What does it take to implement content marketing effectively in a B2B organization? It’s not an easy question to answer broadly because:
a) every team has its own dynamics;
b) every organization has constraints and limitations; and
c) every vertical market has its own unique characteristics.
However, there is a sizable and growing body of research that points to several key factors including following:
- Documented strategy
- The time and resources to produce quality
Those themes are certainly accurate, but there are also important implications or implied tasks nestled in these factors.
1) Hands on marketing leadership
Surveys show the most successful content marketing organizations allocate the proper staff including internal and external resources. In less successful programs, content marketing is treated as an additional duty or a part-time job.
Of course, that makes sense: any business initiative that stands a chance of success requires resources, but it’s my observation that the survey data misses an important point: marketing leadership.
This isn’t something that can be delegated to a team to go figure out. Or if a team is tasked with figuring it out, delegate that task knowing it’s a likely path to a long list of recurring meetings, slide presentations, and indecision.
Effective content marketing requires active participation from digitally proficient leaders empowered to make a decision. A little personal experience in trying to build an audience will go a long way.
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2) An executable content marketing plan
Research also demonstrates that the most successful programs have a documented plan or strategy. Again, my experience tells me there’s an important nuance to this wisdom: the plan has to be executable.
Too often teams spend cycle after cycle creating an impressive – and often very long plan – that folds under its own weight. Typically, you’ll find this in marketing shops where the person or people writing the plan are not the same as those responsible for executing the plan.
Yes, there should be a strategic vision, goals and objectives. It’s true that editorially driven content should favor help over hype. Of course, the program should be tightly integrated with other aspects of marketing – across owned, shared, earned and paid media. Content marketing should absolutely be measured, over time, for the value, it delivers to the organization.
However, if all of these aspects are so heavily weighted that they inhibit a streamlined process for efficiently researching, producing, approving and publishing content, the initiative is likely to falter before it even gets underway.
It is better to draft a simple one-page plan – and start executing – than it is to have a voluminous award-winning plan that never gets off the ground. A one-page plan can be improved and those improvements will be infinitely better with a little practical experience.
Consistency absolutely matters in content marketing. Here again, research shows us that those organizations capable of producing content consistently on an owned media platform over time are more likely to report success with content marketing.
However, I find the “over time” aspects of consistency get unwittingly glossed over in reports on these studies. There’s an implied characteristic here and that is perseverance. Content marketing requires time – six months at a minimum.
Few are the buyers willing to part with six or seven figures on enterprise technology because a vendor wrote a blog post. There’s a lot of competition out there – your competition and your customers both get a vote – and it will take some trial and error to figure out the niche, tone and angles that work best for your company.
All of this requires perseverance – the ability to keep coming back relentlessly despite knowing you might have some real winners, but you’re also going to have some real flops. Many times, what you think will win actually flops, and what you think will flop sometimes wins.
Perseverance is probably the hardest part of content marketing. This is because many businesses today are driven by short-term metrics reported, weekly, monthly or quarterly.
And that constraint brings us right back to leadership and the ability of marketing leaders to simultaneously staff, plan and execute marketing campaigns for short term and programs, like content marketing, for the long term.
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