It’s hard to avoid reading something about how “content is king” in B2B marketing right now, but what does that really mean and what are you supposed to do about it? It comes down to this fact: buyers are people too, and when we respond to B2B messages, it’s because something relevant or valuable to us was offered. Marketing mix modeling is a useful quantitative predictor of what media and methods tend to succeed with different audiences, but there’s a very human component of that equation to consider: content quality. It’s dangerous to overlook content quality in the context of marketing mix analysis because evaluating quality along with tactic utilization provides actionable and impactful “whys” behind modeling outcomes.
When a tactic fails, a few reasons could be behind it. Segmentation and targeting, timing, context, and a host of other elements combine to determine success. An obvious culprit for tactic failure is the offer. With so many content-based offers used as inbound and outbound interaction encouragement, it’s key to look at the message and offer along with the delivery mechanism to get the most complete understanding of what happened, why and with whom. Content is hard to evaluate, however, because it’s a qualitative assessment, rather than purely data-driven. Three steps can be used to bring greater discipline to the evaluation of content and make it easier to take on as part of improving marketing impact.
Taken together, these three elements provide actionable insights into tactic performance from the vantage point of the content offered. Use this method when the delivery mechanism has wide variation in impact, when the target audience is especially challenging to reach, or when support is needed at specific buying stages. A disciplined approach takes content from "the elephant in the room" to a defined and malleable variable in the mix. With more rigorous insight into content quality, decisions about changes to aspects of marketing such as what to offer or when to gate or un-gate content are easier to make and better matched to what the audience is likely to consider a fair exchange of value.
Step One: Review the content objective. Is the goal to attract new prospects or contacts, or engage existing contacts at specific buying stages? Do you need the content offer to encourage contacts to self-identify or is tracking behavior enough to provide value? What gaps in information is the content designed to fill, or what new knowledge is it designed to deliver? When you know what the content must achieve to be successful from an internal perspective, it’s easier to assess whether it has the potential for success from the customer or prospect’s point of view. If it’s impossible to be specific about the content’s objective, or even match it to a clear buying or customer lifecyle stage, it’s time to take a look at changes to the content.
Step Two: Define the content’s target audience. Who exactly are you looking to reach with the content? Is it a broad, unfamiliar audience that doesn’t know your brand well and with whom it’s key to attract attention, build awareness and position the company? Is it a narrow but unfamiliar audience that will require more precise messaging to gain attention? Is it a broad but familiar audience who already knows and trusts your brand but still requires relevant information to drive engagement? Is it a narrow but familiar audience that will require even greater relevance, but likely be more willing to share information in return for it? Who you need to reach, how much they trust and value your brand or your partners, and how specific their information goals are likely to be all dictate the measure of content’s quality.
Step Three: Be honest about uniqueness and value. Based on goals and the audience in question, take a look at how well the content matches on both fronts from an internal view. Then, take your evaluation outside; look at what is available from competitors or others providing information to your target audience on similar topics. Does it provide similar value to your content or not? Is it gated or un-gated? Buyers and customers shop around for information, so your evaluation of quality must take into consideration the next best alternatives.
Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.