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B2B content marketing – The 7 foundations

A great deal has already been blogged, said and written about content marketing and, by now, everyone has formed their own opinion. Today, much of what was traditionally known as marketing, communication or PR has been redefined as content marketing. However, in reality it is not quite that simple. Content marketing is radically different to traditional marketing because it is no longer the product or service that is pivotal, it is the target group or the ‘buyer personas’. Most marketers seem to have difficulty placing themselves in the position of these ‘buyer personas’. The habit of safely focusing on product context is apparently a hard one to break. 

In an aim to structure all the information on this subject, this blog will present a helicopter view. A useful model, commonly used in practice, to summarise content marketing in a handy structure. A structure enabling you to put all the pieces of the big content marketing information puzzle in the right place. So that you can view and assess them from a distance.

The subject matter can be divided into seven basic foundations: strategy, organisation and technology can be seen as the preconditions and frameworks and the 4 Cs (concept development, content creation, communication and conversion) as the recurrent aspects in the day-to-day content marketing process.

This blog briefly explains each foundation:

Strategy
The marketing strategy must follow on from the organisational strategy. In content marketing, helpfulness is paramount in the entire procurement process. This may well begin before any solutions are even considered. Communication relating to the products or services is as yet quite pointless. At this stage of concept creation, it is far more important to focus attention on any developments, trends and possibilities that bear relation to the organisation's portfolio. You will help customers to form ideas, thus coming into contact with potential future customers at an early stage. In this marketing process, the development of a first relationship is crucial. These relationships can only be developed on the basis of authenticity. The communication following on from the organisation's vision and core values will guarantee this.

If the organisation opts for the strategic implementation of content marketing, it is important to recognise that content marketing is a process, not a campaign. Marketing organisations traditionally often think in terms of campaigns aimed at direct sales. If turnover is falling, a campaign is devised to generate new leads. The nature of content marketing, however, is more long-term. It is used to influence at an early stage of the procurement process, after all, aimed at ultimately generating more customers and higher turnover. Suspects will not become hot prospects overnight. During the various procurement stages, potential customers need different kinds of content. Aligning this content to the various stages by means of lead nurturing demands a procedural approach.

Concept development
Stage one of the content marketing process is to develop concepts for the different product market combinations the organisation focuses on. During this stage, the guidelines are defined for the communication to target groups. The most important step in this respect is formulating answers to the following cluster of questions:

What (message) is to be communicated to who (which target group or buyer personas) with regard to investment issues in the services you provide? When? And through which medium (blogs, social media, papers, videos, etc)?

Business procurement decisions almost always involve multiple decision makers. These decision makers and influencers have different roles and different interests in a procurement decision. During the procurement process this DMU's information requirement will also change.

Content creation
Once an answer has been formulated to the question cluster from the first stage, the content must be created. To ensure succes, varying content formats could be utilised e.g. a whitepaper or webinar, a range of blogs for blog sites and infographics for interaction via social media. Content creation concerns the use and production of various content formats, the connection between them, and the optimisation for each channel.

Communication
Content only becomes effective and relevant if it is consumed, valued and shared by the right target group. Stage three of the content marketing process, therefore, is communication. Basically, communication can be distributed through either owned, earned or paid media.

Owned media are channels an organisation owns or controls, such as it own website, social media and email newsletter. Earned media includes all third-party media attention for which no payment is made. Paid media finally, are all purchased media. Examples include traditional advertisements, advertorials, AdWords, dedicated emails and banners, as well as sponsored social media messages and in-video-advertising. In content marketing the focus shifts from paid media to owned and earned media.

Conversion
The ultimate profitability of content marketing lies in the conversion from ‘unknown’ individual to a loyal customer relationship, with a vast range of intermediate forms inbetween, such as likes, subscribers, followers, leads and prospects. Effective monitoring of content marketing performance requires the definition of KPIs. KPI-based management can improve performance, in the form of enhanced click ratios and conversion ratios for example. Improvements could be applied in titles, user interface, tailoring to target groups, responsiveness to the device and the use of visuals.

Organisation

Content marketing sounds interesting and logical enough, but it is actually hard work. Studies of content marketing always reveal the greatest challenge to be the creation of sufficient and sufficiently appealing content. On top of which, the best content is in the minds of various people and not everyone is aching to write a blog, participate in webinars or actively utilise social media. Ensuring the organisation has the appropriate facilities is therefore vital. Should the organisation decide to outsource its content creation, the desired message and tone of voice must be safeguarded.

Content creation and the management of the content marketing process call for new competences within the organisation. While there are clear parallels between the content marketing process and a publishing company, most organisations are not (yet) publishers. The different competences have been siloed. Different people and departments are responsible for SEO, PR, social media, product marketing for instance. One question that subsequently arises is how multi-disciplinary teams can cooperate most effectively.

Technology
Although content marketing has been around for ages, current technological developments are the driving force behind its recent popularity. The last foundation is indeed the technology and various software tools needed to implement content marketing efficiently and effectively. Examples include content management systems, marketing automation, email marketing software and lead management.

Modelling the various aspects of content marketing gives structure to the subject. We use this model in our everyday practice. You may also find it useful!

Would you like to know more about the seven principles of B2B content marketing? Join my lecture at B2B Marketing Belgium Conference “The Culture of Content”.