Marcus Sheridan, founder of The Sales Lion and someone who built a million-dollar business (during the economic crisis, no less), once said that "great content is the best sales tool in the world."
If this is true, then content really must be king. While that phrase might just be the most over-used marketing phrase of the last few years (sorry, but it is), there's no denying just how important content is as the foundation to an enterprise's marketing mix.
Whether your goal is to gain traffic, leads, or sales, effective content marketing tactics attract, entertain, captivate, teach, and build trust. More simply, content turns brands into thought leaders.
"Content marketing drives unbelievable pipeline at unbelievable cost economics and also transforms brand perception." -- Rishi Dave, Executive Director, Digital Marketing at Dell
The power of content marketing might be why, according to Marketing Charts, 72% of B2C marketers and 73% of B2B marketers plan to produce more content next year.
Even with the benefits of content marketing, it's doesn't come without challenges (if it were that easy, then it probably wouldn't be as effective). According to "B2B Enterprise Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends," a report by the Content Marketing Institute, the top content challenges enterprise marketers face are:
- Producing content that engages (58%)
- Lack of integration across marketing (58%)
- Producing enough content (53%)
- Lack of budget (43%) and buy-in (38%)
- Producing a variety of content (45%)
- Inability to measure content marketing effectiveness (42%)
Whether you're new to content marketing or looking to scale an existing strategy, let's uncover how you can overcome these top challenges.
Producing Content That Engages
The great thing about content marketing is that it works. The bad thing about content marketing is that almost everyone else has figured that out, and now, there is a deluge of crappy content on the internet.
Jumping on the bandwagon and creating content for the sake of it isn't going to cut it. So it's no surprise that the number-one challenge enterprise marketers face is producing content that is compelling, engaging, and breaks through the clutter.
5 Tips to Create Compelling Content
1) Create content that is considered valuable to the end-consumer.
The reason so much of online content is crap is because most of it isn't valuable to the end-consumer. Value can be translated into something that is educational, entertaining, helpful, unique, brilliant, visual, inspirational, informative, or even emotional.
When you create a piece of content, ask yourself, "Would my audience want to pay for, share, or give up their contact information for this?" If the answer is yes to one or more of those three factors, then you might have yourself a valuable piece of content.
2) Add elements that make your content irresistible.
Content as a standalone might be valuable enough for your audience, but it doesn't hurt to add a little extra flair.
Irresistible elements can include scarcity, exclusivity, popularity, or timing. For example, you could offer a whitepaper for a limited-time or only for the first 500 people. Groupon is a great example of this, as its offers are only available for a limited time and quantity and for a discount -- a triple-whammy.
You can learn more about how to make your content extremely appealing in this Inbound Hub post.
3) Don't forget about context.
Prospects who are only in the beginning stages of their research are probably not ready to receive a "buy now" offer from you. Yet, many enterprise marketers go right for the kill.
No matter how great a piece of content is, delivering content at the right time to the right person in the right channel makes all the difference. This is called context.
Before you even create content, consider the audience and persona it's meant for and where you plan to promote it. Ask yourself, "Who am I creating this content for? What problems does it solve? How does it appeal to that persona?"
Content that is created with the customer in mind will be far more effective. Interviewing your prospects and customers and developing buyer personas are great ways to identify topics and areas that appeal to your buyers.
4) Do whatever the competition is not.
If your industry is saturated with technical whitepapers then why create another technical whitepaper? Create an in-depth market research report instead. Or a funny social campaign. Or a series of sexy infographics. It's easy as an enterprise business to get caught up in what the competition is doing that you don't take a step back and think about how to do things differently.
Content that is unique and interesting is assured to set you apart and engage your audience.
5) Don't be boring (some of the time, at least).
Even if you work within a serious industry, that doesn't mean your content needs to be boring. Content is engages breathes life. It has personality. It causes an emotional reaction. It speaks like a human and not like a corporation.
Extra Resources and Examples:
Lack of Integration Across Marketing
More than half of enterprises have reported that one of there top challenges was integrating marketing efforts across the organization. For fast-growing companies or large corporations, integrating marketing holistically becomes more difficult at scale.
These are the top areas where enterprises often struggle in the area of integration:
- Brand experience -- How companies effectively portray themselves across channels, partners, experiences, and buying cycles.
- Technology, data, and attribution -- Having technologies, systems, and processes in place that allow for better communication, closed-loop marketing, and sales insights.
- User experience -- How your prospects, users, and customers interact with a company in different channels and on different devices.
