B2B Marketing Digital Breakfast: select the topics you want to learn

Are you a fellow B2B Marketer? Want to learn more about Content Marketing for B2B but… have no time for learning – with the exception of a couple of hours in the early morning? Do you live in London?

Well, here is a potential outline of what I’m planning to present next week @ the CMA Digital Breakfast “B2B Marketing Challenges”. Very flexible agenda. If you have any topics you’d love to suggest and to discuss together let me know using the comments and I’ll cover the arguments you selected. Well, still focus on B2B Content Marketing please; I won’t accept things like “can you please talk about the last 50 years of politics of the Greenwich council?” or “How to cook the perfect lasagna?”. With all the rest: I’ll do my best to accept any inputs.

  • Agenda
  • Who is the speaker, who is Newscred
  • Emotions vs. Data ~ B2C vs. B2B
  • Is B2B still “Boring 2 Boring”?
  • Personas & buyer journey
  • B2B content distribution
  • Content Hubs
  • B2B ROI and KPIs
  • B2B & B2C convergence
  • B2B Myths
  • Conclusions

Thanks.

Content Marketing Strategy series for large B2B and B2C enterprises

Content Marketing Strategy for B2B and B2C enterprises

Short summary of where I am with my strategy series posts. While most of it has been created with a clear B2B vision in mind, the Content Marketing programs I am following in NewsCred can confirm that the majority of it is 100% applicable to B2C cases.

Here is the latest list:

Content chronicles

First two weeks in NewsCred: amazing experience so far, lots of learning, but starting to put my content marketing experience at disposal of accounts/marketers too. Definition of a global/local model and a general content strategy seem the most common challenges so far. Planning a second (long) trip to NY in May.

Also, contributing to finalize next NewsCred’s Big Rock content (yeah, NewsCred launches Big Rocks too!); and writing for NewsCred Insights’s blog. My next post will cover one of the steps of the overall content strategy: “Target persona and buyer journey”. It will be live in a couple of weeks.

Here is a summary of my strategy posts:

Step 1: The Case for Change
Step 2: Finding the Optimal Balance Between Central and Local
Step 3: (Editorial Process) Why your Company needs an Editorial Board to empower its Content Strategy
Step 4: Defining Global/Local Target Personas
Step 5: Selecting a Content Hub – why Blogs are still at the core of your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 6: Selecting a Content Marketing Platform
Step 7: Launching Big Rock content
Step 8: Content Distribution
Step 9: How to integrate Public Relations with your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Step 10: Launching an Internal Communications Strategy
Step 11: Piloting Your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 12: Finally, Going Global

Why Enterprises need a Content Marketing Platform to address content chaos

I have been designing content marketing strategy in large B2B enterprises for the last few years. If I have to list the top challenges I have had with its implementation there is no doubt that the first was a missing Content Marketing Software Platform. Other major challenges were, in order: 1) setting up proper analytic and 2) moving our content strategy from central pilots to global deployment (see my post on NewsCred Insights).

Our complex marketing technology stack, heritage of endless company acquisitions and integration, miss in fact this critical piece: we had to invest a relevant amount of time thinking at how to replace all processes and functions that a content marketing platform could offer: content creation, content curation, planning, editorial calendar, workflow management, publishing, internal and external content distribution, analytics, and last but not least, intelligence.

There has been a mind-numbing proliferation of technology vendors and solutions to address the needs of content and digital marketers in the last few years. For instance, Curata’s content marketing tools map has increased from 40 to over 130 vendors in its most recent version. NewsCred too has helped navigating across the ocean of marketing technologies with one of its latest posts. Mergers and acquisitions have contributed to make things even more complex.

Now, let’s go back to the basics for a moment, and let’s define what a content marketing platform is. The latest Forrester’s Wave report on Content Marketing Platforms (end of 2015) provides some clarity (note: the report has restricted access).

To address this challenge (the challenge of the enterprise’s content chaos), several technology vendors have developed a single software platform for all involved parties to collaborate on the strategy behind the content and its planning, creation, and distribution; these are called content marketing platforms (CMPs):
 
[Definition] Content marketing platforms are solutions that help marketing teams collaborate on a content strategy, orchestrate the numerous, concurrent streams of activity by content creators, curators, and distributors inside and outside of the company, and optimize downstream cross-channel distribution to key audiences.

