6 Elements of Modern Content Marketing

B2B content marketing is having a rough go of it lately. Optimism is low even though content marketers are creating, sharing and promoting more content than ever before. The content created gets lost in the digital noise, the data collected isn’t thorough and the audiences reached aren’t receptive.

We know why and how B2B content marketers are failing. But how are they succeeding?  According to a joint study between ON24 and Heinz Marketing,  the marketers that get the most out of their content know how to drive engagement. What’s more, the successful marketers in the study all share certain traits.

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To provide you with a better idea of what’s working, we’ve consolidated the traits found in successful content programs into six attributes. These high-level qualities cannot be easily shoehorned into a content program, but marketers should use these attributes as guideposts as they move towards a content program based on engagement, rather than clicks.

Attribute One: Personalization

Successful content marketing programs customizer messaging for individual audiences. To do so, content creators must have a keen understanding of audience pain points, industry terminology and a robust library of personas to draw on — even at the expense of campaign efficiency.

Attribute Two: Interaction

Audiences need to interact with content, not stare at it. This means taking advantage of two-way conversations through digital media and in-person events. Driving a two-way conversation can help an audience understand what they need from a solution and help marketers better target and engage with audiences.

Attribute Three: Curiosity

Great content programs evoke curiosity in audiences. News updates, product releases, in-depth installation guides, expert commentary and more can all pique the interest of relevant attendees. Again, having a well-defined understanding of a target audience is necessary to know what makes them curious and what makes them click away.

Attribute Four: Personas

This entry should be no surprise given how much of content marketing depends on well-honed personas. With quality personas, marketers can bring out the personality in content and craft work that’ll actually get read, rather than glanced at.

Attribute Five: Precision

Up to 90 percent of content marketers create for sales goes unused. The solution isn’t, however, to create less. Instead, marketers need to make their content more precise. Assets should address the unique pain points their prospective customers face in the buying journey — even if it’s a single slide or quote.

Attribute Six: Brevity

Brevity is the soul of both wit and good marketing. Knowing when to say less — or provide less — can help marketers engage more. So, take a step away from the 20-page white paper and send a summary to your audience instead.

4 Marketing Mindsets That Don’t Cut It Anymore

According to content marketers, content marketing today is in bad shape. It should be no surprise as to why: more content is being created, shared and promoted than ever before, but with little to focus on what content audiences actually want.

According to a joint study between ON24 and Heinz Marketing, marketers have shown a significant decline in the confidence they have in their content marketing strategies.  The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that most marketers don’t know if they’re delivering the right content to the right audience, don’t measure performance and don’t measure results.

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The uncertainty around content marketing and its performance is unfortunate, but it doesn’t have to be fatal. Marketers can pull themselves out of their rut by understanding the four marketing mindsets that don’t cut it anymore.

Bad Marketing Mindset One: Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is a popular marketing mindset that exploded in the past decade. There are many different growth hacking definitions, but, in principle, the strategy centers around “grow the company no matter what.” Often, it does so through rapid campaign iterations.

The problem with most growth hacking efforts today, however, is that it distracts from the important, foundational elements a marketing program needs. Foundational strategies are thrown out the window in favor of whatever works. Buyer personas are inaccurate, not done or are targeted as “anyone and everyone.” The buyer’s journey

Growth hacking may work for a short while and provide early-stage startups with some numbers to show investors. But these early-growth sprints deplete marketing reserves at the cost of long-term, consistent growth.

Bad Marketing Mindset Two: Guesswork

Too many marketing campaigns today operate on guesswork. Marketers will share content they perceive as relevant, or popular, for an audience without considering actual pain points, needs or objectives. The guessing problem is prevalent and stems from a variety of factors.

Instead, marketers should use what they know and build from there. The scientific method — where marketers hypothesize, experiment, measure and assess — can add certainty to any content program. For example, editorial calendars can be used to plot out iterations on popular blog posts or content. They can also be changed based off of measured results.

