I am so glad that my talk at Integrated Live matched people’s expectation. Next week I’ll slightly change topic and I will talk about going global at NewsCred’s #ThinkContent event.
— Lauren Matless (@Wolirraw) November 16, 2016
— Marketing Insights (@IFP_Marketing) November 16, 2016
— Zoe Wright (@StatistaZoe) November 16, 2016
— Marketing Insights (@IFP_Marketing) November 16, 2016
This post reflects (or, at least, tries to reflect) the speech that I will give at Content Marketing Fast Forward (CMFF) in a few hours.
CMI, Marketing Insider, Content Strategist and many others are my undisputed sources of inspiration. Also, I have combined several posts and refreshed the entire package based on my day-to-day experience gained in the last 10 months at Schneider Electric. Happy reading!
B2B firms no longer tend to be concerned that their solutions aren’t attractive enough for content marketing. Content Marketing discipline has been adopted in fact 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 So, if you work in B2B, how can you transform your marketing strategy from an outdated traditional to a modern and successful content marketing model aligned with company growth and business goals?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, using 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. Content Marketing is about meeting the informational needs of potential customers so they become interested in you. In the last few months I have been working on a 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 will seamlessly integrate content, social media and PR, used to be disconnected and misaligned. It will make advantage of the latest marketing technologies for content management, distribution and analytics.
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 interesting 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” today 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 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 and PR. This is often a need in large enterprises where the 2 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 may also want to 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).
This is 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. But 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.
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 vs. Owned vs. 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 Rock 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, video 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.
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.
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 Marketing: Content 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 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.
I have been invited today by Elliott Polack at “Masters and Maverick” podcast, to talk about Global Marketing, Content Marketing and Social Media in B2B. It has been a very pleasant chat. I will post the podcast as soon as available, on this blog.
Note. The post below is the script of my presentation at #UtilitiesSocialMedia Conference. It’s nothing more than a collection of articles, posts, reports – and some personal thoughts. I have listed some of the original resources at the bottom of this post.
It’s clear that there are some significant differences to be addressed in the way (content) marketing changes for B2B versus B2C target audiences. Understanding these distinctions and applying them to your campaigns gives you the best possible chances of reaching your prospects in a meaningful, engaging way. Below are a few ways in which B2B and B2C marketing differs.
One of the first areas where B2B content marketing diverges from B2C campaigns is in the overall intent of the initiative’s messaging.
If you’re a B2B content creator, you’re likely one of the 85% using content to build your brand and establish thought leadership. If prospective customers recognize your business’s name and acknowledge your authority in your field, they can skip the Initial Research stage of the consumer buying process – moving directly from Recognition of a Need to Evaluation of Alternatives with your business at the top of that list.
But while thought leadership is great, it just isn’t as important in B2C industries. Did you choose a Coke over a Pepsi because you believe Coca Cola’s depth of knowledge of the industry exceeds Pepsi’s? Did you enjoy a bowl of Nutella because of Ferrero’s perceived authority when it comes to chocolate cream?
B2C buyers are driven by different motivations – usually feeling safe, secure and informed – than B2B purchasers. As a result, both the intent and the messaging of your content marketing campaigns must be different.
Basic need plays a part, but so does emotion, status, and brand appeal. Branded and sponsored content can positively impact one’s perception of a brand. The product sometimes makes an appearance in content marketing, but it’s the emotional impact that counts.
In B2B, the more popular approach highlights a product’s features in an entertaining way. For corporate customers, purchasing decisions are grounded in reason, and brands must get creative to exhibit the complexities of their products in an engaging way.
The difference between content marketing in B2B and B2C industries becomes apparent at a very early stage: when you’re setting goals and objectives. That said, pretty much all businesses – whoever they’re trying to target with their content – have one goal in common: to build awareness of their brand. This is a pretty universal goal since, whatever the target market, consumers respond best to brands they know and trust.
B2B Goals. Recent data from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute showed that the primary objectives for B2B companies who are investing in content marketing are raising brand awareness, generating leads, and boosting engagement.
Consequently, B2B brands should aim to create content that informs and educates – that demonstrates they are one of the best, if not the best, at what they do.
B2B transactions are often completed after a long, multi-stage sales process. If you want to win this type of business, it really helps to have a background as a thought leader and innovator in your industry. Not only will this help generate leads, but it should help to speed up the sales process, too.