- Online and offline -- How the organization integrates digital and traditional marketing functions and separate channel teams (e.g. Email, Social, Demand Generation, etc.) for cohesive campaigns and promotions.
- Cross-department alignment -- How the marketing team works with Sales, IT, Executive Management, and other functions to help achieve all of the above.
4 Tips to Achieve Marketing Integration
1) Remove political barriers.
A 2013 study by Econsultancy found that companies with political silos are two to three times more likely to describe themselves as failing in the area of marketing integration and alignment.
Sometimes, the best way to break political barriers is to simply recognize that you have them and then establish a goal and plan to work on the areas that need improvement.
At HubSpot, we reorganize our 60+ marketing team (or segments within the team) every six months or so in order to fix any communication breakdowns, support new priorities as our team grows, and continue more proactive cooperation among different groups.
2) Set team-wide goals.
With larger marketing organizations, it's common for separate teams or individuals to become preoccupied largely with their own tasks and agendas. You'll have field marketing over here, demand generation over there, customer marketing on a different planet, and so on. Setting a team-wide goal, no matter how large or small, will help improve integration across functions.
For example, at HubSpot, each team has a monthly goal that rolls up into a larger a team-wide goal. This keeps everyone working together on coordinated campaigns and offers, while enabling each member to focus on their own metrics and tasks. Sometimes, we'll add an incentive, such as a team award, group outing, or bonus if we surpass a stretch goal.
"Organizations that want to integrate across channels, bring down silos or focus on the customer have to start by making working together to a common goal the basis of their compensation/incentive models," says Stefan Tornquist, Vice President of Research for Econsultancy.
3) Determine a DRI on projects.
Many studies have shown that small groups work more cohesively than larger groups. But if your enterprise has a lot of teams, that's when the integration becomes more of an issue.
To better integrate projects across the organization, set a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) -- a term coined by Apple -- on specific projects that touch many areas within marketing.
DRIs are different than managers. A DRI can be anyone on the team (Note: This is a great practice for leadership, communication, and management training). This person is accountable for seeing a campaign, promotion, product launch, or asset creation all the way through, and involves the right people to make that happen.
Having a DRI is also efficient for the team because you don't have so many people all worrying about the same things or wondering who is responsible for what.
4) Integrate critical applications.
Integration of business technologies, including your marketing software, CRM, support system, website, and mobile applications, are crucial to improving the user experience and internal processes (marketing attribution, communication, and sales insights, specifically).
What happens in larger organizations is that individual teams or divisions will pick up a multitude or tools over time. At some point down the line, the company struggles to integrate them all or there is an efficiency problem among marketers because they spend more time learning separate user interfaces for tying the data together in Excel.
The best advice here is to keep it simple. Consider a CRM as your central repository for sales and customer data, and an integrated marketing platform for your multi-channel campaigns.
Extra Resources and Examples:
Producing Enough Content
Content takes time. Really good content takes more time. And that's a resource everyone has a surplus of ... right? With all of the responsibilities we have on our plate already, producing enough content can be a top challenge for many enterprise marketers. Here are a handful of tips that can help.
5 Tips to Create More Content
1) Make content creation a priority.
According to the Custom Content Council, 68% of CMOs planned to increase their content marketing budgets last year. If your marketing organization doesn't prioritize content creation, then it's difficult to attribute resources and budget to it.
2) Repackage existing content.
One of the best ways to create more content is to simply repackage content you already have. Turn a step-by-step blog post into a downloadable checklist. Turn a webinar into an ebook (use a service like 3PlayMedia to transcribe the audio). Turn existing blog comments into new posts. Take industry stats and turn them into an infographic.
There are endless ways to reuse and repackage content to create more content.
3) Try a content marketplace.
I find that the best way to build a content-driven culture within the marketing organization is to hire smart marketers who enjoy (and are good at) content creation.
Here at HubSpot, everyone we hire is a content creator to a certain degree -- whether it's writing, graphic design, or media. But it's understandable that good content marketers are tough to find.
According to Mashable, only 32% of B2C marketers considered themselves effective at content marketing, leading a significant number (62%) to outsource their content marketing needs.
So if you don't have someone (or enough people) in-house, what's the next best thing? Consider trying a content marketplace, such as Zerys or WriterAccess, to help produce some of your content projects.
4) Interview experts within and outside of your organization.
There are likely people in your company or outside the organization who are filled knowledge about your buyers and industry. One of the easiest ways to create more content is to think like a journalist and interview internal and external thought leaders.
Use your phone or a service like GoToMeeting to record the conversion. Afterward, you can use 3PlayMedia or hire someone on oDesk or Elance to transcribe the audio for you.