Bad Marketing Mindset Three: More Means Better

Adding more to the pile of blogs and white papers and e-books inundates and intimidates clients and prospects. It’s also emblematic of something worse: that you don’t actually know your audience all that well.

Take the time to understand what your customers and prospects actually care about when it comes to your content. And a better understanding includes more than just the substance of the content you’re creating. Know which formats and channels drive more interaction, engagement and interest and deliver content for those channels.

Bad Marketing Mindset Four: Follow the Leader

There are a lot of marketing success stories out there. In fact, sharing those stories is a mini-industry unto itself. It’s tempting to look at the success of others and copy what they do, but copying a tactic or strategy and applying it to your marketing situation ignores the needs of your audience.

Remember that every business, yours included, is uniquely different. Your customers, selling environment and your industry add up to one requirement: content created from your organization’s unique perspective. To create this unique perspective, you need to have a strong understanding of your audience, their pain points and where and how they engage with your content.

How Marketers Are and Are Not Breaking Through the B2B Noise

Most of what constitutes content marketing today is noise. While papers are drafted, reports are written, social media is scheduled and ads are bought, the marketing needle sits still. That’s because noise doesn’t stand out, drive interest or engage audiences. But that doesn’t mean content marketing isn’t worth the effort.

A joint report between Heinz Marketing and ON24, “Cut Through the B2B Noise: Drive Engagement, Action, Conversion and Loyalty,” found that while content marketing today is suffering in general, there is a path to success.

Learn How Content Can Drive Engagement

The Bad News Around Content Marketing Today

The report found that most ineffectual content marketing programs aren’t organized around data, measurements and audiences. Without a proper content infrastructure in place, marketers, in the short-term, are taking a step back from where they should be.

First, the report found only one in four content marketing professionals are confident in their strategy. Up to 47 percent of respondents rate their strategy as “somewhat effective.” Another 20 percent say their strategy isn’t effective at all.

Second, marketers are having a hard time generating relevant content. The report found that more than 45 percent of respondents are somewhat or not confident at all that they’re creating relevant content. By contrast, only one in five respondents say they’re very or extremely confident they’re creating content relevant to target audiences.

Third, marketers aren’t confident in their ability to measure the impact of content. According to the report, more than 70 percent of surveyed marketers say they’re only somewhat or not at all confident in their ability to measure the impact of their content marketing efforts. Only 13 percent of respondents say they’re extremely or very confident in measuring content impact.

All this adds up to an ecosystem where marketers lack confidence in their content. According to the report, more than 65 percent of marketing professionals claim to be only somewhat confident or not confident that their content is driving desired revenue results.

What Is Working In Content Marketing

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The small percentage of B2B content marketing programs that are successful share remarkably similar patterns. These programs, according to the report, tend to prioritize engagement, personalize content and are aligned around a customer story.

The report found that, of the marketers who have high confidence in the ability of their programs, successful content is usually shared through certain formats and channels. These media clearly have a preference for two-way, interactive engagements with audiences — increasing the time spent with high-performing content.

But what makes for high-performing content? The report found that the most successful content programs focus intensely on personalizing the experiences. In fact, many of the marketers who report content marketing success say they focus more on the experience than they do for scale and efficiency — especially when it comes to high-target accounts.

Part of what makes this personalization possible, the report found, is the ability to empathize with the buyer’s story. For example, instead of sharing the company’s story, successful content marketers develop content focusing on the prospect’s story first. Doing so lengthens the buying cycle, but it builds interest and engagement in accounts that matter.

Finally, found that great content marketing programs are a team effort. Marketing, sales and customer departments tend to be heavily aligned and share a consistent story across channels. The added benefit of tightly-integrated teams, in fact, is the ability to use the same content and story from team to team, providing customers and prospects with a consistent experience.

Most content marketing efforts today are in a bad place. They’re disorganized, uncertain and need a foundational platform to build from. Over the next few weeks, ON24 will explore the basics of building a content marketing program that breaks through the B2B noise and connects with the audience. Keep an eye on this space to learn more.