Content is King – But Where are the Kingmakers?
The second-biggest challenge in lead generation is creating high quality content. London Research and Demand Exchange brought together a number of marketers working with content to discuss the problems they've faced, and the solutions they've found.
The Covid pandemic has made content marketing more important to B2B companies than ever before. The problem is finding people with the knowledge to write relevant, high-quality content, and the skills to write it fast enough.
This was the clear message that emerged from the recent London Research/Demand Exchange State of Content Marketing 2021 round table. Attendees discussed the difficulty both of finding writers with the understanding of their particular markets, and of educating inexperienced writers when specialists can’t be found.
They also talked about the problem of persuading colleagues outside the marketing department to help with content when doing so won’t move the dial on their own KPIs; about finding customers who might be willing to talk, and assessing when to contact them; and about how not being able to chat to people on the way out of a meeting can have a dramatic effect on productivity.
Events Budgets Move to Content
The London Research/Demand Exchange State of B2B Lead Generation 2021 report found that more than four-fifths of respondents (82%) have increased their investment in on-line content since the start of the pandemic, with half (51%) saying they are shifting budget from physical events into white paper marketing.
But the second biggest challenge companies face in lead generation – after the quality of the leads they generate – is creating content of the quality required. Just over a third of respondents said lead quality was a problem, the same as in 2019. But almost the same proportion (30%) said content quality was a barrier, up from 20% in 2019.
This was reflected in the round table conversation. Several attendees talked about how their desire to increase their content marketing was being hampered by the difficulty of finding writers equipped to produce articles about very technical subjects for an audience of experts, and to do so at the pace required. One, the head of marketing at a B2B SaaS company, explained that the only person who met her requirements was a former product manager.
Matching Tasks to Capabilities
There were a number of suggestions to address this problem. One simple way put forward to reduce the workload on a small number of specialists was to assign them solely to writing lower-funnel content requiring a high level of detail and product understanding. More awareness-focused upper-funnel material is then given to less knowledgeable writers, or freelancers.
Someone else suggested splitting responsibility for content by experience, so heavyweight content like ebooks would be given to senior writers, while blog posts requiring less detail could go to the newcomers. And another participant suggested the simple trick of keeping writers leaving the company in the fold as freelancers.
An idea for bringing newcomers up to speed quickly was having them listen in to sales and customer service calls, to help them understand customers’ issues and to become familiar with the type of language used. Another was to assign them to interview in-house experts, and to work together to create the finished piece of content.
How Do You Get Your Experts to Help Your Writers?
This suggestion raised the issue of cross-company collaboration. Participants agreed this is partly a cultural problem, and partly one of education. The head of content at a digital commerce platform talked about working in an organisation with a culture of openness, which he said made it easy for him to ask a CX leader or sales person to give up 30 minutes to talk to a writer. But he also stressed the importance of continually reminding senior management of the value of maintaining this openness.
As someone else pointed out, this is an issue that’s been made worse by remote working. As they said, in the office you can just walk round to the CFO’s desk and say “Hey, I need you to do this by Friday,” but during lockdown you can’t go round to someone’s house and do that.
Know Your Customer
Case studies make powerful marketing content, but the same problem of persuading busy people to help you when there’s no benefit to them also applies to customers. One participant explained how he checks with his CX team to find out how the particular customer he’s interested in is doing, and how receptive they’re likely to be to an approach.
Another explained how she aims to create a client matrix so she knows the core contacts that might be willing to talk to her, matched against what their company’s been doing. That should allow her to pick the right customer for the right piece of content at the right time, and then work with the account team to set up a conversation.
Of course, persuading a customer to talk to you is only half the battle. You also have to get their company’s approval for the finished piece, which can take weeks or even months. One suggestion was to explain the process to your contact from the start, so that they’re fighting for the approval on your behalf. If that fails, you can anonymise the piece and run it that way; it’ll still have value for readers.
What’s Your Content for?
The crucial piece of information that informs any decision about these issues is what you’re creating content for. Is it SEO? Brand awareness? Amplification of your messaging? Or to share outside your own properties in order to bring people back to your site? As a number of attendees pointed out, once you’ve decided that, it’s much easier to work out what sort of content you need to create, in which formats and how often, and who the audience is going to be.
Then you can start to create a virtuous cycle of content. Every event you run should generate content; every piece of content should lead to another; and every response to that content should inform the next event, all the while keeping the conversation going and helping you develop a better understanding of your customers.
To learn more about the role of content in B2B marketing, download The State of B2B Lead Generation report from London Research in partnership with Demand Exchange.