As we race into the new decade, the content remains one of the most critical foundations for successful B-to-B marketing efforts. Research shows that 49% of B2B buyers rely more heavily on content to research their purchase decisions than they did last year, and 72% of marketers said that having a good content strategy was a major key to their success.
The tricky part is creating content that is valuable to your constituents long term, meeting their different needs at different stages of their buying journeys. Offering information when and where they need it will get them interested in your products and services, and guide them to the purchase decision. Content that focuses on helping customers and prospects shows that you care for them and their challenges, which builds trust over time. A good content strategy strategically delivers content in the locations that customers look for it, and makes it easy to find online, in publications and on forums that they already frequently visit.
To get the customer perspective, we like to speak directly with our clients' customers to get first-hand accounts of their day-to-day challenges, needs, and wishes. We build our content base from these discussions. But there are plenty of other ways to get a better understanding of customer and prospect needs. For instance, we can learn a lot by speaking with sales teams, surveying existing and potential customers, reading through case studies, monitoring social channels, conducting keyword research, attending industry events, and the like.
But with so many potential types of content and channels, where should time and resource-constrained companies begin their content efforts? This is where the concept of agile content comes in. To begin, we set goals for downloads or clicks to our content at each stage of the funnel. All content is written to be optimized for search and uses terms that are appropriate for the specific stage of the customer lifecycle. In each weekly marketing sprint, the content we create and promote leverages things we learned the previous week. In other words, if a content piece at the top of the funnel delivers good results, then we can riff on that topic to create maximum interest. If a piece of content doesn’t resonate with an audience on one channel, we can try other channels or adjust the messaging to make it more appealing. Each week we measure results and adjust content and strategy to match the current appetite for content as demonstrated by the audience.
We often recommend starting at the top of the funnel as a way to create evergreen narratives that address pressing issues and educate audiences on best practices. The three most-cited content marketing goals in the last 12 months were creating brand awareness (86%), educating audience(s) (79%), and building credibility/trust (75%). From there, you can craft a plan that sketches out different potential types of content for different phases and channels.
A plan is all well and good, but what if you're a startup working with a small team struggling to break into a market? Or a midsize company that's growing at a breakneck pace, with every employee already backlogged to the max as they ramp up for the next phase of growth? It takes resources and time to build an arsenal of strategic content, which is why content planning and creation is one of the first areas our clients usually hand over to us.
This is where the fun begins because agile content is marketing's great chameleon. There's a balance between creating fresh fundamental content and playing sleuth to morph existing content into new pieces tailored to meet customer and prospect needs in totally different channels, and at different phases in the buying cycle. Here's an example. We've turned a high-level panel topic that was meant for building general visibility into an analyst-led webinar that attracted hundreds of leads. We worked with a client to create a timely newsjacking comment that later turned into a feature article in a major business publication, which then became an SEO-enabled blog post and social content. Each piece of content had the same useful messages and educational material essence, but its look and delivery method changed to reach audiences where and when they wanted to receive that information.
Whether you're attacking new markets, landing and expanding in existing niches, shaking hands to close deals or staying in touch with valued customers to maintain long-standing relationships, well-researched content with a smart makeover can emerge refreshed and ready to lend a helping hand to your marketing and sales efforts.