September 29, 2022

Rethinking Your Content Strategy: Three Ways to Get Invited to the Research Journey

By: Megan Creighton

Earlier this year, I attended the B2BMX conference in Scottdale, Arizona. As someone sitting squarely in the marketing strategy space, the keynote by Jay Bear entitled “The 3 Drawbridges: How To Cross The Moat Of B2B Buyers Attention” struck a chord—and had me rethinking my current approach. Below is a summary of the session, and if you’re a content or demand gen marketer I hope it inspires you too!

According to Bear, you might think that your content isn’t resonating with your audience because they don’t have enough time in their workday to engage with it. But that’s a misconception. The hard truth is that your prospects aren’t too busy to consume content; rather, what you are serving up isn’t relevant to them.

Buyers are becoming savvier and more empowered to do their own research than in the past. As marketers, we must learn to reinvent our outdated practices because we can no longer force our way into our prospects’ purchase journey. We need to be invited in. 

So, how do you score an invite? To do this, you must be radically relevant.

Here are three ways to get on their VIP list:

  1. Deliver the right message: Broad is flawed.

I think we can safely say that the days of “spray and pray” tactics are long gone. Instead, you should be focused on delivering a perfect message to the smallest possible audience.

Did you know that according to a 2020 survey, 60 percent of business-to-business (B2B) tech companies created content for two or fewer funnel stages? This gap in content development is glaring, but not uncommon. What’s interesting is that often, businesses are ignoring the very high and very low funnel stages. 

Failing to focus on the very high funnel stage is detrimental to your mid-funnel marketing programs. If your brand is lacking the foundational awareness to be included in your prospects’ initial conversation set, then you’re already behind. When developing resources at this stage, focus on useful, pithy content that aligns with their interests. It doesn’t even have to be necessarily related to your business, just provide your base with something they may personally need or have an interest in. 

Example: Active Campaign created a cookbook featuring recipes for thought leaders. This generated 4,000 marketing qualified leads (MQLs) in two weeks. 

At the lower stage, take the time to create something almost eerily relevant, and think about hyperspecific use cases. Dive into a very niche capability of your product or aspect of your service that hits home for the exact individual you want to engage with. You can view this as a one-to-one or one-to-few approach—similar to long-tail keywords in an SEM strategy. The volume of people searching for something very specific might not be very high, but if you can answer that particular query with relevant, targeted information, they are extremely likely to continue to interact with your brand.

Reflective Question: Is the content that you’re creating at any given time the most useful information for this specific customer at this specific point of their journey?

  1. Send the right messenger: Beware of “The Brand”.

In order for your message to be well-received by your audience, you have to consider who is delivering it. Information from customers and peers is 50% more credible to B2B buyers than information from brands; yet, the majority of content produced is from the brand. 

Often during the strategy process, marketers are solely thinking about the type of content to create but not thinking about who is delivering it. 

Here are the current Relevance Rankings:

  1. Message from Customer
  2. Message from Influencer
  3. Message from Employee
  4. Message from Brand

Don’t just think about making content for your prospective customers, think about producing content from your current customers. It’s much more effective to let your customers speak on your behalf and it makes your brand more credible too.

Next, consider partnering with other thought leaders in your industry to create content. Although they may not have hands-on experience working with your product, they have the expertise to weigh in and the reputation to influence decisions.

Finally, turn to your internal thought leaders: your employees. It may be one step removed from the brand, but bringing a human element to your content reinforces that there are experts in-house who know what they are doing and are dedicated to improving the lives of your customers.

Reflective Question: Can your customers see themselves in your content, or is everything from “The Brand”?

  1. Find the right modality: A happy medium.

The format in which individuals like to digest information should not be overlooked when it comes to determining your content strategy. Many of these preferences will vary depending on your demographic and must be taken into consideration. For example, Gen Z feels like they are *literally* being stabbed every time they get an email (an ACTUAL response by a college student in a New York Times study). 

Your ultimate goal is to educate, motivate and persuade a buyer. To do so, create a message in MULTIPLE formats.

Pro-Tip: Think about adopting the 1×8 rule. For every piece of tentpole content, produce eight additional pieces of content in different formats. You can also flip this around! Take eight smaller pieces of related content and roll them into a longer piece of content in a specific format. 

Furthermore, the structure of the content should align with the funnel stages:

  • Early stages should be SNACKABLE: listicles, infographics, “news you can use”, explainer videos
  • Later stages should be SPECIFIC: case studies, customer reviews, analyst reports, ROI calculator tied to more specific use cases, and total cost of ownership

When capturing new individuals at the top of the funnel, think about how you can make your content work as an assembly line to move them to the bottom of the funnel. Too often, brands will get one interaction from a customer and direct them to a content hub that is like a Farmer’s Market, there’s an overwhelming amount of content to interact with. They don’t want to see everything, they want to see the next best piece of content. Make that choice for them. Think about the entire user experience.

Lastly, video is KING. You should be including it everywhere. The broader the use cases, the more video is being executed. Think about ways you can self-create videos for more targeted efforts. It doesn’t have to be overproduced.  Look at “Ask Me Anything” videos typically shot with an iPhone and uploaded directly to social media. You don’t have to be flashy to be effective, you just have to deliver something of value.

Reflection Question: Can your customers fully self-educate themselves using the modalities they prefer?

As you take time to reflect on the suggestions by Bear, consider this: When was the last time you were excited to have someone show up to your party uninvited? I think we can all agree that nobody wants to be that person, and neither should your brand.

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