Saturday, October 06, 2012

Content Marketing: Harnessing the Power of a Story


According to the findings from a recent market study, when generating new content from scratch, establishing prospective customer engagement is a common objective for business-to-business (B2B) marketers. But what constitutes meaningful engagement? Apparently, it's all about the inherent power of a good story.

eMarketer reports that eighty-one percent of B2B technology marketers worldwide cited "engaging and compelling storytelling" as the most important elements of effective content marketing. Regardless, few actually practice what they profess -- given the content they routinely produce and distribute as marketing communications professionals.

Within the highly technical or complex industry sectors, engagement and originality trumped professional writing when generating content marketing assets. Once again, indicating marketer recognition that customers and prospects will rely on substantive content to make their decisions, we know that people are initially drawn to a more engaging and dynamic content experience.

Why Real Thought Leadership is Missing in Action

An August 2012 study from Holger Shulze, author of the Everything Marketing Technology blog, pointed to a growing number of worldwide B2B technology marketers turning to content marketing for more brand-based goals -- in particular, to boost their "thought leadership" and brand awareness.

However, as I've mentioned before, it's not clear to me that the typical legacy B2B marketer would actually recognize meaningful and substantive thought leadership when they saw it. Put simply, many still believe that writing about their product -- when it's presented in the format of a white paper or a case study -- can pass as real thought leadership.

Moreover, the vast majority of B2B marketers still use their corporate blogs to publish product-centric press releases that are masquerading as editorial narrative. What's missing is the apparent absence of a single leading thought about their customer's environment, their typical product user's needs and wants, or their customer's business-related desired outcomes from product applications.

eMarketer says that findings from BtoB Magazine echoed Holger Shulze's top three objectives commonly pursued by U.S. B2B marketing professionals: Sales and customer acquisition were each cited by 29 percent of respondents. Customer retention and loyalty were also important content marketing goals for about a quarter (26 percent) of marketers.

Though engagement as a campaign end goal was only cited by 20 percent of respondents, as a tactic, it was vital for content marketing success. BtoB Magazine found that more than half (56 percent) of U.S. B2B marketers used content marketing to foster greater audience engagement.

Other top reasons B2B marketers turned to content marketing to achieve their campaign objectives included its ability to establish brand trust (47 percent) and offer marketers a way to create faster, more frequent touchpoints with customers and prospects (33 percent).

The creation of content assets needed to satisfy those multiple touchpoints appeared to rest heavily on the shoulders of marketers. Holger Shulze found that 94 percent of B2B technology marketers worldwide created their own content from scratch, with 39 percent curating third-party content. About a third (32 percent) reported reusing existing content where applicable, and 30 percent encouraged user-generated content.

In summary, today's progressive content marketing practices require that a B2B technology marketer must demonstrate an appreciation of the experience and skills required to harness the power of a compelling story. That being said, most legacy marketing professionals refuse to raise the bar of expectations for their content development goals and objectives.

Instead, many still squander their time using social media tools to propagate useless and ineffectual content that they know lacks the substance to pass as meaningful thought leadership. This mindless "busy work" is the banal activity that has unfortunately now become the focal point of our profession.

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