The Latest from the ABM Experts
January 30, 2017
How to Cope with Non-Instant Gratification in B2B Content Marketing
Written by Annie McMindes
There is no such thing as instant gratification in b2b content marketing.
We’ve created an always-on, fast-paced, agile world where, as content consumers, we want to see everything we can, and then a little that we can’t, and we want it now. We want it on every device and we want it engaging enough to hold our attention until the next big whatever-it-is comes along in our newsfeed – in about eight seconds.
The speed at which the internet moves content through its search engines has become so fast – making the piece you poured your blood, sweat and tears into obsolete almost the instant you hit publish. (Cue more tears.) Brands are forced to keep a feverish pace just in an effort to keep up with their b2b content marketing competitors and the rising demands of our consumers. Not to mention covering, in great detail, all the trending topics that span across the Twittersphere.
We’ve conditioned consumers to anticipate the short-term gains as we push to deliver content on-demand. And in the process, we’ve come to crave the instant wins that give us an immediate sense of ROI. But we’re not getting them. Not really, anyway. Instead we bask in a false high, released when we achieve mediocre success with our b2b content marketing.
Of course, some nominal returns can be seen quickly, but the real payoff comes when we slow down – when we stay fixed in stronger returns for a long-term campaign. If your only goal is to increase top-line revenue more efficiently with b2b content marketing (read: a cheaper investment) than through the traditional advertising, then you’re missing out on the greater benefits content can offer. Slowing down allows us to achieve real results – faster.
We are impatient.
Modern technology and instant-communication social media platforms have conditioned content consumers to expect results instantaneously. My internet was down for 2 minutes while writing this post (gasp!) and my anxiety peaked. People – our readers, watchers, prospects, consumers, even ourselves – have lost the ability to wait. Tweets, Facebook, texting require no patience and they provide users with immediate gratification. And people have come to expect the same from the companies they buy from.
It’s no longer enough to give customers amazing service and competitive price points. Now they want all of that, but they want it yesterday.
We broke content by being good at it.
We’ve been insanely successful in making the case for content. Around 90 percent of companies are creating at least some form of content, according to Demand Metric. And 78 percent of CMOs have tagged custom content as the way of the future. Content engineers, signed on with a Near-Faustian promise of “More budget = More leads,” have actually made some pretty significant strides in ROI.
But the gain we made in the early days of content programs can be deceptive. In many cases these blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers and videos mark the first time our brands have delivered valuable content to our easiest-to-reach audiences.
As content powers ahead at the speed of Snapchat, we’re left still scratching our heads to figure out where it fits in the customer journey. Consumers are littered with mountains of mediocre content of everything that’s ever been published (ever!) tangling the interwebs. And some people still think it’s enough to just put their work up on a blog and hope for the best – bless their hearts.
Audiences are becoming harder to reach and connect with. They’re more demanding – and more discerning – as to what content they consider valuable. And as the content marketing operation matures, we’re having a harder time figuring out new ways to up the impact while keeping up with the increasing demand for higher high-quality content.
Turn off the instant gratification switch.
Human nature tends to take the path of least resistance. In other words, people are lazy. And slowing down isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard! Being strategic and intentional in your b2b content marketing strategy takes time, effort, resources and a whole lot of work.
We need to dig deep into purpose. And we need to figure out if we’re going to ground our marketing and content in something substantive so our strategies can find a place within the context of what our customers actually care about. When we slow down, and create items of value for our customers – consistently holding them at the center of everything we do – we’re left with more social shares, more engagement and, ultimately, more leads.
We’ve become so intent on finding the goal for our brand, we’ve lost touch as to why we’re creating in the first place. It’s not about us. Our attention needs to become intently focused on becoming a resource for our consumers. We need to make our conversations a two-way street. And becoming a trusted resource takes time. It’s a strategy of marginal gains that, if made daily, can result in a significant impact over time.
So what steps should you take to manage a content slow down? Here are four:
4 steps to slow(er) b2b content marketing
1. Figure out the “why”
Why are you making what you’re making? Specifically, are you looking to increase lead generation? Brand awareness? Brand authority? Are you working to shorten your customer sales journey? What’s the point? Step one is to figure out your company goal. And then set those goals aside.
Next, figure out why your reader will care about your content. Remember, no one has to read what you write, no one has to watch what you produce. So if you align your reasons for content creation to their priorities, you’ll gain more authority (and more leads). Before you even begin to make whatever it is you’re making, figure out why your piece matters, and how it’ll help you reach your ultimate goal.
2. Think about who cares
ID who your reader actually is – and know what their focus is. What stuff will resonate with them? Which resources will help them to be more successful in their roles? Align the customer experience to the journey they’re embarking on to get there.
Deliver an experience that your prospects and customers want to be a part of. And surprise and delight them along the way – and afterward, too.
Skip the corporate speak that focuses on what your brand does, how you do it and just how awesome you really are – even if you are, in fact, an awesome corporate player. Instead, focus on the reader. Be a real and helpful resource. Turn them into the hero of their own story and you’ll gain their trust – and ultimately win their business.
3. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Content creation is scary. It takes creativity served up with a side of nerve and a bit of grit. So don’t be afraid to get it wrong. Create content that doesn’t sound like everyone else. Market in a way that doesn’t feel like marketing.
Write. Play. Experiment.
Take time to create bigger, braver pieces of content. Write stories that resonate with a unique tone. Make stuff that’s actually engaging for your customers – not just your CMO. Be creative and embrace the uncomfortable. Don’t worry, you’ve got this.
4. Train for a marathon
B2B content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. So train for it. Literally! Pace out your creation schedule like a marathon runner, in a three-day cycle. Each stress day is then separated by two easier days. For a runner, this pattern is used to challenge endurance, strength and speed.
For content, the cycle looks a little like this:
Day 1: Heavy writing – write multiple blog posts in one day or work on a large chunk of an ebook.
D2: Easy writing – write just one post or do client engagement on social.
D3: Easy writing – again, take it easy, but be productive. Maybe today is a research and outlining day.
D4: Heavy video – work on the mass of your next video project
D5: Easy video – brainstorm and edit
D6: Easy video – post-production edits and rendering
Of course you can play with this model to fit what you’re creating – post writing, video production, graphics, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, infographics, event promotion. Just use the pattern as a guide and then pace your schedule.
Content is a game changer. But, to paraphrase Hemingway, change happens gradually, and then all at once. In other words, slow marketing will lead to rapid results.