Content strategy, thought leadership, and community-based marketing programs are essential pillars of customer experience and considered top priorities in 2023. Industry research reinforces the notion that building, restoring, and maintaining customer health depends on the successful orchestration of all three.
CONTENT STRATEGY IS STILL A GAP
Since the pandemic, content marketing has become urgently more important to sales and marketing teams, as the DemandGen Report showed last year. Content marketing initiatives led ABM and Sales Enablement.
However, content STRATEGY continues to lag. Having a formalized content strategy is the primary communication and organizational tool that enables content marketers to educate their colleagues, secure funding, ensure adoption and consistency, prioritize, and inform resource planning.
It is the basis for measurement and most importantly, provides a comprehensive understanding of B2B buying groups and the complex decision journeys they take. Content strategy guides and connects all content marketing efforts. But only 40% of those queried in the last CMI study said they had one in place. Makes sense given the top challenges listed: creating content at different stages, sales and marketing misalignment, and measurement and communication challenges.
To facilitate a better dialogue with sales, executives, and other key stakeholders, marketing should operate from a content strategy framework. It’s hard to execute on everything out of the gate so having a structure in place helps. We will briefly touch on two key elements of a content strategy framework: content outcomes and audience alignment.
It’s important to put a stake in the ground and set content outcomes upfront. Doing this will ensure the organization as a whole better understands how content strategically supports the business. It also helps set your team up for success. Establishing purpose and thinking through goals and KPIs upfront will help them measure in ways that resonate better with the C-Suite and others outside of the content marketing function in the future.
Audience alignment is the second category and probably the most involved. As such, it is a set of separate but related steps that includes things like persona development and journey mapping. It is increasingly difficult to size up who the B2B decision-makers are today as buying centers are trending younger and in large companies, they can be notoriously immovable. Like icebergs.
Multigenerational and extended buying centers require content teams to have:
- An understanding of key similarities and differences in buyer preferences, behaviors, information needs, and trusted sources;
- Attention paid to the consistency of experience and cohesion across touchpoints – not only as an acknowledgement of buyer preference but as a sign of brand trust and quality (more on this later);
- Enough of the “right” personalized content for under-the-radar, self-service buyer journeys;
- A sense for who makes up their buyer ecosystem, including CxOs and partners;
- A multi-faceted messaging strategy that (1) does not alienate Boomer buyers because large numbers remain active across industries like healthcare and (2) does not ignore Gen X as they move into C-Suite roles, like CIO and CTO.
As we stated in our 2022 review, “Content has become a major enabler along the path to purchase. Narrative personas, buyer ecosystems, and journey map variations have emerged as essential tools for modern CMOS. They are the building blocks of content strategy, thought leadership programs, and community-style engagement.”
PUTTING MORE THOUGHT INTO THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
We say this all the time, but a broader focus on content quality has brands catching up to our mantra. Content practitioners say in 2023 that they have a mandate to create and deliver quality content in a way that better distinguishes them from competitors.
With CXOs becoming more involved in B2B decisions, CMOs are focusing on deepening their C-Suite personas. They understand how much quality thought leadership matters to this segment. If you are new to this function, read how to increase the value of your thought leadership. It covers the golden rules of relevance, credibility, and accessibility.
In the CMI benchmarking report, videos that contained interviews with industry experts produced better results than ‘how-to’ content last year. And webinars, articles, and research reports were the top three most effective assets overall. The role of thought leadership has been under-utilized over the years despite a high level of influence, reliance, and authority afforded to it by buyers. This is not a new trend.
YOUNGER GENERATIONS ARE DRIVING COMMUNITY-STYLE ENGAGEMENT
This is a new trend. What remains to be seen is if brands return to a model where they own their communities versus renting space on the big platforms. Either way, their work is cut out for them. Consider some fun factoids from our generational study.
Did you know…
- To never cold call a Millennial? They prefer to interact with bots over humans when it comes to sales and customer service (mind you they still expect a deeply personalized experience).
- That Gen X is Facebook’s biggest and youngest demographic? Do you know who is not on Facebook? Gen Z.
- That Boomers and Gen X may still get their news from TV and traditional online sources? And that Millennials and Gen Z don’t consume near as much news, but if they do it is only via social media?
- That for Gen Z – if it is not on YouTube it might as well be invisible?
- That both Gen Z and Boomers place a higher value on face-to-face engagement versus Gen X and Millennials?
- Boomers and Millennials consistently stall purchasing decisions because they don’t agree?
Marketing must have an integrated social business approach to ensure that organic and paid engagement happens seamlessly and authentically. Millennials specifically equate brand trust with a frictionless experience. They primarily follow brands on social media for entertainment purposes. They engage on branded channels regularly and will purchase from the brands they follow. They will unfollow a brand over a bad experience and will opt out when a brand gets too spammy.
For more insights on all four generations in the workplace and their engagement preferences, keep this handy cheat sheet from our research close by.
If you need to review the basic tenets of social media for B2B, refer to this blog that explains the strategic structure of social.
So that’s a lot — but there is a lot going on in the day and the life of a B2B marketer. We hope this provides a wealth of information and resources to kick-start your content strategy, thought leadership, and community engagement planning. Cheers and all the best. We’re looking forward to a great year!
Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.
Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.
She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.