Why now’s the time to cut the confusion out of content marketing
Covid19 could be the catalyst for a great leap forward for content marketing
B2B brands expend huge effort and resources on content marketing, but often in a way that’s unstructured, poorly co-ordinated and even actively wasteful – particularly for global brands. But Covid19 has provided the opportunity and impetus to rationalise and optimise – that was the conclusion from our latest B2B Marketing Leaders virtual roundtable, which was sponsored by SDL.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when ‘content marketing’ was something new and poorly understood or accepted. These days, content is a lynchpin of B2B brands’ marketing strategies, and accounts for a significant portion of output.
And yet, at the same time, too often it still appears to be remarkably unstructured or undisciplined, with ‘random acts of content’ still surprisingly prevalent. This is particularly the case for global corporates, where sheer size and complexity makes effective management, co-ordination and (above all) quality control exponentially more difficult.
So, in such entities, how do you optimise your content output to deliver maximum impact and minimise wastage or confusion? That was what we were seeking to discuss in our recent global content marketing virtual roundtable, run in association with SDL.
Participants attending came from a variety of sectors, although most significantly from the tech, professional services and manufacturing industries, and as ever the discussion was fascinating, informed, far-reaching and revelatory. Personally, I was surprised at the lack of control mechanisms, process and technology deployed by many of these globally renowned brands in managing this core output. I was, however, reassured by the determination of those attending to address this, and the fact that Covid-19 has provided new impetus and opportunity to do so. Here are my key learnings from this session:
1. The content avalanche is only gathering intensity
Most global companies are overwhelming themselves by the sheer volume of content that is being generated by their organisation – much of it from outside of marketing. Their challenge is rationalisation and optimisation, to make best use of what they’ve got, to identify the best stuff, to exploit/activate it better, and to do more of it.
2. Locally originated content typically makes the problem worse
It’s inevitable and reasonable that marketers in the field in regions or territories are creating their own problem, but the quality is variable at best and generally adding to the problem by increasing the noise, rather than helping cut through it.
3. Content distribution is just as much as a problem as content creation – if not more so
Understanding and sophistication of distribution or social channels is highly variable across global organisations, and great centrally-created content can either sit on a shelf without the understanding of how to use it, or be rejected outright.
4. Covid-19 has created an inflexion point
There’s a recognition of the need to do things differently, and the internal political will to break from previous models and accepted methodologies. To a greater or lesser extent, brands are realising that there is a better way to do things, and the Covid-19 crisis has given the remit to explore that – with the aspirations of better control, more consistency and higher quality.
5. Messaging architecture has proven the value of better centralised control
Brands that instigated this in the wake of Covid-19 have been able to deliver consistent and effective messaging across multiple territories and business units.
6. Covid-19 response has both enabled and demanded change
Content marketers have delivered projects with speed and agility which has not been possible before, and this has been revelatory to both the content team and the wider business. The challenge is now to retain that ethos and practice once the crisis is over, and embed it in future activity.
7. Sales will be central to the future of content
A common theme amongst roundtable attendees was their new-found zeal about aligning with sales for future content projects. As one attendee contended: “All the best content is created in collaboration with sales. They will be our key partner going forward.”
8. Not all content formats are equal
For example, bottom-of-the-funnel is proving the trickiest, and content marketers have had to work with sales management to create innovative incentive solutions to identify case studies and use cases.
9. Content-tech deployment is in its infancy
Despite all the hype around martech, and the plethora of solutions emerging in recent years, attendees admitted to currently using remarkably little tech to improve content supply chain management. Only one marketer attending had invested significantly, using a couple of core platforms, but this individual still regarded their organisation as being at the beginning of its content tech journey.
10. Better management can’t be at the expense of relevance and creativity
Whilst all those attending clearly aspired to achieving better structure, control and management of their content, they also recognised the need to retain and encourage the journalistic angle, and the ability to understand and align with what's relevant to their market. The need to cultivate curiosity and an ear-to-the-ground about what’s important and what customers are concerned about will remain critical to good (let alone great!) content. Only by demonstrating relevance to customers' needs will content be effective in moving people down the sales funnel.
About the B2B Marketing Leaders programme
B2B Marketing is running regular roundtables to help CMOs, marketing directors, VPs and other B2B Marketing Leaders to navigate the coronavirus crisis and prepare for what comes next. For more information on the programme go to our website.
If you’d like to join one of these sessions, email firstname.lastname@example.org