Forrester Wave’s report further clarifies the need for a CMP: CMPs, the report affirms, are a “nascent category of marketing technology stack”, and are quickly growing to provide:

  • A single environment for teams to collaborate on content for all phases of customer life cycle
  • A replacement for Excel and email and facilitate collaboration across organizational silos
  • A place to aggregate data, content, and metrics from many sources

A Content Marketing Platform is this, and much more. CMPs act as a glue among several enterprise technologies managing content, distribution, analytics, pipeline (which is in general the primary goals of all B2B marketers) and insights, one of the new frontiers for such kind of software platforms. It is clear why CMPs have a central role and integrate several pieces of the marketing technology stack.

Where a CMP is supposed to be located within a full marketing stack? Curata introduces the “Emergence of the Content Marketing Platform”:

Sales Force Automation platforms fuel revenue by tracking and supplying sales opportunities and leads. Marketing Automation Platforms drive Sales Force Automation by supplying marketing qualified leads. But what drives the marketing activities and leads of Marketing Automation Platforms? Content. Like a car without gas, marketing automation can’t get very far without content. Content is needed for everything from a website (which is tracked by marketing automation), to email campaigns, to even pay-per-click landing page offers.

Many of today’s content marketers have little accountability and transparency in terms of how their content is performing. Their content is often warehoused and stored in multiple disparate systems and spreadsheets. That’s why a CMP is required.

Now, regardless the market studies you will look at and the marketing domain you belong to (business or consumer) content marketers have common evergreen challenges (source: Curata):

  • Limited budget for staff and program spend;
  • Creating enough quality content on a regular basis, whether in-house or externally sourced;
  • Distributing content across multiple channels, including publication and promotion;
  • Measuring the impact of content, i.e., what works and what doesn’t work to drive awareness, leads and sales enablement.

CMPs help marketers addressing all of them.

Back to my past experience and projects, as soon as we recognized the need for a CMP for our organization, we started to list all requirements for the “perfect CMP”. We segmented the requirements in six main categories, which I list here below. Using this simple and repeatable methodology, we evaluated several vendors.

(Download the CMP requirements in table format)

1) Content Development and Workflow Management

  • Workflow management capabilities
  • Ability to create different workflows based on content type and link those worklows to campaigns
  • Ability to view all assets & status of assets related to a specific campaign
  • Attach to asset and campaign name additional information such as persona, asset type, brand attribute
  • Ability to send emails to content owners, content requestor or project managers about changing status of developed asset
  • Ability to send emails to task owners informing them of task and work assigned
  • Ability to provide workflow capabilities for translation and associate workflow to master assets, campaigns etc.

2) Editorial Calendar

  • Editorial calendar management
  • Capability to view content development requests by content type, campaign and persona, where contributors can view tasks assigned
  • Ability to share internally the editorial calendar
  • Ability to view production and publication calendars

3) Content Management

  • WYSIWYG editor for direct publishing, meeting requirements to publish to blogs and major social media platforms
  • Ability to manage all content development requests: ebook, infographic, whitepapers, rich media content

4) Integration with existing stack and Distribution functionality

  • Ideally connect to company’s DAM to pick up imagery and post content
  • Ability to integrate with blog platforms (e.g. WordPress)
  • Ability to connect to existing email platforms for content to be emailed as part of newsletter
  • Ability to integrate with corporate web CMS
  • Ability to connect to Marketing Automation platforms (e.g. Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) for reporting information as well as to send content to be distributed via email or on landing page
  • Ability to connect to CRMs (e.g. SalesForce)
  • Ability to connect to social media publishing tools (e.g. Sprinklr)
  • Sales enablement: ability to provide shared content to sales

5) Analytics and Insights

  • Content Performance – Content Pipeline contribution
  • Top performing content list by persona, by campaign , by brand attribute
  • Amplification and engagement rate on content whether or not we use the CMP platform for distribution
  • Internal consumption: which content assets are most used by sales and in which part of the buying process
  • Localization rate: how many content assets have been internally consumed and localized
  • External consumption: which content are customers consuming in which part of the buying cycle
  • Insights and recommendations

6) Mobile app

  • Availability as app for Smartphones and Tablets

There is not a single way to evaluate the best fit for your organization. All starts with your company/division objectives. In our case support for our content marketing strategy and in addition integration with the existing stack, support to existing internal processes and analytics were the main goals and then main criteria for selection.

