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What you’re about to access could be the single most important step you take to improve your B2B marketing strategy. It’s something we call the Engagement Engine.

It’s a deep-thinking exercise that will guide and refine your long-term content marketing plan. We want to provide some context before we explain how to download the Engagement Engine. Otherwise, this will just look like a random assortment of PDFs with some questions and text boxes.

The Engagement Engine helps B2B organizations think strategically about how to link marketing with market opportunity. Far too often, this link is broken or nonexistent. Marketers become consumed by checklists: ship the booth to the next trade show, execute the next brand refresh, schedule the next social media campaign. Stuck in the chaos of short-term planning, marketers might not even recognize the need for long-term, strategic thinking.

For several years, the Engagement Engine – our method of facilitating this long-term, strategic thinking – was only available to customers and required a signed nondisclosure agreement (NDA). We hope that by providing this tool, you will be inspired to share content you previously thought was too valuable, revealed too much of your IP, or would give away your competitive advantage. If you want to truly help buyers – and we mean truly help – that means your “secret sauce” can no longer be a secret.

We’ve come to realize how powerfully these Engagement Engine exercises can transform a B2B marketing team from having to beg for enough budget to scrape by to a function that becomes the lifeblood of an organization’s growth. It’s true: When armed with the right tools, a sound strategy, and a commitment to content, marketing can become a cross-functional powerhouse responsible for driving revenue, creating lifelong customers, and steering innovation.

Putting The Engagement Engine To Work

The Engagement Engine has five interconnected components of a comprehensive content marketing strategy: audience, research, content, media, and analytics.

Here are some things to remember as you fill out worksheets for each stage. These learnings come from doing this exercise ourselves and from going through the process hand-in-hand with our partners in the life sciences, electronics, IT, and wastewater/water industries.

  • Collaboration is key. This is not something you can assign to someone in marketing or even to the entire marketing team. Yes, the exercise can start with marketing, but it will require an all-hands-on-deck approach. Expect to get help from sales, product, engineering, customer support, executives, internal subject matter experts, third-party media partners, and third-party research.

  • There will be questions that no one in your organization will have the answers to. That is more than OK – it’s something to celebrate. Because once you know what you don’t know, you can take the steps to learn more.

  • You can expect to be a combination of frustrated, overwhelmed, and confused by this process. Embrace those emotions because they are a sign that you are doing the hard work that your competitors likely won’t have the stomach for.

  • This exercise is never complete. It is a living, breathing process. Think of it as a “knowledge book” that you’ll add chapters to as your products/services evolve, as your customer needs/challenges/buying habits evolve, and as market/economic forces evolve. Every time you uncover new information about your customers/market/company, you will examine it through the lens of the information in your Engagement Engine.

What To Expect

This exercise might not result in earth-shattering changes to your current marketing strategy. That should not minimize its importance. Here’s why: Any B2B marketing team (even a team of one) can whiteboard some ideas and land on a few article topics that will appeal to customers. You can start your content marketing journey without a broader, deeper strategy, and that can get you “close enough” to achieving some of your goals.

The problem with “close enough” is that your competitors can easily get there, too – the barrier to entry to content marketing is lower than ever. This Engagement Engine is designed to transform educated guesses into specific validated opinions that will drive content themes.

To stay ahead of your competition – to capture the mindshare and earn the thought leadership status needed to fuel growth – you need to clearly document what you do (and don’t) know about your customers. Then, you need to constantly refine that documentation and the content creation process that ensues. This tedious, time-intensive work is how you’ll grow from “close enough” to “market leader.”

“The Boat Race” – an annual duel between the Oxford and Cambridge universities’ rowing teams – provides an apt analogy for the precision that this Engagement Engine exercise requires. Roughly a quarter of a million fans line the banks of the River Thames in London to watch the race, which has been held for more than 150 years. The rivalry is fiercely competitive, with the Cambridge men earning 84 victories to Oxford’s 80, and the Cambridge women owning 44 titles to Oxford’s 30. “Rowing in the same direction” takes on a very literal meaning.

In 2003, Oxford won by one foot, the closest-ever race. Over the last 25 years, the largest margin of victory has only been six lengths, leaving very little margin for error on a 4-mile course, considering that each “length” of the boat equates to only a few seconds. Both teams train year-round with the goal of getting just a few seconds faster. Those few seconds are everything.

When it comes to content marketing, you can’t expect to outperform your competitors by miles. But if you focus on how to improve incrementally – how to get just a few seconds faster – you’ll start to see wins in the forms of increased buyer engagements, earlier entry into the buyer’s journey, and, ultimately, more sales. It is the slight nuances in your content strategy that will help you row ahead of your competitors.

Accessing The Engagement Engine

We’ve now spent about 1,000 words showering this Engagement Engine exercise with praise. It’s not because we’re arrogant. In fact, we’re fully aware that the Engagement Engine is just Word documents with questions turned into writeable PDFs. We think there is real value in simplicity. The Engagement Engine is not a complex six-figure software platform or a consulting firm’s flavor-of-the-month framework. There is no purchase committee, and it does not require months of onboarding and training. Anyone in your organization can dive into these questions right away.

We also wanted to build excitement about this process so that you’ll have some adrenaline to push you through the challenging parts of this exercise. Remember why you started down this path: To create content that will truly help your buyers and, in turn, will help you create sustained growth. Remember that if this were easy, all of your competitors would already be doing it. If you invest the time to think deeply about these questions, you will benefit from the exercise. If you breeze through it in an hour, you’ll have wasted your time.

So here’s how it works. First, we’d like you to agree to join the Follow Your Buyer community by opting-in to our once-weekly newsletter.

Click here to sign up and download the Engagement Engine.

The reason we want to add you as a newsletter subscriber is to provide a regular stream of advice designed to inspire you to keep going back to those worksheets week after week, month after month, year after year. That’s the kind of commitment it takes to be a successful B2B content marketer.

Your automatic welcome message to our community will include a zip folder with each of the worksheets included with the Engagement Engine. If you don’t see our message right away, check your spam folder. If you have problems downloading the Engagement Engine, or if you are already subscribed to our newsletter, shoot an email to our chief editor, Abby Sorensen, at asorensen [at]

Let us know how we can help.

Good luck!


About the author

Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer

You might know me as a writer, coach, content marketer, dog lover, editor, golfer, sales strategist, Diet Coke enthusiast, speaker, Allegheny alum, project manager, feminist, networker, or St. Louis Cardinals fan. 

We will not be great by what we accomplish, but by what we help others accomplish.

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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.