By Jeremy Victor
Transitioning from outbound marketing to an inbound content-driven strategy often requires a difﬁcult shift in communication style. Typical B2B marketing is ﬁlled with overused, self-serving puffery like "best-in-class" and "results-oriented." As meaningless as these terms are on your homepage and brochure, using the same approach for your content marketing will almost certainly have disastrous long-term consequences.
In order to develop content that builds an audience, earns their trust and leads to sales, it's critical to ﬁrst honestly evaluate whether your company's communication style will attract readers or send them straight to your competitors' blogs.
Here are 3 ways to help your company make the transition from generic content to authentic communication.
1. Change Your Perspective
The ﬁrst step is to understand what makes content marketing different from outbound marketing.
Advertiser vs. Publisher
Content marketing is not just advertising with a few "how to" tips thrown in. It requires shifting from short-sighted goals to a long-term view.
Magazine publishers establish themselves as the authority in their niche by creating content for a very speciﬁc audience. Your own content marketing approach needs to follow the same strategy, focusing on topics related to the problems your company solves.
Content marketers are the new magazines, newspapers and television stations. The quality and value of your content and the connection it builds with your audience is more inﬂuential than any full page branding ad could ever be.
And there's the irony of the publishing marketing model. Its purpose is to drive new sales and build repeat business, but the right execution requires a subtle approach. When you focus squarely on the needs of your audience ﬁrst, ROI is inevitable.
Pack a Lunch
Content marketing is not a short-term strategy. Building an audience takes time, commitment and resources. The potential payoff for those who commit, however, can be huge.
The components that make up a solid ongoing content marketing campaign include:
- Developing high quality content and establishing publishing channels (blogs, social media, etc)
- Building an audience by earning their attention and trust
- Converting readers into prospects and then customers
There are no shortcuts. Each step builds upon the last. Expecting to generate a sale from every new Twitter follower or forcing a pitch into every blog post ruins your chances of earning your audience's trust. The stronger your content, the greater the connection you will build and the less need you'll have to hard sell at all.
2. Get to the Point
The purpose that your company expresses through its content is critical to earning an audience.
Spock Would Make a Horrible Content Marketer
Nobody is persuaded by data. They are persuaded by meaning. The purely logic-driven decision is a myth.
It doesn't matter if you sell ofﬁce towers, copy machines or consulting. Cranking out pages of dry facts and graphs like a robot just adds to the already overwhelming information overload that we all deal with. Your goal as a content marketer is to translate those facts into meaning. If you can use emotion as well as logic to help people solve problems, your content will be far more engaging and persuasive.
"XYZ Inc is a leading ______ with a commitment to creating win-win, value-added solutions for companies of all sizes, including Fortune 500 enterprises and small businesses alike." This type of generic, pointless jargon exists because it's safe and expected. Like muzak in an elevator, nobody really likes or is inspired by it. It's just neutral background noise.
Marketing cliches, just like muzak, are largely ignored. Nobody is inﬂuenced by corporate platitudes. They are inﬂuenced by purpose; why you do what you do to begin with. Being authentic means making a bold statement, standing for something and ignoring the critics. It means not trying to appeal to everyone and instead focusing on dominating the market for the customers who share your vision.
If you want to connect with your audience, you have to be real. Everything else gets ﬁltered out.
From today's LA Times: "Multi-tasking audiences appear to be tiring of (drama) shows that require concentration."
Yikes. If the audience for a multi-million dollar television production is so easily distracted, what chance does the average white paper have of being read to the end?
Deliver your content in as concise and readable way as you possibly can. Longer is very rarely better.
3. Is Everyone on the Same Page?
It does you no good to create wonderfully engaging content only to have your CEO or sales manager shelve it for the wrong reasons. It's critical to get the right people on board ﬁrst, before you ﬁnalize your content and communication strategy.
Start at the top and work your way down. Make sure that every stakeholder is not only comfortable with the time commitment needed for content marketing but with your communication style as well. Without that, your well crafted and engaging content will likely be reduced to pointless "professional sounding" jargon.
Death by Committee
Content shouldn't be written to stroke your CEO or sales manager's ego. It should be written to serve the people in your market.
The fewer managers involved in the copy approval process the better. Great content is never written by committee. Putting it through the meat grinder of ofﬁce politics is a guaranteed way to end up with generic ﬁller.
That doesn't mean that your team shouldn't be involved. Your service and sales reps are on the front lines with your customers every day and have unique insight into the topics and content customers would be most interested in. Get them involved early and your content's relevance will go up dramatically.
The Leads Are Weak?
Your sales team should have a clear understanding of where your audience ﬁts into their lead pipeline. Convert readers into prospects carefully, without pushing them too hard and driving them away, losing their trust and damaging your credibility. Only after they've expressed interest in beginning a conversation by responding to a speciﬁc offer should they be handed off to your sales team for follow up.