B2C Goals. The stats show that on the surface, the goals for marketers in B2C industries aren’t all that different than those set out by B2B marketers. While their number one goal differed, both B2B and B2C brands think building brand awareness and getting consumers to engage with their content are pretty damn important.
However, while B2B companies tend towards building brand awareness by showcasing their knowledge and industry expertise, B2C brands are more likely to be concerned with creating excitement around their products. About pushing their products as “aspirational”.
The way you craft the messaging of your content marketing campaigns depends heavily on your target audience – and that’s true whether you’re reaching out to B2B or B2C buyers.
Interestingly, though, some research suggests that B2B buyers will, as a whole, engage more strongly with certain types of messages, while B2C customers will respond more positively to campaigns that target different benefits.
Different marketing tactics are used in B2B and B2C, although the methods of advertising, promotions, and publicity are the same. If the final customer is a business, the marketing message is based on value, service, and trust. B2C marketing is focused on price and the emotional satisfaction of obtaining the product.
Obviously, these benefits aren’t exclusive to either B2B or B2C companies. An auto repair shop’s messaging will likely appeal to both value and trust, while a cloud provider might market based on price as a way to differentiate itself in a crowded market.
That said, it’s still important to keep these competing principles in mind when drafting your campaign strategy and creating content. Begin with these benefits and then customize your messaging to hone in on the elements that are most likely to appeal to your target audience.
As we’ve already touched on, businesses and consumers buy for very different reasons.
Businesses buy because the product or service fulfils a specific need. Whatever the product or service is offering, this need will usually boil down to one (or more) of three things: saving money, saving time, making more money. Businesses don’t buy for frivolous reasons. They buy out of necessity. Their purchases are usually data-driven.
Consumers sometimes buy out of necessity, too. If our fridge breaks down, we don’t buy a replacement for the sheer thrill of it. We also need to eat, keep a roof over our head, and provide healthcare for our families.
However, a lot of what we buy as consumers do count as “luxuries”. Computer games, meals out, music, television packages, movie tickets, holidays, gifts… Even clothes, which are by all accounts, a necessity, are often bought in excess of what we need and so become “luxuries”. The purchases we make as consumers are very often emotion-driven.
This massive disparity in the reasons we buy as businesses and the reasons we buy as consumers should play a huge part in dictating the subject matter of your content.
While rules are made to be broken, a pretty good guide to remember is that: B2B content should inform and educate, while B2C content should inspire.
(Mailchimp resource site)
Channel is another aspect where B2B and B2C content marketing initiatives often diverge.
B2C companies are virtually unlimited when it comes to potential opportunities to reach prospective customers. Besides the social networks and popular websites that typically form the backbone of a traditional content campaign, B2C customers can be reached via more traditional mediums (such as advertising), geo-targeting apps (which allow content and promotions to be served up when a prospect nears a shop), and more.
B2B businesses, on the other hand, sometimes have a more limited scope of potential engagement opportunities. Posting a piece of native advertising to BuzzFeed, for example, might appeal to individual consumers, but is unlikely to attract larger groups of potential business buyers.
The ideal format of the content to be created is another interesting area where B2B and B2C marketing campaigns tend to diverge.
B2B buyers prefer to read blogs and white papers during the pre-sales cycle. Additionally, those who identified as technology buyers who want to receive ongoing vendor content prefer white papers, case studies, and technology guides.
Further research from the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2C Content Marketing Research Report for North America reveals that, compared with their B2B counterparts, B2C marketers use more user-generated and real-time marketing.
Again, this isn’t to say that B2B companies shouldn’t use user-generated content in their marketing campaigns, or that B2C businesses should avoid white papers or case studies. However, these recommendations do provide a starting point for deciding on the content formats that should be included in your campaigns. These guidelines can then be modified to suit the interests and needs of your unique target audience.
Is there really a divide?
It’s funny that we marketers are still debating against the B2B/B2C segmentation. Maybe it’s not the most meaningful way to segment brands. Maybe something like long sales cycle and short sales cycle is more meaningful. Eventually the distinction between simple and complex sales might bring to more significant and useful thoughts. The fact is that new marketing technologies, methodologies like content marketing and communication channels like social platforms are blurring the line between B2B and B2C.
Social Media For Utilities Is Becoming Indispensable.
