Content Is Dead and We Killed It

Content is the lubricant of customer engagement. Buyers are attracted to brands with content that enables them to make a more informed decision. Valuable content keeps them coming back. Or so the story goes. The reality is we are all sick of content. Brands are burned out from producing rivers and oceans of content. Customers are fatigued by the barrage of irrelevant and often low-quality content. In fact, according to the Economist Group, 71% of buyers/readers said they were turned off by content that seemed like a sales pitch. And CMI & MarketingProfs found “only 54% of B2B marketers are using content to 'delight' and build loyalty with existing clients/customers.”

3 Causes of Content Burnout

Three things contribute to the demise of content: Inside-out content strategy, a plethora of channels and content-centric lead generation. Most content is developed from the inside-out. Various internal teams each believe the customer "needs" to have this or that information. The CTO has a white paper they are passionate about, product marketing insists on a data sheet, the CEO wants a blog, and the list go on. What starts out as a genuine desire to communicate differentiated value turns into a political football — it’s easier to just create the content and get on with life. Lost along the way is meeting the buyers’ needs. Second is the overwhelming number of channels and their constantly evolving efficacy. Determining which channel and format for each asset and for which audience is enough to give you a migraine. Sure, omnichannel marketing is the remedy, yet stitching the systems together is hard and having the necessary clean, complete data is even harder. The third uses content as the tip of the spear. Buyers are looking for more in the moment, contextually relevant ways to learn about brands. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers.

What Is the Buyer Trying to Accomplish?

In the thousand-plus journey interviews we’ve conducted, buyers and customers want information that helps them achieve specific tasks. They are unwilling to settle for content that misses the mark. As a result, buying teams increasingly rely on word of mouth, independent third parties/influencers, industry forums and peers to get the information they need. You can start to fix the content challenge by asking a question — what is the buyer trying to accomplish at each micro-moment? Answering that question requires outside-in insights best obtained by interviewing customers and prospects. Keep in mind it’s not about your content but everyone’s content they look for. By broadening the inquiry, you’ll quickly learn if your brand is their ‘go-to’ resource or if that honor goes to someone else. A manufacturing organization mailed out high-quality product catalogs to customers and prospects on an annual basis. We learned from journey interviews that 90% of those catalogs went directly into recycling upon receipt. Customers didn’t want anyone’s catalogs and some thought it made the manufacturer appear old school and out of touch. It’s easier to search and order online. Another client developed YouTube product videos to promote their products. We discovered companies were actually using them as employee training videos without buying the product. According to Sitecore, the true cost of content that misses the mark is poor customer experience, missed revenue opportunities, lost internal productivity and inability to scale. Ironically, companies tend to kick the can down the road. The result is a mountain of assets that aren’t inventoried, are out of date, and in channels that have been forgotten about long ago.

How to Turn Your Content Strategy Around

Here are four quick steps to turn your content back into powerful customer enablers:
  1. Conduct a content gap analysis between your outside-in journey map and current marketing/sales processes to identify what content buying teams are looking for but not finding from you.
  2. Delete content that is not sought by members of the buying team. Same thing for content channels. If buying teams do not use a channel(s), drop it. (This is a good project to outsource.) Don’t fall into the FOMO trap of being everywhere with everything.
  3. Develop persona/micro-moment level content strategy that clearly defines how each asset satisfies the buyers’ objectives, the preferred channel and how to measure success. (Detailed journey maps make this step a breeze).
  4. Repurpose existing valuable content that is in the wrong format. For example, buyers might be looking for statistics or listicles instead of long-form text. There are sophisticated tools available, like SDL’s Content Assistant that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to parse existing content into preferred formats, from tweets to blurbs.
“Where do buyers go to learn about new products and research vendors? Social media. What’s the fuel for social media? Content. So a poorly thought out or executed content strategy can turn off buyers on your products, services, and brand … at the very beginning of the customer journey,” said Carter Hostelley, CEO of Leadtail, a B2B social media agency. Once your content strategy is back on track, keep it aligned to the ever-evolving buyer needs. That means more than just updating your journey maps annually. Look to machine learning platforms for help in tagging assets with metadata to better organize content and AI to automatically assemble new content tuned for specific customers and journey steps. There will never be a world without content. It will look different from today and be delivered in new ways but the content is what informs, inspires and incentivizes. Successful brands will move away from thinking about content as individual assets to managing content as pools of multi-use information elements that buyers have identified as valuable. Those brands that use journey maps to assemble and align information elements to enable buyers to achieve micro-moment target outcomes will win customer preference. First published in CMSWIRE.

Sales and Marketing Alignment Begins With Your Customer

50 percent of B2B sales staff keep missing their quotas. It’s a problem as old as business itself.  The culprit, according to sales, is the quality and volume of leads from marketing. The marketing department may be quick to snap back that sales is ignoring their leads or not trying hard enough to close them.  When the squabbling causes the revenue pipeline to become even more unpredictable, that gets the CEO’s attention..... Read the full article on Forbes.