A few months ago I created a comprehensive post outlining an twelve-step Content Marketing strategy. That’s exactly what the implementation of a CMP will support.

Step 1: The Case for Change
Step 2: Finding the Optimal Balance Between Central and Local
Step 3: Editorial Process- the Content Editorial Board and the Content Ecosystem
Step 4: Global and local audience persona, buyer journey and content map
Step 5: Alignment with your company’s Brand story
Step 6: Selecting a Content Hub and Content Marketing Platform
Step 7: Distribution channel strategy – distribution and amplification
Step 8: The POEM Model -Paid drives Owned which drives Earned Media (aka: How to integrate Public Relations with your B2B Content Marketing Strategy)
Step 9: Launching an Internal Communications Strategy
Step 10: Piloting Your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 11: Measurement and Optimization
Step 12: Finally, Going Global

A CMP will definitely address and support most of the points above, and as a consequence, the overall content strategy.

One more piece of the B2B Content Marketing Strategy series

A few days ago I wrote the post “How to integrate Public Relations into your B2B Content Marketing strategy“, which is an additional piece of my broader series about Global B2B Content Marketing Strategy, dissected in 13 steps (I know, I should change that number; I will add or remove some of the steps…):

Step 1: The Case for Change
Step 2: Finding the Optimal Balance Between Central and Local
Step 3: (Editorial Process) Why your Company needs an Editorial Board to empower its Content Strategy
Step 4: Defining Local Target Personas
Step 5: Selecting a Content Hub – why Blogs are still at the core of your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 6: Selecting a Content Marketing Platform
Step 7: Launching Big Rock content
Step 8: Content Distribution
Step 9: How to integrate Public Relations with your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Step 10: Launching an Internal Communications Strategy
Step 11: Educating Marketers About Your Content Marketing Program
Step 12: Piloting Your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 13: Finally, Going Global

In addition, here are a few short summaries, for readers who will prefer shorter/faster readings:

B2B Content Marketing Strategy guide in 10 easy steps

How to Launch a B2B, Cross-Regional Global Content Marketing Strategy – published on NewsCred’s Insights in November 2016

globe

How Content Increased the Effectiveness of Our B2B Enterprise Marketing by 3x – published on Contently’s Content Strategist blog

B2B_content_journey

Disrupted

I have been intrigued by the last book I’ve read (“Disrupted“, Dan Lyons) and the full story behind, including the dramatic end – the last summer’s scandal in which former HubSpot executives allegedly attempted to obtain a predraft copy. Though federal investigators dropped the case without pressing any charges, the incident caused HubSpot to fire the CMO (Mike Volpe); the incident also led to the resignation of the VP of Content (Joe Chernov) and a pay cut for the CEO, “who knew about Volpe’s actions but failed to bring the ethical violation to the board’s attention in a timely fashion” reports the Boston Globe.

I think that whatever is your opinion about how things really went, everyone working in the content marketing / inbound marketing domain should read this book. A few interesting complimentary readings I found googling for Disrupted: a very balanced post by Dan Levy, Rand Fishkin of Moz who thinks that “it is almost certainly the case that Dan Lyons went into the Hubspot job seeking to parody the workplace and/or create satire“, an article from Fortune, and Undisrupted, the formal answer by Hubspot’s founders – and many many others.

But the thing is, as I said: everyone working in the content marketing domain should read this book and make his personal mind about it. Quoting Dan Levy: I don’t understand how can you work in our field and not read the book. Even if stings a little bit.

Speaker at Content Marketing World 2017!

