours is like most marketing teams, you have a content repository with a ton of hidden gems. In a few simple steps, you can unlock the value of those hidden gems to shift to a much higher-impact content strategy.
* * *
The needed shift in content strategy starts by linking your individual content assets to content pathways that tell a story about specific buyer goals and value.
It involves increasing the number of high-quality customer stories.
It continues by making sure you have content at the right level of depth for the whole buyer journey.
And it becomes sustainable when you make content strategy a collaborative, cross go-to-market team process.
More Resources on Content Strategy
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