14 Articles Every CMO Should Read

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post “The Myth that Marketing Automation Reveals Buyers’ Journeys” that explained there was increasing consensus among analysts, academics and consultants about changes in the buyer’s journey and the mandate for vendors to adapt to those changes in order to grow. Consolidating the research in one place demonstrates the flood of voices urging vendors to align with the customer, break down silos and bridge marketing and sales departments. Below is a collection of reading materials every marketing executive should sift through. Customer Centricity • A study by Booz & Company found that companies that offered valuable customization in a cost-effective way outperformed their peers in revenue growth two-to-one and had profit margins 5 to 10 percent higher than competitors. • A Forrester report on content marketing emphasized that the right content “requires a deep understanding of the buyers, their information needs, and their content sourcing preferences.” • An article in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management recommends an approach where “all business processes and all individuals are focused on identifying and meeting the needs of the customer.“ • Forrester has published a wealth of research aligned with the recommendations we give at New Business Strategies, including reports like “Transform To An Experience-Driven Organization” and “Become Customer-Centric, Service-Focused, And Automated.” • Forrester analyst Ronald Rogowski wrote a post urging readers to improve the digital customer experience. Forrester has also written reports about webinars, social media and other aspects of marketing and how to align them with the buyer’s journey. Marketing & sales alignmentHubSpot wrote a good post about overcoming the blame game between marketing and sales with open communication and more accountability. • One of my own blogs last year offers three metrics to measure the degree of sales and marketing alignment within your organization. • A report by Oracle says the friction between marketing and sales has gotten “cliché” and found that a lack of communication was at its heart. • Research by CSO Insights and IDC have identified four problems with a lack of marketing and sales alignment: longer sales cycles, missed quotas, lower productivity and less sales efficiency. (source) • A study by The Red Herring found that sales and marketing alignment was ranked a nine or ten on an importance scale of 10. (source) Breaking down silos • According to an article in HBR, executives identify silos as the top inhibitor of innovation, but silos can only be overcome if executives can embrace change. • Businessweek provided an overview of silos and some common approaches to overcoming them. • Forrester’s 2012 Tech Marketing Planning Guidance noted that marketing hasn’t made the drastic changes that are needed, because each year’s plan is based on last year’s marketing strategy. • IBM’s 2012 State of Marketing Survey called upon marketers to expand our role in the customer experience and break down silos.

7 Tips of the Chief Customer Officer

The transition to a customer-centric organization will transform many Chief Revenue Officers into Chief Customer Officers. As organizations realize that the customer experience and relationship is the asset that leads to revenues, CROs will shift focus from the revenues themselves, to the customers that deliver it. For CROs making this transition, it may feel like unfamiliar territory..... Read the complete post on Forbes.

Chief Revenue Officer: A Failed Experiment or an Evolutionary Step?

The clash between marketing and sales departments has fostered the growing popularity of a new position – the Chief Revenue Officer – to bring the finger-pointing under wraps and align the two functions under shared revenue goals.   In theory, the CRO role makes sense. It allows the CEO to delegate marketing and sales alignment to someone with experience under both functions to optimize the teams and manage differing charters, personalities and performance metrics. Many Chief Executive Officers have risen through the sales ranks. They may not fully understand the charter of marketing and are prone to take sales’ side in arguments, instead of creating an environment for collaboration.   In the best of cases, Chief Revenue Officers have gotten sales and marketing to stop blaming each other for lost revenue opportunities and created a customer-focused attitude, aligning both departments with customers rather than lead numbers and superficial metrics.   But in most cases CROs have made matters worse. Instead of leading both functions to a shared, common-sense vision of serving the customer, they inevitably play mediator between two warring sides. Like the CEOs before them, the favor of the CRO is won by sales, who has a more direct way of measuring their influence on revenues. The CRO role has developed into giving sales a seat at the C-suite – almost like a Chief Sales Officer.   The CRO is not dead however, it is an experiment and an intermediary step to the Chief Customer Officer position. As progressive companies realize that it’s more effective to focus on the customer experience, relationship, satisfaction and loyalty that drives revenues than on the numbers themselves, Chief Revenue Officers will inevitably become Chief Customer Officers.   Most Fortune 100 companies are at some stage of the transformation to a customer-centric organization. From strategic planning to job description and performance metrics, enterprises are retooling themselves to align with customer expectations. In this transformation, it’s natural for CROs to move into the position of a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) that manages the lifecycle of the customer experience from marketing, to sales and support.   Only by stitching together these functions into a cohesive fabric can companies consistently deliver experiences and nimbly change in lock step with their customers.