Find the Paths Your Customers Follow (Guest Post)

SHINY OBJECTS ARE DISTRACTING

ReadyTalk recently invited me to provide a webinar on delivering content for demand generation and customer engagement (check out the recording) Finding new ways to deliver content is extremely valuable. But even more important is engaging customers with proven content marketing— and doing it really well.

B2B marketers love to find the shiny new objects that will work for demand generation. Keep in mind most of these shiny objects are channels for content and not the content itself. Executing a content marketing strategy really well requires a full understanding of who your customers are, how they work, the problems they face, where they look for ideas and answers, and measuring the right metrics for success. Simply using shiny object channels because they are “new” is pointless if your customers aren’t in the vicinity.

Don’t make content marketing any harder! Doing content marketing really well requires hard and smart work. The Content Marketing Institute shares a wealth of statistics to emphasize the point:

• 93% of B2B marketers use Content Marketing yet only 42% say they are effective
• B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66% vs. 11%)
• The biggest B2B content marketing challenges are producing content that engages and having a lack of integration across channels.

Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs – 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends

STEPS TO SUCCESS

Build a Strategy

Of course this makes sense, right? But how many B2B marketing organizations truly have a content marketing strategy? Build a plan and work the plan. A strategy helps identify how customers engage, the information they are looking for, the resources needed, the tactics, and measuring success. Producing reams of content, writing blogs and blasting emails are not an effective content marketing strategy. Focus on the audience, with the channels, the timing, contributors and desired outcomes.

Customer Journeys

Do you know how your customers discovered your business? Don’t just give the kneejerk answer that they ‘Googled it’. Of course customers will search the web for a solution. But how else did they research, learn, and discuss the problems they have and how your solutions may help? Who did they talk to? How much time did they spend on your web site? What content did they consume the most of?

Customers take a winding path to their purchase decision. Sometimes the path is long and slow with many stops. Other times the journey is rapid and impulsive. It’s critical to find the most common paths your customers engage and focus the right efforts to delivering content they find valuable.

Focused Purposeful Content

Customers need different types of content at different stages in the decision making journeys. Develop content that is educational, entertaining, and engaging. Don’t overwhelm potential customers with details on product features before they even understand the problem and opportunity they face. Talk less about your company and share ideas that show you understand the challenges your customers face. Imagine going to a cocktail party where there is always ‘that one guy’ who only talks about himself and how great he thinks he is. He never listens to or cares about conversing with other. Does he leave a positive impression? Compare that to the party host who asks a lot of questions, listens, shows interest, and introduces you to others in the room. Empathy, understanding and ideas with your content will make the best impression. Educate, entertain, and engage!

Integrate Tools to Support the Entire Journey

When marketers pursue shiny objects they often create islands of disconnected information. Customers can engage through all of these channels but a complete picture doesn’t take shape. Make sure all of your tools can centrally integrate with a marketing automation and CRM platform. These platforms help marketers with coordinated customer engagement. For example, we use ReadyTalk in-house at Heinz Marketing which is integrated with our marketing automation platform. When customers view presentations we can score that interaction along with other interaction from reading our blog, downloading our books, and engaging with us through social media. If these channels were disconnected, we wouldn’t have the complete view of what individuals show interest in. And from there we wouldn’t know the right content to recommend for our next interaction. Integration provides a complete view and helps customers navigate their decision making journey.

Focus on the right areas with your content marketing to follow the paths your customers follow. Don’t get distracted by the shiny objects.

Brian Hansford, Client Services Director, Heinz Marketing

Find the Paths your Customers follow

Brian Hansford is a Client Services Director manages the marketing automation practice at Heinz Marketing. Brian is a 20 year B2B marketing veteran and previously worked for organizations such as Open Text, Citrix, Attachmate and Cambridge Technology Partners. Brian is an Eloqua Product Master and frequently speaks on and publishes original content on B2B marketing, database health, content marketing and marketing automation. Brian lives in Redmond, WA and you can follow him on Twitter (@RemarkMarketing).

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