By now, marketers pretty much agree that social media should be incorporated into the traditional B2B marketing mix. And most of us agree that inbound marketing – an integrated, managed and extended implementation of social media marketing – represents a new and more effective way to generate sales leads for the business. But in my experience, only a few of us understand and appreciate the critical role that truly compelling content plays in the effectiveness of an inbound marketing campaign. While there is a lot of attention given to marketing automation platforms for syndicating content, targeting communities and measuring performance metrics, all of that science will suffer without the right secret sauce – the kind of quality content that will motivate potential buyers to take action. It’s like having a restaurant with a superior location, dining room atmosphere and waitstaff that is serving very ordinary meals to its customers.
It’s understandable. Not many businesses really have the time or the availability of expert resources to devote to the consistent development of quality content. Building and maintaining the infrastructure for inbound marketing requires its own level of dedicated digital marketing expertise and funding. Its just too much to expect your digital marketing manager to also be a subject matter expert with exceptional writing skills. What’s the answer? You have to properly resource both – content and infrastructure. Is it worth it? Absolutely. When is the best time to get started? It’s never to early.
Associating content with engineering might seem a bit extreme at first glance, but trust me, it’s an accurate appraisal. Creating quality content does not result from a stream of consciousness. It’s a well-defined strategy and plan of action. For technology companies, I recommend using the same structured approach to developing content as you might follow to build a product. The parallel is striking. You start by understanding your customer, then defining a set of content requirements based on that customer profile, then developing your content against those requirements and finally delivering it according to a schedule. In marketing, we build a hierarchy of major messages and supporting themes to position a product against its competition and to showcase the customer value. Your content strategy must be directly aligned with this messaging and positioning hierarchy. In many cases, there is a marketing architecture, or marketecture, that parallels the product or service your engineering team has developed and/or the technology they have innovated. Your content strategy must convey all of these messages in an organized and methodical way to reach your portial buyers and articulate your differentiated value. Just like quality products, quality content must be engineered.
Thought-Leadership Drives Leads
It used to be the case that thought-leadership was strictly a branding and awareness strategy. In order to generate buzz and create the image of an industry leader, a thought-leadership campaign was used to establish an identity and also to enhance the sales function. It is still used for all of those things. However, thought-leadership is now a driver of sales leads as well. The essence of inbound marketing is to attract buyers, nurture their interest and allow them to self-qualify their reason and readiness to buy. Thought-leadership separates your company from the pack and identifies you with like-minded buyers. Thought-leader content can be re-purposed and delivered using a variety of media from blog posts to podcasts and from webinars and white papers. It can be syndicated to expand your reach or offered as a call-to-action to increase your website conversion rate. Done properly and professionally, it is both educational and promotional.
Don’t let the medium become the message in your next social media or inbound marketing campaign. Invest the necessary time and resources toward the development of quality content – it is the high octane fuel for running an effective branding, nurturing and lead-generation machine.