Now, perhaps in the B2B environment in which a majority of these large companies operate (and spend millions every year on content), these findings should not come as a shock.
First things first; what’s “content”?
What do we mean by “content”? Specifically, we are talking about those investments in intellectual property and knowledge produced by organizations for sharing and created to fulfill a business objective, such as driving action and engagement with existing and potential customers. Think of the tidal wave of newsletters, white papers, infographics, surveys, reports, and so much more that companies create today.
What’s driving content production?
The production of this content continues to skyrocket as companies of all types (B2B, B2C, B2G, etc.) acquire increasingly capable customer and client engagement systems.
For some, this is driven by investment in CRM and automated marketing systems, that enable more personalized content delivery.
Others prioritize deploying existing teams of in-house or freelance content creators: writers, recovering journalists, editors, videographers, and experts of all stripes, who are tasked with creating engaging and captivating “thought leadership” in digital and print formats.
For most, it’s a combination of the two because modern marketing systems rely upon, and are fueled by a very thirsty stream of – you guessed it – content.
This resulting crush of material being produced serves as a signal of its popularity among marketers and yet we’d argue that this growth is actually sowing the seeds of its own destruction.
Evidence for this comes from the most important arbiters – the very executive and other decision-makers that are its intended recipients. From this group, we regularly hear the same thing: “I don’t need more content. I am swimming in it. What I actually need are compelling solutions and people I trust to help me deliver them.”
And here lies both the problem and the solution that occupied our gathering of CMOs: A lot of content is created for the wrong reasons and by the wrong processes. Because of this, much of what’s shared often falls flat or outright fails for three crucial reasons:
- How it gets built
- Who builds it
- What is measured (in terms of impact)
Addressing these will help to better engage the eyeballs and garner the clicks, shares, engagement, and ultimately conversion in the form of sales. And it is the last of these – conversion – that we argue is the ultimate (but often most elusive) measure of success when it comes to content investments today.
You’re Doing It (Wrong)
How it gets built
Let’s start with the how. In our experience, good marketing teams are filled with tremendously creative and talented people. And yet they are often only as good as their proximity to end buyers. To be truly great, they need clear understanding about what products and services buyers actually desire. They need to know how end users talk about unmet needs, problems they face, and success.
Too often, however, marketing teams are kept at arm’s length from clients and customers because those relationships are the domain of those with practiced “client hands” or those with the direct sales, service, or product delivery relationships. As a result, this separation creates an unhelpful and critical “airlock” or gap between those who hold the relationships and the way content is built.
This gap means that instead of experiencing client needs first-hand, the very individuals entrusted with building compelling content must intuit or rely upon second- or third-hand accounts of what clients really want. This is where a significant miss occurs between what is desired and what is delivered. This is particularly acute across the B2B landscape, where organizational constructs amplify this gap because internal structures such as service lines, practices, or go-to-market groups do not align with the reality of how senior leaders actually run their businesses. B2C firms are often better at making this connection but can suffer the same shortcomings.