According to the 2016 Content Marketing Institute report, marketers spend 28% of their budget on content marketing and 51% say they will increase their spending. Meaning: content marketing works, marketers are happy, and they aim to milk the content marketing cow more.
A survey by Sirius Decisions claims that 60-70% of content created by B2B companies never gets used. So, something here doesn’t add up. On the one hand, we are pouring resources into creating content and, on the other hand, we don’t use the majority of it.
So a question must be asked: are we creating too much content?
The B2B space is thriving on content
Without a doubt, we’re all riding the content marketing train. We all take an active part in throwing more coal into the content furnace – and for good reason. The B2B market (which tends to take itself more seriously than the B2C market) is thriving on well-crafted, well-reasoned content as a way to communicate information. Oh, how we sometimes marvel the lighthearted nature of the online B2C universe! It looks like fun and games, quirky catchphrases, and viral-driven social posts.
When it comes to the B2B content marketing, things take a different turn. The buying journey is ridden with some hardcore decision-making, and information is essential to help us make the best decisions. The best way to get this information is through content.
Put the reins on content creation
So how did we get here, to the point that we are binge-creating content?
One hypothesis is the herd mentality. We are all influenced by our peers, counterparts, and competitors. It’s that choo-choo train – once it leaves the station, we have to be on it. We expand our content-creation efforts, hire writers, and harness others in our organization to put their experience and expertise into webinars, white papers, case studies, and how-to pieces – all for the sake of creating no less content than others.
Because content gets you noticed. Tweets and links, mentions and citations, guest posting – it’s the way of the web. The pressure is building, and marketers feel it. It is the B2B equivalent to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – FONBN (Fear of Not Being Noticed).
Looking at it from a more composed point of view, we are all falling into the do-first-think-later trap. It is the lack of planning that dooms us to wasting resources without a clear action plan.
So what is the cure for this content epidemic?
Strategize before you write
Marketers need to better strategize pre-writing. A good way to look at the actual writing is as the end result of a process, not the process itself. There are so many components that need to be assessed before you sit down to write. Here is a breakdown of the pre-writing thinking process:
Do you have anything valuable to say?
Sounds obvious, right? Your objective for writing shouldn’t be self-promotion (though, of course, it is the fuel of any content marketing endeavor), but rather to add to the sum of knowledge that is out there. If you don’t have anything new and informative to say, don’t.
It’s not an easy hurdle to pass. We all feel that we have something to say and to break it down, to really put it through the strainer of self-critique, takes a lot of discipline.
Self-reflection: If the majority of B2B content created never gets used, the process of content creation is flawed. The reason for this is creating content without the necessary strategy prior to the writing itself.
Are there people out there who would want to hear it?
This is the other side of the coin. Even if you think that you have something valuable to say, will other people want to hear it? Will it help to make them better at their job? Will their overall operation benefit from it?
Self-reflection: Yes! Marketers that face a waste of their resources would want to learn how to minimize the waste and run a leaner content marketing operation.
Who are they? Where are they?
Next, segment your target audience. First, understand who they are, what’s their role, and in which stage of the buying journey do you wish to catch them.
You must understand your audience in order to create relevant content that will grab them. According to SiriusDecisions, 60% of B2B marketers say they lack insight into their audience. Don’t be part of the 60% – research your audience and don’t start writing before you do.
Your next step is to determine the optimal place to publish your content.
This is crucial. Writing a piece of content without knowing where it will be published is risky. The chances of rejection are greater than acceptance (this may be the pitfall of the 60% of content that’s never used). Every blog, every publication, has its own unique DNA. It’s about the topics it covers, the style of writing, and the readership. Writing armed with this knowledge is a much easier task.
Self-reflection: I carefully read quite a few posts on the Uberflip blog, sent two pitches to the editors to choose from, and asked them about their readership before writing this post.
Once you’ve got all this figured out, it’s time to write. Summon your writing voodoo – whatever gets your juices flowing – and work your magic on the keyboard. Now it’s you against the machine.
Pro tip: Do an outline! Don’t ever surrender to your hubris that you can write off the cuff. While you’ll produce something, no doubt, it will most likely be better thought out had you done an outline first.
Extending content shelf life
So it’s out there – whether on your own company blog or on a third-party publication – and now the name of the game is extending its shelf life. Most of us treat content like it has an expiration date, but that shouldn’t be the case.
Every company has its own inbound strategy and as a content person I am not about to dip my toe into these boiling waters; I know my place. Make sure that in the first few days your inbound operation is on it. Google loves the scent of freshly harvested content and you should take advantage of it. A well-planned and executed initial attack can carry a piece of content for a long time after its initial release.
Still, there is a limit to what you can do with content published on third-party sites. There is the natural ebb and flow of the web and it takes a major player to control the waves. You have much more leverage when it comes to your own website.
Personalize your website content experience
The main problem with content shelf life is the architecture of a blog – the blogroll. Pretty quickly the piece of content you labored over sinks into the inner pages and poof, it’s gone. Very few of us bother to scroll into the inner pages of a blog; it’s a fact of life. And since we are all consumed with content creation, blogrolls are rolling at a breathtaking pace.
The first thing that can be done to ease the pain of the rolling post is to create sections in your blog. Tags are OK, but they are a hassle and with our ever-decreasing attention spans, these jumble of words don’t quite cut it anymore. Sections, on the other hand, are a neat and quick way to have more content available with ease. You are basically multiplying the surface of your content pool.
Another thing you can do to extend the shelf life of your content is by not just hoping that a visitor would stumble upon it, but rather by recommending engaging and relevant content to your website visitors. This can be done by what generally is referred to as popups. I know that popups can be an intimidating word, but they shouldn’t be. And if you pay attention, you already know that they are widely used in the B2B space.
Popups are an incredible tool to float content. It doesn’t matter if it was written two weeks ago or two months ago, a single popup will bring it back to life. The big obstacle of popups is relevancy, and their bad reputation stems from the way they are used, not from what they are.
There are many tools out there to personalize popups (full disclosure: BrightInfo, my place of employment, is in the business of personalized content recommendations). These tools enable the control of when and to whom these popups pop. Once you personalize the content recommendation mechanism on your website, you are achieving two very important goals: first, you serve relevant content to your website visitors, which will be much appreciated and second, you keep using the entirety of your content pool.