5) Curate blog content.
Content curation is a great way to build industry-specific content from around the web. According to Andrew Dymski, there are a few different ways to do it well.
"One way is to build thought leadership," he noted. "If you find a thought provoking piece of content, you can add your perspective to the topic, provide a preview of the post, and attribute the work. Another way is to create wrap-up posts. These are collection of 5-10 interesting articles with a brief intro and a link to read more. Both of these strategies can help provide a boost to your content creation."
Extra Resources and Examples:
Lack of Budget and Buy-in
A study by MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute found that businesses only devote about 25% of their marketing budgets to developing and distributing quality content. Further, 43% of enterprises say that getting buy-in is a big challenge and 38% struggle with getting sufficient budget.
Here are three main reasons for this:
- A company might be addicted to the paid search model or currently allocating a huge amount of budget to traditional channels. Reducing spend in these areas might seem painful because of the instant (yet less effective) result a company can get from paid campaigns, whereas content marketing takes longer to prove its impact.
- Senior management does not yet understand the value of content marketing across the enterprise. They either believe that their buyers don't rely on online information to buy their products or services or their industry is too niche and they already have the majority of their buyers in the database.
- Content creation may be perceived as more expensive, despite studies proving its effectiveness on lowering cost-per-lead, customer acquisition costs, and improving ROI.
The thing is you don't really need a big budget to do great content marketing. Most of the time, traditional or paid media ends up costing a business more -- both in hard cost and missed opportunity costs (think about how much it costs just to sponsor one trade show. Is that really money well spent?).
In fact, Michael Brenner, Sr. Director of Global Marketing at SAP, once said, "The real problem at a large corporation isn’t to get funding to do something new, but to get people to stop doing what isn’t working."
4 Tips to Getting More Budget or Buy-in
1) Start small.
If content marketing is fairly new to your organization or department, it's always better to start with a test program.
Starting small means you appear experimental and innovative while being cautious with your company's investment. When presenting this test to the gatekeeper, communicate and agree on measurable goals and then confirm additional investment and sign-off if your test meets expectations.
2) Provide your boss with compelling data.
There is no shortage of reports or statistics that prove the value of quality content marketing. Showing the value of content as the foundation to your marketing is necessary to get more buy-in, particularly how content can lift a company’s investments in all other areas of marketing.
Our State of Inbound Marketing Report and this customizable presentation offer a great place to start. Our blog post titled "How to Transition From a Traditional Marketing Budget to an Inbound One" is also helpful for those needing a change in direction.
In addition to the positive effects of content marketing, showing executives the negative side of not doing it can also have a major impact. Michael Brenner also points out a little trick that helped him win management over.
He stated: “What I was able to show to instill fear in the minds of our executives was the number of conversations that were happening around our solution areas that we weren’t involved in, at all."
3) Financially justify the investment with a plan.
Dan Slagen, SVP of Marketing at Nanigans, always has a plan of action when taking on new projects that require budget.
"I make sure to always be asking my team what they think is interesting to invest in from a marketing perspective," he said. "Once I've found something that I think is worth investing in, I schedule time with my boss and we have a quick conversation about it. If we agree that it's a big enough initiative to truly move the needle for us, then I'll write up a plan from start to finish. The plan will consist of the investment and the return, along with all the details around who is doing what and when."
4) Approach content as if you don't need budget.
"If only I had the budget" can sometimes just be an excuse for not doing something great. Even if you're in a large organization with plenty of resources, think lean like a startup.
Some of the best campaigns where created on little to no budget, while some big-budget promotions end up in backlash. One great way to create content on the cheap is to reuse existing content (as I mentioned above) or partner with other providers to help create content with you.
Extra Resources and Examples:
Producing a Variety of Content
Content can take many forms. It can be written, visual, interactive, or audible. It can be long or it can be short. It can be still or it can animated. In the world of marketing, content takes any form you want it be.
That flexibility gives marketers a multitude of options when developing a variety of forms of content. Variety, after all, keeps things interesting and enables you to transform content for different channels and people.
Here are numerous content formats you can create (and I'm positive there are even more than this!):
- Blog posts
- Tip, cheat sheets, or checklists
- Social media messages
- Images and infographics
- Utility content (e.g. Marketing Grader and 160 Free Business-Themed Stock Photos)
- Case Studies
- Comics and stories
- Digital magazines
3 Tips to Create a Variety of Content
1) Map content to the buying cycle.
If you're struggling to figure out what to create next, start by building a content map.