If your favourite fries aren’t crisp enough, social media offers ways to lodge a complaint to your favourite fast-food – and get a response – while you’re still in the shop. If the fashion site wants you to know that blue is the new black, it can flood your favourite social media with the news. Important as fries and fashion are, they’re not quite as important as power outages and service restoration. It just makes sense for your local utility to be as present, expert and available in social media as fast food chains and e-commerce sites.
For utilities, social media is apparently blurring the line between communications and customer service.
For the utility industry too the shift in consumer behaviour and the preference for social media is increasingly becoming apparent. Utility customers agree, and their social media appetite is growing.
- Two years ago, an Accenture study found 30% of customers were open to interacting with utilities through social media, up from just 1% in 2010
- 54% of respondents say local utilities should use social media channels to share real time information and warnings on approaching storms, power outages and time until service will be restored
- 50% say that in addition to receiving information from their electric utility about emergency situations, outages and repairs, they want to communicate with their utility through social media to ask questions, express opinions and add localized information that would help other customers in their communityLet’s not forget that Social Media is a content distribution channel. You should not work on a Social Media strategy if Content Strategy has not been finalised and documented. Content strategy comes first, channel strategy follows.
Also, for business Social Media isn’t just a broadcasting platform. Instead, is a way to communicate to the right people at the right time.
Build Consumer Connect
Social Media has become a primary source of contact for many utility companies, and it’s increasingly important for improving customer satisfaction. More people are using Twitter or Facebook now to share their views or inquire about their utility service or to report an outage.
Customers often take to social media when traditional channels haven’t solved their problem, and utilities have a public opportunity to recover that customer and put their best foot forward. Clearly, social media is not a stand-alone activity and it needs to be aligned with the broader customer interaction strategy to ensure a consistent approach across all channels, be it through the contact center, Twitter, Facebook or in-person interaction.
Using Social Media for Reputation Management/Brand Awareness
Don’t think that if you don’t have a presence on social media people won’t share their views – they will establish a reputation for you even if you aren’t on there to share the facts.
A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is. This thinking manifests itself most strongly in social media than anywhere else. Customers are increasingly using social media to build or destroy the reputation of their service providers. Social media presents utility providers with an opportunity to manage brand perception and map customer sentiments towards the brand.
Customer to Utility comms
Customers can post photos of downed power lines (as long as they stay at a safe distance) so utilities will know exactly what caused the outage and how to repair it fastest.
Monitoring and analysing social media
Monitoring and analysing social media, utilities could pinpoint outages people are tweeting about, even if those tweets aren’t being sent directly to the utility. Following social media trends by geography could alert utilities when certain neighbourhoods are likely to adopt plug-in electric vehicles or rooftop solar, allowing the utilities to develop appropriate programs before they’re needed.
Create Customer Awareness/Nudging customers to do the right thing
Utilities currently struggle to enrol customers in energy efficiency and demand response programs. Just promoting the programs on websites is too passive. The awareness level among customers is far from what utilities would like it to be. Many customers are only partially aware of what their smart meters can actually do. Utility companies are using YouTube and Facebook to educate customers on topics such as energy management, advantages of smart meters and industry trends. Social media is also being utilized to generate user-specific awareness regarding changes in pricing, billing or even allowing customers to design their bills.
That’s the real power of social media. It’s a whole new level of customer service – very fast, very immediate. You could never reach that number of people through conventional means. It’s just not possible.
Preparing last things for the Social Media in the Utilities Sector Conference where I will be chairman on Day 1, in addition of being speaker on Day 2. It will be 2 intense days!
— SMi Utilities (@UtilitiesSMi) April 4, 2016
The program has been released and guess what? Here you go. I will be the Chairman of
the main session day 1! The Conference will take place in London on 11-12th of April. And it will provide an interesting and unique perspective, because, as the overview clarifies:
We will discuss investment in digital marketing and explore how businesses should shape their online presence and develop strategies to harness online technologies. A key focus of this conference will be assessing how to make social media the centre of operations, not just a useful tool.
But that’s sometimes what it takes to land an account. Sprinklr nabbed manufacturer Schneider Electric from Salesforce in late 2015 by proving itself more nimble. It got Schneider up and running on WeChat, a hugely influential social network in China, in a matter of weeks.
Interesting also the fact that most of the content marketing companies we’re in contact with consider Sprinklr as a potential competitor (space between content and social media players is significantly blur). And for this reason the integration between platforms is still a nightmare.