Long time without writing on the blog. I am just back from New England, some new things happening, unfortunately not so much time to write and share. Best news of the day: I’ve been selected to speak at next Content Marketing World , taking place in Cleveland on Sept 6-7. It’s the largest and most crowded content marketing conference of the world. I will be speaking about how to define a global content marketing strategy with examples and best practices from my company. I plan to bring testimonials or videos from the countries. It’s going to be a fantastic event and I am so happy to be “on board”!

Behind the scenes – Recording the Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast with Jason Miller

Note: this post started as a short story of my meeting with Jason Miller to record his marketing podcast. It ended up with some thoughts about content marketing, pilot programs, creativity and Corp boundaries.

My chat with Jason was a lot of fun. He recorded the Sophisticated Marketer’s podcast today. I was his guest. I am not sure at this stage when it will go live. Before or after Christmas? I don’t know. Yet.

LinkedIn’s HQs in London is a great office. Cool and stylish, comfortable, full of colours. Loved the Dr. Marteen’s meeting room (not sure how to explain – a meeting room with lots of Dr.M’s boots hanging from the roof – yes, you got it right: a bunch of Dr.M’s classic and coloured boots hanging from the ceiling and the glass door). Which is the room where we recorded the podcast. Free coffee, soft drinks, flavoured water. Continue reading “Behind the scenes – Recording the Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast with Jason Miller”

B2B Content Marketing Strategy: a Guide in 10 Easy Steps (updated version!)

This post was originally created as a script for the speech I gave at Content Marketing Fast Forward (CMFF) in May 2016. Now updated with new concepts,  samples and links it reflects the session I will present at Festival of Marketing next week.

***

B2B firms no longer tend to be concerned that their solutions aren’t attractive enough for Content Marketing. In fact, numbers show that Content Marketing discipline has been adopted by B2B firms at faster speed than their counterparts in B2C.

So, if you work in B2B, how can you transform your marketing strategy from a traditional to a modern and successful content marketing model aligned with company growth and business goals? This can be done through proper content marketing strategy, integration of content, social media and PR and a deep transformation of the overall marketing model, facilitated by marketing technologies and tools. Technology’s influence spans all industries and continues to change and revolutionize everything it touches. The content marketing industry is no exception.

Traditional marketing has always been about pushing company products and services in front of the audience (outbound marketing). Content Marketing is about meeting the informational needs of potential customers so they become interested in you (inbound). In the past 12 months I have been working on the implementation of content marketing strategy that is changing the approach of my Division, moving from an advanced but traditional to a new, modern, content marketing model. The new model will introduce elements of uniqueness, like the Division editorial board and the editorial calendar – many boards and many calendars were in place before the transformation. It is seamlessly integrating content, social media and PR, used to be disconnected and misaligned. It will make advantage of the latest marketing technologies for content management, workflow, distribution and analytics. A summary of the full “story” can be found on the post published by Contently’s Content Strategist and on the podcast recently recorded for FIR.

Based on a definition from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) “Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Why do large enterprises need a content marketing strategy today? For the same reasons why small and medium firms do. Content marketing is about creating information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you. With content’s high adoption rates (+27 million pieces of contents shared every day), there is great potential to provide measurable business benefits and enterprise-wide appeal.  A strategic content marketing program is virtually essential to staying competitive in today’s marketplace.

A content marketing strategy has to be documented. Based on research from Content Marketing Institute, firms with a properly documented marketing strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing and are able to justify spending a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing.

I think there is a tendency to overcomplicate the strategy definition process. So, I have put together a simple list. A well prepared content marketing strategy should include (at least) the following elements:

1. The case for change/innovation

Firms need to assess the situation “as is” and start thinking about a “to be” model, based on objectives and medium/long term vision. Content Marketers have to communicate reasons for adopting a content marketing discipline moving away from a traditional model, the risks involved, and the vision of what success will look like. This is more likely to gain executive and functional support for your strategy. Typical reasons for a change can be summarised as below:

  • Increase marketing-generated opportunities. This is an evergreen reason and will provide immediate attention from management; numbers and results coming from a pilot (see point 10) will make the case even stronger;
  • Simplify an existing disconnected content creation and management model;
  • Fix a broken distribution model. Geographical adoption and distribution represents a big challenge today in large enterprises;
  • Align social media,  PR and other distribution channels. This is often a need in large enterprises where the functions are visibly disconnected.