This map buckets different types of content in different stages of the buying funnel. Map all of the existing content you have already in three buckets -- Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase (some content maps use more stages, but I recommend keeping it simple) -- and find out where your biggest gaps lie. Is it in the top-of-the-funnel, or awareness stage, or maybe it's close to the bottom-of-the-funnel, or the purchase stage?
This post by Tom De Baere is excellent for learning more about mapping content to the buyer's journey.
2) Foster ideas and collaboration.
One of my favorite ways to come up with new content ideas is just by seeing what else is out there on the inter-webs.
Every morning, I check my favorite LinkedIn groups, blogs, and news sites. I then keep all interesting finds and ideas in Evernote under my "Content Ideas" note. Our blogging and editorial teams use Trello to store all of their ideas and keep things organized. We also heavily use our wiki by Atlassian under our "Marketing Inspiration" page.
Here's one tip that marketers often forget is an option for idea generation: Talk to people in your industry. Interview customers, analysts, or other thought leaders. They are a treasure trove of new ideas.
3) Reuse and repurpose.
As already discussed, reusing content on different channels can be extremely effective. You have to be careful, though. Simply copying and pasting the same message everywhere might come across like a spammy approach (I've seen many enterprises commit that crime).
Thus, it's imperative to keep the channel, audience, and frequency in mind when you reuse content. And always, always make sure what you're providing is considered valuable to the audience that's consuming it.
Some examples of repurposing content include: posting a presentation on SlideShare, turning presentation slides into tweetable graphics on social, packaging multiple blog posts on a similar topic into an ebook, or turning a webinar into a podcast.
Extra Resources and Examples:
Inability to Measure Content Marketing Effectiveness
I get it: Marketing attribution is hard. People don't consume content laterally and a person's digital path is often complex. A buyer's journey online looks more like a never-ending and tangled web of confusion than it does an orderly and confined step-by-step process. This causes marketers to end up in dead-ends and question the true effectiveness of their efforts.
In fact, a study by The Fournaise Marketing Group found that 73% of executives don’t believe that marketing drives demand and revenue. Ouch.
Because content marketing attribution can get heavy (and I could talk about this one topic for days), I'll instead provide you with my top two tips, plus extra resources below that provide more detail.
2 Tips to Measuring Content Effectiveness
1) Define what success actually looks like.
Is it page views? Downloads? Cost-per-lead? ROI? Ask yourself, "What does 'success' mean for my particular business and each of its content assets?" This can depend on a number of factors.
For example, a webinar or an ebook can be used as either a top-of-the-funnel offer to generate new leads or a middle-of-the-funnel offer to nurture existing leads. For the former, net new leads would be the focal metric, whereas for the latter, reconversions or sales-qualified leads (SQLs) would likely be the end goal.
Before you create a new piece of content, keep in mind what your goals for that content are so you can effectively measure its success as accurately as possible. You can also check out this excellent blog post to learn more.
2) Fill analytical gaps with the right technology.
Once you know what metrics define success, you'll then need to identify the areas that keep you from measuring that metric.
Overall, do you have the capability to measure what you need? If you find it difficult to measure new leads, for example, are you placing your content behind forms where you can track submission data? If you're looking to measure ROI, does your marketing software connect with a CRM or a system that contains customer or revenue data?
Typically, the biggest gaps lie in the fact that a) a company lacks a complete marketing platform that tracks and stores lead intelligence, or b) technology is in place but each database is disparate.
When there is a lack of integration, there is usually a breakdown that makes closed-loop marketing difficult to achieve. If one or both of these are an issue, perhaps evaluating new technologies that give you better analytics should be on your short list.
Extra Resources and Examples:
Summary, Takeaways, and Sound Bites
I know -- everything I've written about here is a lot of marketing advice to take in. So, to help you understand each of the points outlined here, let's recap these tips, tricks, and words of wisdom:
- Effective content marketing attracts, entertains, captivates, teaches, and builds trust. (Tweet This)
- Content is the best sales tool in the world. (Tweet This)
- The biggest problem enterprise marketers face is producing compelling content. (Tweet This)
- With content marketing, create more value than you capture. (Tweet This)
- In marketing, good context is just as important as good content. (Tweet This)
- If you want to product more content, you need to make it a priority. (Tweet This)
- In the world of marketing, content takes any form you want it be: written, visual, interactive, or audible. (Tweet This)
- "If only I had the budget" can sometimes be an excuse for not doing something great. (Tweet This)
- For content marketing to be effective, you first need to know what you're measuring. (Tweet This)
How do you plan to tackle your marketing challenges in 2014? We recommend downloading our free marketing goals template, which can help set you, your team, and your company up for success in the new year.