Why underutilised content should be your worst enemy

Spending time and money creating content is only part of the equation, says Aurélien Gohier. You need an activation strategy to make the most of it

Being a good B2B marketer involves creativity in the way we design impactful content to target existing or new audiences. In a context where marketing ROI has become the common unit for any sales and marketing leader to judge the efficiency of marketing action, we should all be sure to activate this content properly to make everyone see it. But how to build the best content activation strategy?

We are all fighting hard to build a perfect balance between intelligent brand awareness and efficient lead generation. We need to be creative to find new ways to positively impact the reputation of our company, with one key element to bear in mind: Make any of our investments matter, always demonstrating the corresponding ROI and tangible impact on our business from a macro perspective. 

Recent reseatch published by Demand Gen Report showed the three most impactful type of assets to leverage B2B demand generation are (not surprisingly):

  1. Case studies
  2. Whitepapers
  3. Videos.

A common theme these three types of assets is they require proper investment of time and money to be good and to generate demand. I am not saying you cannot make good videos with a limited financial investment, but I am saying there is no cheap way (human resources cost money too) to build a strong, efficient and demand generating content strategy. We all spend huge effort and money in to create good content, but not a lot of marketers have a proper strategy to get the maximum ROI.

Underutilised B2B marketing content hurts businesses. And the overall decrease of email open rates and organic traffic on social media strongly reinforces this issue. In the software industry, the average email open rate is around 10-20%, and the organic reach on social media is between 5-10%. Even with many communication waves (let’s say three emails and three social media posts) to promote a new asset, your chance to reach even a third of your existing audience is very limited. And I am not even talking about the audience you never targeted!

We know multiplying the communication waves about the same asset in not the solution, even with the smartest marketing automation approach you risk looking like a spammer who begs his clients to read his content. Don’t take the risk to of losing the interest and credibility in front of an important part of your qualified audience. Sometimes we forget people don’t click on our emails or social media posts because they don’t want to, not only because they missed it in their mailbox or LinkedIn feed.

Maximise prospects' appetite for content

The solution to maximise your prospects’ appetite for B2B marketing content lies in:

  • Building multiple content formats perfectly adapted to the exact personas you want to target, taking into account the publication context (newsjacking can be powerful).
  • Thinking about your content for long-term communication. This is not about your new asset itself and its download rate, but also about how this asset will contribute to spread the right message about your company over months.
  • Posting your B2B marketing content in the right place, with the right timing and from the right stakeholder (from one of your company's executive for instance, for deeper credibility and impact).
  • Before you create any sort of B2B marketing asset, you need to have a clear idea of what the corresponding communication plan will be.
  • You need (and this is the hardest part) to create 'shareable' content by other people. Keep in mind in most cases you are not the target of the content you are writing.

The five pieces of advice come from a very simple fact. As marketers, we have all been disappointed times when we created an awesome piece of content, as we had the awkward feeling that no one really considered it interesting enough to engage with and share with their community. 

Sometimes as marketers we are not objective about the quality of the content we deliver. Every day I create content for engineers – but I am not an engineer. And even though I have been working in this industry since 2009, I need to accept I cannot fully understand what they need. The only way to balance this is to make great efforts to build accurate and up-to-date user and buyer personas. But this is almost a full-time job.

In some cases (and I learnt the hard way) you are not disappointed for the right reasons. Your article is actually amazing, but you did not take all your chances to make it visible and successful. Believe me, you don't have to reinvent the wheel to make it work.

Putting it into practice

Let's take a concrete example: you are in charge of covering the digital communication plan (lead gen included) to promote a very important in-house event. You create a pretty good 360 degrees and multi-touch communication approach, and most of all, you put everything in place to capture much snackable content that you will reuse after the event as strong marketing assets to feed future lead generation campaigns. 

  • Make sure to have a professional photographer focusing on taking highly qualitative and creative pictures during the day.
  • Have a small freelance graphic agency taking care of taking pictures of the plenary session to feed your live social media along the day.
  • Handle the social media content posts yourself (I do not believe in external agencies if you want to keep a high standard of quality and credible posts standard. This is time consuming but it is worth it).
  • Have a video production agency take care of your streaming capture and live broadcasting. Set up multi-camera video recording to interview the keynote speakers, the academic and technological partners of the event around trending topics. And have one dedicated video person reuse any small pieces of videos (bits from the streaming, interview, video of people experiencing immersive demos, shaking hands) and create a 45-second video delivered in the morning, and the exact same kind of video delivered in the afternoon, which will have a great impact on your live social media engagement during the day.
  • Work with a specialized agency which will hire a professional journalist who will come during the event to interview all sort of people and write about the main issues covered during the event. This will make a perfect post-event blog. Focus on trending topic articles, not on promotional assets.
  • Create a post-event, downloadable e-book with the best pictures taken by the professional photographer and the best quotes and insights gathered by your journalist. One version for VIP (private) and another public version.

A worthwhile investment

Yes, this is an investment, but the outcome for future lead gen is enormous: 

  • Promoting the next edition of your event will be easier than ever because you will have all the arguments and assets to illustrate how successful the last edition of your event was. A perfect opportunity if you have important audience growth objectives to meet,
  • VIPs will just love receiving the post-event e-book before everybody else, like two or three days after the event. The momentum will still be here, and believe me, your key account representatives will be so excited by this simple but efficient marketing initiative,
  • One week after the event you can send the most complete and valuable follow-up email to all participants with: a video replay of plenary sessions (requiring contact details for full version); a post-event article; e-book of the event (public version requiring contact details); and the two social media fancy videos created during the day.
  • You can plan social media organic and paid campaigns for 8-12 weeks following the event to keep capturing new contacts, non-aggressively, with highly-valuable content, expert interviews and customised e-book, etc. The highest ROI I experienced was a sponsored LinkedIn InMail sent from one of our highest representative suggesting the download of post-report e-book to a pre-determined audience, mostly targeting personas of a relatively high level of seniority interested in the topic of industry digitisation. It resulted in open rates close to 50%. We were not selling them anything, just sharing with them some customised and real content based on an actual event, which allowed us to generate some positive proximity with them and potentially recruit them for the next edition of the event.
  • Creation of photo albums published on social media: purely brand awareness-oriented, but always very attractive for people who attended the event.
  • Use video SEO as a source of inbound leads. Turn your plenary sessions video replays, your interviews, and anything your captured during the event into textual content which you will be able to repackage under different assets to suggest to your audience (blogs, white papers, short use cases, etc).
  • Create infographics out of all the precious data you will have gathered in all the content you captured during the event (quote, key numbers, etc).
  • Repackage e-books by topic based on the interviews you got during the event for instance.
  • Finally, you can use the replay to target specific segments of your client/prospect database and keep positioning yourself as an expert. For example, target all the automotive third-party companies by email and suggest them to watch the replay of a major automotive part supplier talking about their digital processes transformation.

Think of any sort of marketing asset you can repackage to target difference audiences, on different channels, at different period of the year. You need to extract any drop of juice from the content you create. Stop believing people actually see the content you post. If you do all this, the frustration of having created a brilliant asset not seen by anyone will disappear. What you need is not a content marketing creation plan, but a content marketing creation and activation plan, a matrix system which allows you to make the best use of your content.

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