“90% to 95% of what [B2B content marketers] do fails. Since when is that acceptable?”

b2b_content_marketing_ardath_albeeThat’s what Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, author, and one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales and Lead Management, asked during a live video chat with me (Cassandra Jowett), Influitive’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, as part of our Content Marketing Mentor Series.

The failure rate of most B2B content marketing is an unsettling problem, especially since 70% of marketers plan to create even more content in 2017.

The solution seems obvious: focus less on volume and more on content quality, right?

But increasing quality over quantity is tough—especially when most of us are driven by traditional marketing campaign goals (More leads! More MQLs!).

Watch our interview to learn about Ardath’s approach to B2B content marketing, or read on for a summary of our chat.

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1. Ditch the ad campaign mentality

You can’t expect your content to drive new leads immediately like CPC ads. “Content projects often get cut off at the knees before they have time to gain traction,” explains Ardath. Set expectations with your executive team and get their buy-in that content marketing is a long-term play, with different performance metrics.

Then, look at your customer experience holistically to develop a B2B content marketing strategy that nurtures customer relationships throughout the sales cycle, which can take anywhere from two to five years in some cases.

Finally, make sure content focuses on the important issues your industry faces or big customer questions, rather than promoting product features and benefits.

2. Customer personas drive better results

To produce valuable B2B content, you must first understand what motivates customers to buy (and stay). And developing personas is key to getting inside their heads. But, Ardath says listing off demographics like their sex, age, and income isn’t enough. Uncovering their pain points and personality traits should drive your content strategy instead. Showing customers you care about their issues will make them feel valued, and more likely to advocate for your brand in the future.

To get that information, start by interviewing your sales and customer success teams who deal with them on a daily basis. Then, your customer-facing teams can help you set-up 1:1 customer interviews. “[Your customers’] should be thrilled that you want to talk to them,” says Ardath. (If customers aren’t, you have a whole other problem on your hands.)

You should also listen to and learn from customer conversations on social media. “I live on LinkedIn,” says Ardath. “Where else can you find an entire portal where people have created profiles about themselves and what they do?” Industry-specific LinkedIn Groups are a great way to learn from prospects.

Although persona creation takes time, you don’t have to wait to start creating better content. “[Do it] iteratively by paying close attention to what you’re learning along the way,” says Ardath. “Each piece of content [in a storyline] should build off the last.”

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3. Collaborate with customers on the creative process

Once you have all of your personas developed, Ardath recommends to engage with those customers regularly and enable them to connect with each other to keep post-sales conversations going. Advocate marketing can help to facilitate those customer interactions that will improve their knowledge of your product and influence others to buy your product.

What’s more, involving your customers in your content creation process, through story ideation and collaboration (e.g. writing a blog post, ebook, or a review on a third party website) can positively impact your company’s credibility.

“There’s a lot to be said for customer referrals that talk about how your product enables them,” says Ardath. “The more we can empower customers to do that, the better off we are.”

She argues that many B2B content marketers get stuck creating top of funnel content versus spending time building stronger relationships with customers through content and advocate marketing to enhance their experience.

4. Develop workflows to produce stronger B2B content

Finally, Ardath says B2B marketers must rethink your workflows to create “better, not more content.” Focus on quality to generate ten solid leads from your content, versus 50 less valuable prospects. You might publish less frequently, but at least the stories you do develop will have a greater impact.

She recommends using project management platforms like Trello, Asana, or Kapost to manage your content production and inventory.

Also, think about “where can you empower workflows within your organization for better visibility [across departments] and management around your content,” she says. If everyone in your organization, especially your sales team, knows what enablement tools they can access, then your content is more likely to be shared and appreciated.

Ardath’s B2B content marketing strategy checklist:

  • Give your strategy a realistic timeframe for results
  • Address customer/industry issues or questions in your content
  • Create content for each stage of the customer lifecycle
  • Develop personas based on customer pain points and personality types
  • Start creating content as you learn more about customer personas
  • Engage customers regularly so they will collaborate on content
  • Improve customer connections and success with advocate marketing
Drive fewer, high-quality leads with less—but better—content
  • Have transparent workflows for content across your organization

Inspiring Customers To Create Content For You: A Marketer's Guide
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