Content Marketing: 3 Best Practices That Work

Steve Norall - March 14, 2011

(2nd post in the series based on our primary research of 126 B2B marketing and sales professionals – 2011 State of Content Marketing.  In the previous post, we identified the conundrum that B2B marketers face: they lack the time and energy to create impactful marketing content.)

B2B marketing has rapidly evolved in the past five years, fueled by a shift towards inbound marketing and social media tactics.  As marketers, we must evolve our craft or face the Darwinian consequences.  From our 2011 State of Content Marketing survey, three salient best practices emerged that all marketers should consider when crafting their content marketing strategies.

Best Practice #1: Less “Salesy” Content Works Best

In order to reach sophisticated consumers, organizations must spend more time elucidating the broader issues that their prospects face, rather than focusing on content that advertises the features and benefits of the product.  This is in line with current observations of marketing experts, including Howard Sewell and Steve Farmsworth in this recent podcast from ThePoint . As consumers, we search the internet to find resources to solve a broad spectrum of problems.  From business services to complex computer systems, we increasingly rely on online data detailing specific problems and solutions. A landing page with a traditional sales-oriented list of product features and benefits is often immediately tuned out, while engaging information can draw us in more.  In our research, 52% of marketing professionals regarded thought leadership white papers and case studies as very effective in terms of attracting new business inquiries.

How Appirio Generated Thought Leadership Content:
Appirio is a key player in driving the enterprise adoption of the cloud as well as mobile and social applications. With TechValidate, they were able to gather third-party statistical evidence in less than two weeks in order to highlight key adoption trends around social and mobile computing.  They used TechValidate content to support a product launch and cited it on their CIO blog here.

Best Practice #2: Tailor Content to Your Audience

Our primary research also showed that an overwhelming number of marketing professionals tailor their marketing content to specific audiences. A resounding 85% of respondents reported taking this tact.  Not surprisingly, verticalized content was the most popular form (69%), followed by usage or solution model content targeting (59.5%).  Prospects are much more likely to be swayed by content that speaks to their particular problems rather than more generic content.

One size does not fit all when it comes to content.  However, the dirty little secret is that this mass-customization comes with a heavy cost. B2B marketers now must fully flesh out a multi-dimensional content matrix that allows them to tell nuanced stories by usage model, vertical industry, business size, and other demographics and psychographic factors.  No small task.

Best Practice #3: Content Sourced Directly Impacts Efficacy

Content sourced from existing customers was the most effective at influencing and engaging prospects.  Over 90% of marketing professionals rated this type of content as “extremely effective” or “very effective.” Interestingly, content written in-house was not nearly as effective as content sourced from customers and 3rd parties, like analysts.  Although content created in-house is the declarative source about your product, prospects discount the claims made in these pieces for 3rd party sources that they trust or perceive as more credible.

Content marketing is hard, requiring time and resources that are in short supply.  Nonetheless, the foundation of an effective content marketing strategy starts with these three pillars: 1) drawing out and illuminating the problem you solve with non-salesy, thought leadership content, 2) creating targeted, personalized content for specific core audiences and 3) drawing on the voice of the customer to provide convincing evidence of your company’s value proposition.  Follow these three principles and you will be on the right track.

More posts in this series >

Steve Norall

Steve Norall is CEO and Co-Founder of TechValidate. He brings a wealth of experience in both enterprise marketing and software engineering to TechValidate.

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