Today, an increasing number of B2B marketers recognise that content-focused marketing is the way forward. In fact, it’s the main reason I haven’t posted in so long. Over the last six months I’ve spent most of my waking hours working with both start-ups and FTSE 100s on their content strategy and creation.
While they’ve each been different in many ways, the same issue tends to come up with all of them: How do we create enough quality content with the resources we have?
In some ways it’s not surprising, in pretty much all the surveys I’ve seen, creating sufficient content comes up either at the top or within the top three challenges for today’s marketers.
But despite what some may fear, it’s not an insurmountable problem either.
Recently, there have been a rash of books focused on the whole notion of the lean start-up. In this view of the world, you keep things simple and then iterate based on feedback (build-measure-learn as Eric Ries puts it). Within lean principles are a couple of concepts that I think can help you structure your approach to content marketing:
Lean start-ups are advised to focus on delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) – essentially, a product that you can ship that will test your thinking in the open market. It will have just enough functionality to deliver value for customers without over-promising.
Importantly, it means you can ship something rather than spending months trying for perfection only to miss the opportunity.
It’s an idea that can be easily ported across to content marketing. You do not need to replicate Wikipedia to get going. Start small.
Produce a concise, well-written ebook that answers a real need among your customers (plug-in to your salespeople and your support team to help source key topics). Then spin out a couple of how-to cheat sheets. Curate some third-party content together with your own view. And ask for feedback – what was useful? What wasn’t? What else would customers like to know?
After this, you can begin thinking about additional content. For example, if you’re running an event, take the opportunity to video some of it and grab some backstage interview time with speakers and attendees. Then, all of a sudden you have a series of short videos.
Two things though:
Of course, what happens if you get it wrong?
If you start small, listen for feedback and keep a close eye on your analytics, you’ll be able to see what’s working and what’s not.
While it’s important to give your programme enough time to become established, there is no reason to continue with elements that patently aren’t delivering.
Of course, you shouldn’t simply make a blanket assumption that the whole approach is wrong (there are too many other B2B marketers seeing outstanding success for that).
It could be that you’re targeting the wrong people. Or that you’re focusing on the strategic when you should be talking tactics (or vice versa). Or that you’re relying on social media when you need an outbound push to get things rolling.
The lesson here is to needle away at the issue, creating testable hypotheses about the root cause of the issue.
This brings us to the idea of pivoting. Pivoting involves learning from the past, retaining what’s working and reorienting your focus around this.
In a content marketing framework, for example, you might find that your ebook bombed but your video interviews with customers and partners are delivering standout results. So, you drop ebooks and focus on video – both creating more video content and learning what it is about what you’re doing that’s working. It might be the quick-hit format, your choice of interviewees, the topics they cover, the lessons they share – or any other element.
Importantly, don’t simply assume that every piece of content now needs to be video for ever more. It is important to have a well-rounded approach that caters to customers differing preferences. That way you avoid content cul-de-sacs that can be costly to back out of later.
Ultimately, content marketing doesn’t need to be as complex and scary as many marketers think. With an iterative approach, a solid feedback loop and the willingness and ability to change and evolve, pretty much any B2B company can make it a success.
Jason Ball is the founder and managing director at Considered. With a multi-decade career in B2B marketing, he’s worked with world-leading brands such as Adobe, Google, EY and Cisco together with niche specialists in technology, manufacturing and professional services.