(This is Part II of a two-part blog on the increasing value of content marketing. If you like this blog, please share it. Thanks!)
In my most recent blog, I weighed in on recent findings from the Content Marketing Institute that validate the rise in demand for content among companies. Clearly, businesses are seeking out more – and better – content.
To recap: The resulting report, B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America, reported that 33 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content-marketing spend; up from 26 percent last year. They’re using an average of 12 “tactics” to generate content, including the producing of blogs, white papers, case studies and industry-press byliners that we do here at our high tech PR firm. That said, the challenges are many: It’s difficult for these companies to produce enough content, as well as come up with an end result which engages the intended audience, findings show.
Which is when a B2B marketer has to consider hiring an outside firm to develop and execute successful content marketing projects. In a blog written as a response to the report, King Content Founder/CEO Craig Hodges indicated that criteria should include a proven track record with SEO/Web traffic strategies; the ability to measure the effectiveness of the content; and whether the various personalities involved will mesh as a good team.
I agree. And I’ll add these qualifiers as well:
Insight. I recently wrapped up a 2,500-word white paper for a client/business that specializes in a very specific IT niche. The executives there confessed to me that they attempted to outsource the project before, without success. “We hired a consultant who seemed really sharp at first,” one confided. “But when it came down to doing needed interviews with our team, it was apparent that she had no idea about key industry concepts which would play a major role in the white paper.” They came to us instead, and the project sailed as a smooth success. The takeaway? Your content marketing firm must demonstrate the ability to gain – at the very least – a working command of knowledge about your industry. This includes its basic terminology, history and challenges. Then, the content team and/or consultant must come to the table with a sense of your company’s story, accomplishments and strategic goals.
Audience awareness. The audience determines the very substance and tone of your content. It’s not enough to know, for example, that the target audience members are “tech managers.” That’s why I work with clients to define the intended reader/user as specifically as possible … Are they mid-level tech managers or senior-level or executive-level? Do they specialize in information security, application management, infrastructure oversight and/or any one of a number of other IT niches? Within this niche, what are their specific challenges? How large are their businesses? Where are they located?
Initiative. There’s too much “here’s what I think/shoot from the hip” content out there – most commonly seen in business blogs – that lacks a sense of context. A savvy content professional will go beyond client interviews and gather strong research to support a piece with telling metrics and in-depth analysis, to establish an authoritative presence.
Storytelling. Even in conveying the most complex and/or esoteric concepts, the marketing professional should demonstrate resourcefulness in finding various “stories” and “stories within the stories,” to weave in a sense of humanity that will immediately resonate with the audience.
Attention to detail. Does your candidate get all the “basics” right: style usage, organization, mechanics and a commitment to an overall “clean” and inviting presentation? In the Twitter age, many argue that this doesn’t matter anymore. I and my colleagues here strongly disagree. It’s our attention to detail that distinguishes clients from their many competitors. Any content that “looks sloppy” immediately strikes an unfavorable impression with audience members – and that translates to an unfavorable impression of the client.
Clarity. “Deep thoughts” don’t amount to much of anything if the target audience cannot immediately grasp the content and “mine it” for actionable value. The content marketing professional must be able to take on a range of topics – no matter how arcane – and convey them in a compelling and clear manner. Ask yourself: Does the candidate make it easy for the audience to “get” the topic here, or does he or she simply resorted to jargon-loaded language as a means to cover blind spots? Frankly, writing for clarity is hard. But the results always make the painstaking effort worthwhile.
At our firm, we’re constantly winning the praise of clients because we’re committed to these qualities. If you’re interested in finding out more, feel free to please contact us.
Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for W2 Communications.