Risk-Proof Your Content Strategy in 2015
Marketing Content Strategy

How to Risk-Proof Your Content Strategy in 2015

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Last month, I sat at a conference table with a pretty stressed-out content marketing team. There were people enjoying the perks of working for a Silicon Valley tech titan all around us, but you wouldn’t have known it from the looks on their faces. The general consensus was confusion over how to succeed in the wake of drastic organizational shifts:

“So yeah, we’ve completely reshuffled our go-to-market strategy and our product offering. Everything has changed, but we still have really aggressive goals for 2015. How can you possibly help us develop a content strategy when we’re to juggle so many channels, audiences, and multiple priorities?”

What do you have to do differently this coming year, to uplevel how your content marketing drives business?

Chaos Is a Crappy Feeling

This year has involved a lot of changes for content strategy, from increased competition to growing budgets and under-resourced teams. In a few cases, programs have delivered 1,200 percent ROI, but not nearly enough organizations are able to prove business value. It can be hard to keep a clear head in the midst of such transitions, particularly when you’re a marketer in a technology enterprise and industry that’s undergoing seismic shifts on multiple fronts:

  • New budget owners. CIOs are out; CMOs are in—at least when it comes to tech dollars. Sales and finance still can’t get along, even though they need to. And human resources professionals are feeling the pressure to quantify their value with data, like everyone else. “Who’s at the revenue table? Who isn’t? Am I about to get fired?!” With so many identity crises colliding in the workplace, it likely won’t be long before organizations start hiring staff therapists—especially for the marketers who need to create content for each shifting department and priority set.
  • Inverted methods of technology adoption. Enterprises drove technology adoption until these little things called tablets came around, and those trophy-loving, social-network-binging Millennials infiltrated the workforce scene. These changes have big implications for content, from editorial tone and content type to target audience. Consumers are so innovative today that the buzzword has lost all power, and businesses have no choice but to scurry to keep up with—much less get ahead of—the movement. That puts a lot of pressure on marketers.
  • Revolutionized priorities and mechanisms of data capture. The cloud. Big data. Mobile computing. Seeing further with geolocation. Take IBM’s partnership with Twitter, for example. The only thing the same about business is change.

It’s a brave new world out there—and, much like the team above, many folks feel completely afraid.

But There’s Good News

Like I told the group above, things are still really simple.

Think back to bedtime when you were a kid. What did you want from your mom each night? Stories. The truth is, conversations have happened for pretty much the same reasons since antiquity. They offer intrigue. They dive into the details of conflict. They offer solutions to problems. This may be why consumer-facing marketers have inspired so many B2Bs with their storytelling approach: They’re finding B2B buyers aren’t so different after all.

Here are four tips to help enterprises course-correct their content marketing:

1. Lead with Ideas and Innovation

Too many enterprises start out by talking about their brands and their products. It’s off-putting.

A tongue-in-cheek question I like to challenge these marketers with is whether they would ask someone to sleep with them on the first date. Seriously. Would you go on a second date with someone who did?

To form trust, you have to provide value well before you ask for it. A storytelling approach here will get you far. To start, create an overarching message. When you think of Aesop’s Fables, do lessons and parables come to mind? Give your buyers the gift of similar simplicity. C-level concerns are pretty standard across all departments this coming year: Harnessing the value of data, powering a global workforce, and forecasting with predictive confidence are top priorities. After you’ve crafted your message, start to think in terms of a beginning, middle, and end. Like stories, content marketing needs to flow.

On the back end, align your marketing processes with the sales pipeline to power the process. Your salespeople are master storytellers, so sit down with them individually. Ask them specific questions. Know which companies are their target accounts. Then, give them credit for their stories and ideas. Promote their bylines. Make it easy for them to share content socially. (Skyword‘s marketing team does all this, and it’s magic.)

When you provide value and lead with ideas and innovation, your customers will love you—and so will your sales team.

2. Share the Microphone

In the same way your company’s content has to stop beginning conversations with how fantastic you think you are, your team of content creators has to expand beyond company walls.

Spotlight non-company influencers to become a trusted source for industry information. Empower your corporate partners so you can tap into their purchase networks. Invest in internal subject matter experts so you can drive workforce loyalty and retention—and spike social sharing. Continue telling customer success stories without your branded lens.

An important note when you are considering marketing with influencers: The process involves art and science, from knowing where to find these leaders to when and how to approach them. Do your homework on competitive pay. Think ahead about holidays and times of year that could impact content creation. Consider aligning pay with performance, so your company and your contributor team is similarly motivated to share your content.

When it comes to your content contributor team, you don’t want to be a one-trick pony. Trade up from that “one-hit wonder” mentality.

3. Diversify Content Types

As marketers, we love long-form content because it gives us the ability to ask for contact information. Industry reports also significantly influence technology purchase decisions. All kinds of content are great, and lead-gen assets are an important part of your marketing mix—but just a part of it. When was the last time you sat down with an eBook and actually read it, cover to cover?

We all know people learn differently. We also know the way people learn is changing. How are you evolving your content marketing to meet new learning demands?

Leading brands have found bite-sized content to lead the way in clicks, length of engagement, and sharing. Short-form content that’s produced at scale will drive top-of-funnel action and expand brand awareness. High-quality long-form content has its place—but it’s much later in the buying cycle.

To create a seamless content experience for your buyer, think in terms of a sequence. Start with non-branded, short-form content that leads to longer, branded material. Make sure you use all channels and multiple content types: infographics, blogs, social, video, and more. Be sure to balance evergreen and news content for maximum effect.

4. Think Global

This past summer, a major credit card brand wanted to drive card usage during the World Cup, so it created a global campaign with region-specific tactics. It worked with Skyword to find, train, and hire local, native-language speakers to create content to power the strategy. The approach worked so well that now the brand is deploying the model across eight new regions worldwide.

This is going to be a particularly relevant model for software enterprises, many of whom recently reorganized around an industry-specific, go-to-market strategy. Prove a profitable conversation framework in one company division with your content marketing strategy. Then apply it to other product lines, buyers, and so on.

Extend the reach of your content strategy with local influencers. Consider transcription to expand sharing worldwide by duplicating content in other languages (without any SEO-duplication penalties). Also recognize this: Amplification (native advertising) won’t be low-hanging fruit for long.

So, Now What?

To succeed as a marketer, you may need to completely rethink your marketing strategy—and it won’t always be easy. (We know because we’ve done it.) The good news? Your marketers and customers will be inspired, share stories they can believe it, and get to use their outside voices.

So step away from a product marketing mindset. Ditch your Buyer Benefits tally. Instead, learn the why and how of brand storytelling.

I’ll be sharing more about this today at Content Rising, Palo Alto, an event for marketers in software enterprises who want to develop and monetize online audiences. Ping me if you want to be on the invite list for the next one.

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