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Why most b2b content marketing creates clutter and lacks results

By Joe Walsh
September 18, 2017
Why most b2b content marketing creates clutter and lacks results

The Digital Noise Pollution Problem and Solution

Bruce Springsteen’s 1992 soulful lament “57 Channels, Ain’t Nothing On” seems quaint in our new multi-media, always-on world of communications.  

Springsteen’s target was cable TV, but for today’s content marketers, the choice of outlets feels infinite. Add digital and social marketing channels and the 57 multiplies exponentially. A great opportunity for marketers on one hand; ROI headaches on the other. One sage observer of the cluttered communication scene refers to today’s B2B service marketing tools as “weapons of mass distraction.” These include e-mails, e-books, e-ads, e-alerts, e-invites…e-gads! Then there are webinars, videos, podcasts and social media posts. Those marketers as old as some of us might just prefer to curl up with a good piece of old-fashioned direct mail…unless, of course, it’s junk mail.

We call this overload digital noise pollution or, for Twitter junkies, #digitalnoisepollution. Is it possible marketers could become part of the solution and not just be part of the problem, a problem that has four parts:

  1. Inundated Channels
  2. Uniformed Strategy
  3. Uninspired Content
  4. Inadequate Distribution and Measurement

Inundated Channels

Fewer than 50% of buyers polled think the content marketing they receive is valuable. Creative types may not be math majors, but that means more than 50% believe half the content they recieve did not help them personally or professionally. They might just call this digital junk. 

Meanwhile, 90% of CMOs or equivalents polled said they plan to increase content marketing efforts. Add it up and one can only conclude new heaps of digital junk will soon be filling digital mailboxes. This is not to say buyers don’t want useful information; it simply says they aren’t getting it more often than not.

Uninformed by Strategy

Bullseye

Lead generation is the Holy Grail of content marketing. The au courant term is demand generation. But the Grail is only in reach if the right information, packaged the right way, reaches the right audience in the right place at the right time. In other words, the content distributed needs to be valuable. Clearly, if buyers are the judge—and they are—most campaigns are fire, ready, aim efforts uninformed by what buyers want. They are repetitive of what your competitors share, late to market, or otherwise guilty of quantity over quality.

Other than that, they’re fine. 

Uninspired Content

Uninspired Content

An old saying from the late ad great David Ogilvy, rings true today: “You can’t bore people into trying your product or service.” 

Best we can tell, and research agrees, most B2B marketers try. 

Marketers inundate their prospective buyers with a slumbering mix of content that lacks any power of engagement, emotional hook, or good old-fashioned economy of words; that is, too many communication efforts fail to communicate or connect. Remember, we can’t do one without the other. Look at the two emails pictured above and tell me which one is more likely catch your attention. You lean to the sea turtle, right? We thought so.

Inadequate Distribution and Measurement.   

There’s a cottage industry —quickly becoming a mansion industry — of marketing automation tools to find, reach and measure your return on content marketing.  Yet, return on investment remains out of reach for too many because of:

  1. Inundated Channels
  2. Uniformed Strategy
  3. Uninspired Content
  4. Inadequate Distribution and Measurement

The Solution: Digital Demand Mapping

Digital Demand Mapping is a Finn Partners proprietary process. It is part research, part analytics, part leverage of technology tools, and part common sense.

Most of us scatter buckshot trying to find prospects. Other times we target them more closely but either way, this has been the less-than-satisfying pattern of client acquisition for years. Remember the other old saying, “I know half my advertising works, I just don’t know which half.”

There is a better way.

New technologies allow us to observe our clients in an extension of their natural habitats—online. We can discover much more about them than ever before—where they hang out, what they read, what they are talking about and interested in—so you can match your marketing to your market. Sound exciting? We think so, too.

Digital Demand Mapping (DDM) delivers insight into how and where people are searching, plus how they are talking about topics. This research allows us to pinpoint those audiences in the right places and engage them. DDM can help us find the right language, channels and content topics to build awareness for your organization. It has four steps:

  • Keyword Research
  • Conversation Channel Identification
  • Conversation Influencer Identification and,
  • Competitor Analysis

Keyword Research

Knowing how people search for information gives valuable insight into what content will resonate with them. “Key” is the right term here because those “keywords” unlock the searcher’s mind. One keyword or phrase from one user is hardly enough to unlock anything, but keywords from a wide sample of searchers build the ultimate key you seek. Think 3D printing—bit by bit but super fast.

Likewise, listening to the ongoing conversation gives a very clear picture of not only what information is being exchanged but also what information is not. “Not” is just as important. You may be producing content that is interesting to you but falling on deaf ears.

Keyword research is used to define and set parameters around priority conversations (social listening), inform messaging and content development and guide search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Unless there are good reasons to go wider or narrower, keyword research and social listening are done at the national level. 

Conversation Channel Analysis

Once the parameters of the conversation have been fixed, we listen to the conversation trends and volume over time to understand where the conversation is taking place and to identify trends, subtopics and how the volume fluctuates. This information allows you to make informed decisions about what to slip into the conversation and engage your target audiences with messaging and content. No more throwing pasta at the wall to see if it sticks!

Influencer Identification

Influencers are individuals with significant clout on key topics who can serve as conduits for delivering messaging to target audiences. Personally, we find this extremely interesting. We all know the “voices” in traditional media but voices online can have outsized influence on a very narrow topic. It’s the ultimate atomization of markets allowed by the Internet. “Influencers” are defined by three metrics: reach, resonance and relevance to a topic area. DDM research identifies the Top 50 influencers in the priority area selected.

Competitor Analysis

DDM audits your competitors’ presence in comparison to your imagined footprint. We identify who your main topic competitors are. Those may be true business competitors or content and governing organizations that your audiences rely on for information. The research assesses what they do well and where they may be weak. You get the report.

Okay, Armed and Ready. What’s Next?

We have already used the results of Digital Demand Mapping to:

  • Define online properties where we choose to advertise or contribute content. Perhaps more important, we now know who clients should “listen to” and follow.
  • Adjust client pay-per-click advertising language, quickly and as warranted
  • Create content marketing campaigns that address topics proven to be of interest to targets
  • Providing the engine and analytics for lead generation campaigns (Listen up, BizDev!)
  • Improve the entire sequence of marketing automation so the engine hums quietly in the background, basically pinging with content those near and distant stars who are waiting to hear just the right message.

For example, at first blush this chart is overwhelming but slide on over to the left of the image and you’ll note four icons in the first vertical row. Imagine this multi-service firm has focused on its most important revenue drivers—healthcare, retail, travel and hospitality—as well as seeking the best and brightest laterals and students to consider them for employment. Got it?

Now go to the health care row. Research told us buyers should be targeted online (and sometimes, in parallel, offline) with display ads on Property A, B and C, for example. Video ads should be part of that advertising mix. LinkedIn was a good social media choice. Email marketing (the most effective and most underrated marketing tactic) is directed at the organization’s mailing list. A referral program is established and nurtured. And, of course, all of this leads back to the website where unique landing pages are deployed with relevant content. Calculating our investment in that row, we can determine the Cost Per Acquisition (the last vertical row) of each lead.

I know, I know, you want to contact us right away, right? If you still need more convincing, please tune in to our webinar on the subject on September 27th. We promise you’ll learn something new and the content will be valuable.