How great content drives customer engagement and sales success
Let’s start with a definition: “Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” – Content Marketing Institute
If you are reading this blog, then you are a B2B company, which means that Sales Enablement, Social Selling, and Demand Generation are probably on your radar as important aspects of your content marketing approach. And make no mistake about it - good content is critical to the success of both sales and marketing initiatives. Good content can be shared across social media, creating value for your potential customer, differentiating your company, and expanding your brand presence. It can help your sales teams position themselves as experts, bringing valuable insights to the customer. And good content can help nurture relationships and shorten sales cycles.
Creating good content is also difficult. According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, which is down from 38% last year. This is because most content simply isn’t very good. Most of it is stale and salesy and doesn’t deliver anything remotely interesting to a potential customer. But here’s the good news: Like anything in life, practice and discipline will lead to progressive improvement. Think about the first time you tried to swing a golf club, or learned to drive, or to play the guitar. You weren’t very good at those things when you first started, were you? But you practiced and practiced until you got really good. It’s the same with content. As Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, it’s a habit.”
So let’s talk about the three steps to creating content discipline.
In order to develop discipline and great content, you first need to answer three questions:
Why are you creating content? This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised to know how many companies we see that are simply publishing random pieces, without a thoughtful structure in place. Content can be designed to educate a potential customer, help a sales representative articulate a value proposition, describe your company culture, or any one of a number of different purposes. Companies with content discipline clearly define the “Why” before moving to the next step.
In what format(s) will you publish it? Obviously, content can take many forms, including blogs, newsletters, videos, issue briefs, white papers, infographics, articles, etc. But it can be overwhelming, expensive, and distracting to try to deliver content in all formats. Companies with content discipline tend to choose one or two primary formats and get really good at publishing consistently.
On what cadence or timeline will you deliver it to the market? This is really a question of resources and your level of commitment. I can’t tell you how many times I have visited a company’s blog or web resource center, only to find that the last piece of content was published 18 months ago. Companies with content discipline set a time line and then stick to it religiously.
Once you have answered these questions, then the rest is simply a matter of doing what you said you would do. At Butler Street, we just crossed a major milestone, publishing our 200th consecutive week of original content. Every week we publish a new blog for our newsletter. Because we are in the customer business (consulting and training just happen to be what we sell), it is critical that potential customers understand our philosophy and approach to engaging with their sales and marketing teams. This is our answer to “why we publish”.
We use blogging as our primary format, because it is flexible and enables us to revisit key themes (such as discipline) from a variety of angles and perspectives. It also enables you, as a potential customer, to “get to know” each of our partners. Our weekly publishing schedule puts each partner on the hook to publish an original piece on a regular cadence. No exceptions. Because we have discipline.
What impact does content discipline have?
Even if we never do business with them, our blog is a resource for executive leaders in the staffing and printing industries. We have articles that can help a sales manager think differently about his leadership approach. Leaders can learn about specific tools that are important to growth and how to use them. And executives can gain insight into strategies for aligning sales and marketing functions within their organization. In addition, our potential customers can read our blog and get a very clear understanding of who we are, how we approach customer engagements, and what we believe in.
For Butler Street, we can look back at the behavior of our audience and measure which themes are resonating over time across different segments. We can identify specific followers and the topics they have chosen to read, and we can take action. Our content is shared across other industry sites, and so our brand is expanded. And during our sales process we can share our blog content with prospects in order to clarify a point, differentiate our approach, and validate our competencies.
Obviously, blogging is not the only form of content we publish. We leverage issue briefs, infographics, video and other formats. But the discipline of our weekly newsletter is our foundation, and it has crystalized our message and voice – making all other content we develop better in the end.
Visit our blog to learn more about how discipline plays a key role in sales and marketing success.