2. The business plan for content marketing and its mission

This point covers the goals you have for your content program, the unique value the firm is looking to provide through content, and the details of its business model. It also should outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you execute your plan. In addition, the mission of your content marketing strategy has to be clearly expressed and should be included in all documentation.

3. Editorial Process – the Content Editorial Board and the Content Ecosystem

The business plan has to stand side by side with an internal transformation. In fact, today’s marketing organizations are barely designed to properly support a content marketing strategy.  The content editorial board is the core of your transformation. The board has to handle all content-related requests and issues, has to define internal communication and distribution plan and the distribution/ amplification strategy. In large organizations the editorial board has the key role of alignment and coordination between several division and content sources.

The board has to manage the content ecosystem: the combination of internal content sources, bloggers, agencies and freelances that will support your editorial efforts. External sources have to be educated and in some large firms certified, in order to be part of your ecosystem.

The editorial calendar is much more than just a calendar with content assigned to dates. A good editorial calendar maps content production to the audience persona and the phases of the buyer journey. Ultimately, the editorial calendar is your most powerful tool as a content marketer. Without a plan, an editorial board and editorial calendar, nothing will happen.

Also, you can’t have a proper content strategy without technology and tools to manage and enable it. And the best tools are the ones that combine a content marketing platform with workflow, calendar, publication and distribution functionalities (Content Marketing Platforms, or CMPs). Content Marketing Platform software like Newscred, Contently, Percolate and Kapost let marketers combine most of the requested functionalities under the same tool. The board is key for a proper tool adoption.

4. Audience persona, buyer journey and content map

This is where you analyse the audience for whom you will create content, what their needs are, and what their content engagement cycle might look like. You should also map out content you can deliver throughout their buyer’s journey in order to move them closer to their goals (and your bottom of the funnel).

There is no value in content marketing if it doesn’t build an audience, says Robert Rose of CMI.

This is in fact a critical point. The entire content marketing strategy is based on persona and buyer cycle, so the selection of a proper set of personas (representative of your full customer pool) and a deep understanding of each one’s cycle (and the content consumed at each phase of the cycles) represents the core of your strategy.

You might want to use internal resources and customer insights for mapping persona and buyer journeys. Or you might prefer using external sources/partners, especially for new markets.

5. Alignment with your company’s Brand story

Here, you characterize your content marketing in terms of what ideas and messages you want to communicate, how do they are connected with your brand(s) story, how those messages differ from the competition, and how you see the landscape evolving once you have shared them with your audience. For instance, this is my company brand story: working on a content marketing strategy we’ve secured that values and messages of our brand are reflected in all new content created.

6. Distribution channel strategy – distribution and amplification

Content marketing strategy comes first, followed by channel distribution strategy, write Jason Miller of LinkedIn. As content marketers, it is your responsibility to look at all available channels to tell your stories and adapt contents based on the channels. These include: the technology platforms you will use to tell and distribute your story, what your criteria, processes, and objectives are for each one, and how you will connect them so that they create a cohesive conversation.

There is no point with establishing a social media presence without a proper content strategy in place.

Today, the most innovative and forward-thinking companies have merged content, social and PR “channels”. By doing so, they can capitalize on the synergies between these three.

7. The POEM Model -Paid drives Owned which drives Earned Media

In the past, we only used paid and earned media, the traditional PR. With the advent of the Web, we used more earned media and when blogs and social media popped up, we also started talking about “owned media”. It became even more important when brands started to realize they could “act as publishers”. A convergence of paid, earned, and owned media helped create a profitable content marketing strategy that led us to start thinking about content in a whole new way while putting an end to “interruptive” advertising.

