The Wall: Lessons in Content Strategy for B2B Tech Marketers

April 14, 2017 Kyle Harper

b2b tech

It’s a dog-eat-dog world in B2B tech marketing.

With new SaaS companies coming out of the woodwork seemingly every week, and established competitors pouring ever more money into their marketing budgets, it’s no wonder that the space has come to feel claustrophobic as of late. Combine this crowding with the sense of speed inherent to most tech-based industries, and B2B marketing becomes a perfect storm for marketing stress.

This is the space that Martha, a marketing director of a scaling B2B technology company, operates in. The end of the quarter has come up, so she’s going over her department’s performance over the past three months. What she’s seeing is disheartening. The content marketing engine that she’s built over the past three years has begun to stagnate. Traffic isn’t coming in the way it used to; meanwhile, her competitors are spending more on advertising than ever before, making it difficult for her to compete organically in her space. Is she doing something wrong? And if so, does this mean that her content strategy has to go?

Two men walk past wall covered in art

Image attribution: Clem Onojeghuo

The Wall

Martha’s predicament isn’t an unusual one for enterprise-level marketers, particularly those in the B2B tech space. Where content marketing has helped establish a number of brands over the past few years, marketers are now shifting more of their spend toward advertising in an effort to keep up with the “pay to play” mentality that has come to govern many of the spaces (particularly social and search) they operate in. This creates a vicious cycle for marketers like Martha.

But here’s the thing: that advertising spend is having trouble hitting the right market.

Marketers are still struggling to construct cohesive strategies around advertising that offers options for scaling beyond throwing more money at the campaign. The digital space has become crowded, and so we’re seeing aberrant, obsolete marketing practices crop up in places like Silicon Valley. (Real talk: you really think billboards are cool again?)

When it comes to advertising, the brands that seem to be doing best aren’t necessarily the ones throwing the most funding at their campaigns. We’re seeing success from brands that are taking the time to reposition familiar brand ideas in a way that can re-engage an apathetic audience or tap into a segment they might not have hit before. Even in the B2B tech space, a few leaders are surfacing in this area. Take the Atlassian blog, for example, which builds its brand story with content that’s engaging and interesting—helping solve the needs of prospects, customers, and curious audiences alike. Or Symantec, which has built a “community experience” brimming with in-depth, timely stories that are crafted to be both visually and conceptually compelling, helping solve people’s needs as they travel along their journeys to conversion.

Why aren’t more brands looking to do the same thing?

Wall mosiac of all sorts of different people

Image attribution:Dmitri Popov

Funneling Over the Wall

The “wall” that B2B companies are hitting isn’t entirely due to competition. A big factor is their own inflexibility. If marketing directors like Martha want to revitalize their work without dumping budget into an ad-oriented engine, then they have to reexamine it.

An easy way to do this is to flip the marketing funnel back onto your marketing team. For a moment, don’t think about trying to drive customers through the funnel; instead, push your strategy and target audience through it to see where you might be missing out on opportunities.

Opening of Funnel

It’s likely that your brand already has an established target audience. To start reevaluating your strategy, begin by reconsidering your prospective audience, rather than your established target audience. Is your current target still in this group, or have their needs changed over time to make them less viable? Has your collective prospective audience grown or shrunk over the past couple of years? Why?

Top of the Middle

Start to identify segments of interest for your brand and build personas around them. For most brands, this is a common practice; what’s uncommon is keeping personas updated. At-scale brands tend to do a good job of identifying their target market at the onset of a strategy (lead volume is, after all, a pretty key part of achieving scale), but the chink in the armor of content strategy often becomes apparent when marketers are too focused on their content to notice a market shift. Build personas to understand new potential market segments, sure. But then make sure to build regular evaluations of those personas into your yearly marketing plan—two to four times a year is often prudent.

Bottom of the Middle

Now that you have up-to-date personas, take the time to examine what it is each of them wants to hear. Rather than honing in on one topic and exploring it exhaustively from one perspective, constantly look for new ways to mix up your brand’s presentation on a topic area. This can include changes to the mediums you create in (e.g., blog to video to infographics to blog again) or this can represent a shift in the way you explore ideas (from studies to interviews and everything in between).

End of the Funnel

The final (often dreaded) part of any content marketing cycle—is your content working? Work with team leadership to define clear goals and descriptive metrics ahead of time so that, once you’ve had a few months to test new approaches or market segments, you actually have something to show for it. Some of your strategy might not be geared toward traditional B2B goals, while others might have direct ROI that can be measured (so long as you put the work in up front). The only way your brand can remain nimble within changing markets is if you have clear, objective ways to measure the work.

Martha, like many marketing directors, has a lot of work ahead of her. Revitalizing her B2B marketing strategy is going to take some careful examination, strategic pivots, and a number of new routines to keep her brand relevant in the fast-paced world of tech. But by resisting the rush to jump into the fray, she’s laying the foundation for a brand that will continue to grow and scale without requiring constant new spend—and that will continue to meet the interests and needs of its audience in a world becoming ever-more saturated with messages that do the opposite.

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Featured image attribution: Michal Grosicki

The post The Wall: Lessons in Content Strategy for B2B Tech Marketers appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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