Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer
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“If a tree (your content) falls in the forest (is published) and there’s no one around to hear (view) it, does it really make a sound (impact)?”
Leigha Henderson poses this thought-provoking question on the Foundation Marketing blog, “Why Content Distribution Is More Important Today Than Ever Before.”
Let’s keep going with that analogy. Ask yourself this, “If a tree (your content) falls in the forest (is published) and a buyer hears it, does the buyer who comes to the forest six weeks later still hear the original sound?”
Think about it: Even the best newsletters are only opened 20-ish percent of the time on a good day. And even your biggest fans and best-fit prospects are only going to click on content every now and then when it reaches their inboxes or shows up on their LinkedIn feeds. This is because, as Henderson also points out, “Your content may be immaculate, but it’s noisy out there. Your insightful, eye-catching content can still get lost in the sea of endless updates.”
Your buyers are drowning in these endless updates. If you want your content to be a life raft, you’re going to have to throw it out to them multiple times.
You’ve heard this stat before if you’re a regular Follow Your Buyer reader. It’s from the book Selling To The C-Suite: "At any given time, only 4 percent of your market is actively buying, 40 percent are ready to start looking at options, and 56 percent aren't ready or don't have a current need."
Think about how this applies to that bulk email you sent, that LinkedIn post you promoted, that trade show you exhibited at, that webinar you hosted.
It means 96 percent of your right-fit buyers were not ready to buy at the time your message was put in front of them. But tomorrow, some of those buyers will enter the 4 percent category of actively buying. And next month, a different group of buyers will cycle into that 4 percent with their new buyer’s journey. Six months or a year from now, you might not even recognize the names in the 4 percent who were the original targets of your message.
The buyer’s journey does not operate on a calendar-year fiscal. It is not dictated by your marketing team’s quarterly budget. Your buyers will buy whenever it suits them, and that is why your content and messaging needs to constantly be in front of them. Obviously, that’s not always possible. You can’t host a webinar 365 days a year. You wouldn’t want to push paid promotions to the same buyers on a daily basis, either. There is a fine line between adding to the noise and standing out from that noise.
Even setting aside the changing dynamics of the buyer’s journey, common sense dictates how hard it is to reach buyers. Maybe your buyer had a really, really busy Tuesday with back-to-back-to-back Zoom calls, and at the end of the day, any nonessential emails were deleted. That one content promotion could have been lost for no other reason than it was a really, really busy Tuesday. But maybe all those Zoom meetings were to discuss an initiative that will kickstart a new buyer’s journey. That is why your content needs to show up in their inbox again.
Marketers are inclined to do, to produce, to create, to post. After all, demonstrating pure output is one of the easiest ways to prove your worth, especially since so many marketing teams are grappling with broken attribution models or struggling to show ROI. It can feel counterintuitive to repurpose, to repost, to resend.
Don’t get so fixated on creating new content that you forget to maximize the mileage from your existing content. Remember that “old” content can still be relevant and helpful to your buyers even if it seems stale to your marketing team.
The thought of reusing content marketers perceive as “stale” often triggers several kinds of illogical fear. This is a similar phenomenon explained in “An Insider’s Take On B2B Events:”
[There is an] illogical fear that ‘people in the industry will have a negative perception about you’ if you don’t have a presence at every event. Trust me, no prospect chooses a vendor partner based on who has the biggest booth and the best cocktail reception. And if they do, that’s probably not the type of customer-for-life your marketing efforts aim to attract.
Here are some of the illogical fears that run through marketers’ heads:
This is a plea to recycle content enough so that buyers see it when it will be most helpful to them. This is not a directive to stop producing new content. There are a few guidelines that should dictate when new content is needed.
For example, Follow Your Buyer’s sister publications typically will wait at least 60-90 days before repeating a piece of content in our newsletters. Those publications typically only promote content for a maximum of 18-24 months. Some topics can be more evergreen, while some will need to be refreshed more frequently, so that timeline will depend on your market, your products/services, and your buyers’ preferences. But using these guidelines, a supplier could realistically run a year-long content syndication program with as few as four to six high-quality pieces of content.
Of course, more content is almost always a good thing. The “critical minimum volume of content” needed to be a thought leader is four pieces of early-stage and four pieces of middle-stage content per year per narrative. But reaching that threshold should not preclude you from launching a content program. That’s a topic tackled in Tom Roberts’ article, “What Does Enough Thought Leadership Look Like In Content Marketing?”
This directive to recycle content only applies to content that is worthy of being promoted in the first place. Content that assists your buyers in navigating the buyer’s journey. Content that focuses primarily on helping and not on selling. Content that provides valuable commercial insight in a format that your buyers want to digest. If you are cranking out overly promotional content that lacks depth, uniqueness, or helpfulness, then you are better off not promoting it at all – let alone recycling those promotions – or else you risk harming your brand reputation.
When you have truly helpful content that can teach buyers something about their business, support them in advancing throughout their buyers’ journey, or reach consensus among their buying group, then that content is worth sharing. And resharing. And recycling again and again and again.
A multibillion-dollar biopharmaceutical supplier. This supplier regularly runs custom newsletters in various Life Science Connect publications. But since not all readers on the Life Science Connect platforms are going through the same buyer’s journey stages at the same time, they dedicated some of their custom newsletter inventory to recycling content. In this case, the same custom newsletter format with the same four pieces of content was sent to Bioprocess Online readers.
The second version of this custom newsletter ran seven months after the initial send. Three of the articles were geared toward the early stage of the buyer’s journey (supplier-agnostic and entirely thought leadership focused), and one article was for the middle stage (lightly branded and focused on the supplier’s products/services).
Presenting content in the same format at different times re-engaged some of this supplier’s existing company targets and engaged almost as many net-new readers the second time around. Well over 2,000 leads were generated in total from a targeted list of Bioprocess Online readers who were a fit for this supplier. Of those leads, more than 40 percent were generated from the second send and were unique, net-new leads. Each send analyzed data from the first 10 days of promotion. Of all these reader engagements/leads, only 40 readers overlapped between the first and second sends.
The content in this repeated format continued to generate leads on Bioprocess Online. For example, the lead article in these custom newsletters was again promoted in the Bioprocess Online regular weekly newsletters seven months, 12 months, and 18 months after the repeated send. Even more than two years after the initial promotion, the content continued generating net-new leads.
A member of this supplier’s demand generation team admitted, “We’ve been debating whether we should retire content after 12-18 months, but this data comparison shows that even though we get sick of the same content, it seems our audience does not.”
We will not be great by what we accomplish, but by what we help others accomplish.How does this apply to your work as a B2B marketer?
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Learning to follow your buyer is a change in mindset
A transition from selling buyers on what you do to helping them accomplish what they do.