8. Big Rocks and the Thanksgiving Content Marketing Analogies

One of the most effective ways to make advantage of this media convergence is using the “Big Rock and Turkey Slices” discipline applied to Content Marketing. The idea is to look for opportunities to repurpose existing content – exactly as you’re repurposing thanksgiving food for some time. The analogy comes from an interview to Rebecca Lieb. When asked about tips for companies who are struggling to produce enough content, she replied:

I use a Thanksgiving analogy. You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end. If you are like most families you are going to be repurposing this bird as leftovers for quite some time. Your content marketing strategy can be thought of in the same way.”

The idea here is basic, but straight forward: marketer have to look for opportunities to repurpose the content that they already have. For instance, eBooks can be repurposed into infographics, SlideShare presentations, blog posts, videos and then disseminated via social media channels. This tactics will make advantage of owned media, paid and will generate earned media exposure. This concept can be taken a step further and applied to “Big Rock” pieces of contents . Big Rock is a substantial piece of content based on the idea of becoming the definitive guide to a conversation that you want to own. The idea is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or themes are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top of funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral to name a few. Big Rock should be launched with the same emphasis of a new product.

Jason Miller, Content Leader at LinkedIn, uses the Big Rock analogy in his book “Welcome to the Funnel”. Posts about Big Rock concept can be found here and here. Thanksgiving analogy for content marketing has been discussed here.

Same model could be summarized with the two concepts of the Content Marketing Power Law and Content Atomization. The power law is more commonly known as the 80–20 rule or Pareto principle. At its most rudimentary, it’s the idea that a small number of things generate the highest impact. Applied to Content Marketing: the top 20% of posts got more pageviews than the next 80% combined. Those 20% of the posts that give us the majority of the results can show us the way forward in terms of both the topics we should be writing about, and how to frame them.

Content atomization means taking a strong content marketing theme (the 20%, the big rocks), and executing it in many, strategically sound ways. Content atomization is an idea popularized by Jay Baer; others call it content recycling. The basic gist is that you extract as much possible value out of a single piece of content as possible by breaking it down into smaller parts or different formats. That’s exactly the concept of the turkey slices.

Janessa Lantz wrote a great post about it. Other people to spot the Power Law are Walter Chen who wrote about the content marketing power law back in 2014, and has some great data on how it played out for them. Larry Kim saw this same rule play out in landing pages, with 80% of the traffic going to the top 10% of pages. I wrote a short post about the Law.

9. Measurement and Optimization

Everything you measure needs to start with an objective.

Dashboard and KPIs have to be in place in order to measure results and facilitate decisions. Until a few years ago, the ability to track real ROI from one piece of content was virtually non-existent. Now, all that has changed. Marketing automation tools like HubSpot, Marketo and ActOn let marketers track which content gains the most engagement, leads and revenue.

On the metrics topic, I found this post from Khalid Saleh extremely interesting and covering the majority of relevant metrics.

10. The role of Pilots

In large enterprises, running pilot programs to test and prove viability, not deliver an agreed outcome, is common practice. All you need to do is to set up the pilot as a test, and then, if it’s successful, roll ahead with the series. Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds, so you need to start small, test that your strategy works, get first figures, create a proper business case, and then go back to your management and move to the next step.

From Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content MarketingContent marketing success takes time. Just because you develop a couple of really great articles or blog posts or videos doesn’t mean you’ll convert a lead to a sales opportunity tomorrow. Give it enough time to make a difference. For example, if your sales cycle is typically nine months, deploying a content marketing pilot across one quarter will not demonstrate the results the program can achieve. Content marketing is not a campaign with a start and stop date.

Right. Content Marketing is not a campaign with a start and stop date and will take time. This is even more true for large enterprises, where traditional marketing models might prevent the need for change being understood in time.

As a conclusion, you might not be an expert B2B content marketer but you can diligently plan and document your strategy. In some cases you will need to re-design your organization to be aligned with the strategy and to make things happen. Gone are the days of content marketing simply being a fancy term for articles and press releases. Now, companies can easily create media contents, videos, infographics, podcasts and other value-adds for a well-integrated content marketing strategy.

Furthermore, the way companies use marketing technology to manage content and workflow, and combine original and syndicated content in a community style is unique and indicative of the future of marketing.