We’ve heard it time and time again: according to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) almost 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects reach out to vendors.

And according to Harvard Business Review, “Solution Selling is Dead” because talking about our products and our solutions is no longer good enough. It may even hurt us in the buying process.

Why? Because our buyers are too smart. They see right through these self-serving tactics. They are looking for brands that put buyers first.

They are looking for brands that know how to connect on a human and emotional scale. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board’s latest report shows that “emotion beats promotion” by a factor of 2 to 1.

  • 78% of CMOs think content is the future of marketing  (Demand Metric)
  • 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused (Sirius Decisions)
  • Only 10-20% of a company’s website content drives 90% of its Web traffic, and only 0.5% of a website’s content drives more than 50% of its traffic. (InboundWriter)

So what do we do now? The answer is easy: content marketing.

Content marketing is the process of creating content that our customers actually want or need.

Content marketing meets the needs of your buyers across ALL phases of the buying cycle:

  1. There is the largest number of potential buyers in the early stages. So there should be more focus on early stage content to drive interest and awareness.
  2. There are more potential buyers in the middle of the buying process than in the latest stages. So there should be more focus on engagement than on the latter stages of the buying process where potential buyers are looking to understand what we sell and for how much.
  3. Late stage content is still needed. It’s really a question of whether resources are aligned to the buying process.

Content marketing is how you attract buyers instead of paying to reach them. It is more effective. It is aligned with buyer needs. But it also may seem counter-intuitive. (“We are here to sell stuff, right?”)

Content marketing is a mindset that starts with the question “what do our buyers want or need?” It then cycles through the process of analyzing keywords (what people search for) and social trends, finding the research, experts, tips and tricks that answer those questions. And then process starts all over again when you analyze what works and use those insights to drive continuous improvement in the next round of content creation.

Content Marketing is an equal portion of creation, curation and syndication.

  • You can’t have all the answers. And likely won’t have enough funds to create all the content you need. But the unique insights and point of view you do have should be the focus of content creation.
  • Curation is the art and science of finding the experts, insights and research from others. It is a much more strategic function than most people think and it is not just about licensing content. Effective content curation will allow you to add your perspective and to package the content for your buyers. It allows us to cover other people’s content like a journalist covers the news.
  • And finally content syndication (or distribution) is just as important so we can get all the great content we create and curate and expose it to a larger audiences.

Don’t believe me? According to BtoB Magazine “Content Marketing” is one of the top priorities for marketing in 2014. Content marketing was listed as the top priority by the Altimeter Group (slide 24) and also listed #1 here and here, and as the source of the biggest budget increases here.

Take a look at the number of  “Content Marketing” searches per month on Google. It was flat for years. And then in January 2011, a sharp increase began that shows content marketing is now 5 times more important to brands than ever before.

Content Marketing Search Engine Growth

And if you are still skeptical, here’s more statistics for you data geeks out there (like me):

So what do you think? Will you make 2014 the year of content marketing at your company?

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook  and Google+ or  Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Vice President of Global Marketing for SAP where he leads content strategy and serves as the managing editor of the company’s award-winning Business Innovation thought leadership blog site. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

31 Comments

  1. Lars Dyrelund said…

    Great post, completely agree Michael. I would add to your points about creation, curation and syndication that one of the trends we will see in 2014 is how brands will (have to) find ways to reach target audiences more effectively – for example through offline and online engagement of influencers.

    Key Challenge here (as Onalytica sees it) is a lack of understanding of the online community around specific topics as well as minimal resource to engage with key influencers at scale.

    Furthermore, you need to view your content as a living and breathing thing – not just another campaign trial. The conversations, interactions and trends online (or offline for that matter) are in a state of flux underlining the importance of knowing when, where and how to activate the content for a greater impact.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Lars, completely agree. Online and offline should complement one another. CMI does a great job with this and there events. And I also love your comment about content being an “always on” process.

  2. Rob Parker said…

    Excellent article with lots of current digital marketing statistics. I’ll be bookmarking this one for use later as well. Thanks Lars

  3. Lars Dyrelund said…

    Thanks Michael, it actually makes a lot of sense thinking about your content in this way. After all, you have invested quite a bit in getting it out there in the first place, so anything you can do to invigorate your content goes straight to the bottom line.

    One of the things I am very focused on at the moment is a solution around keeping your content alive. The idea being that your content will have its “moments” in time, and these moments will exist somewhere in the future with somebody, i.e. inside a community. The intersection between content and community depends on what the community is focused on, and since that is a fluid thing it is difficult to know when it is best to activate the content.
    What content owners need is a system that tells them when it is time to activate a piece of content and with whom; in other words a system that keeps track of your content, the relevant conversation(s) and lets you know when they overlap.

    With this in place you can also flip it on its head by asking; what should my content focus on now? And if I have several versions, which one is best aligned with the current conversation? Call this “content testing”, which is not only an effective way to fine-tune the messaging, but also reveals to you who is most likely to find it relevant and interesting.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hi Lars, thanks for your comment. We are also looking at ways to market “in the moment”. And although I am talking about real time marketing, I think what you talking about is more like “trans-time marketing.”

      Please give me credit if you decide you like that terms and want to use it ;-)

  4. Meg Sutton said…

    Thanks for posting, Michael! I definitely agree that 2014 is the year of content marketing. With many businesses increasing their content marketing spend next year, it’s important to make sure these efforts are providing the most value as possible to readers. Creation partnered with curation and syndication is proving to be one of the most efficient tactics. Our CMO, Michael Gerard, will be hosting a webinar tomorrow, Content Marketing Tactics 2014: Creation, Curation and Syndication, that B2B marketers looking for content strategy insights may find useful. http://info.curata.com/121013MarketingTacticsWebinar.html

  5. Tony Zambito said…

    Hi Michael,

    Well researched and presented article. Thank you. The one glaring “call out” in your article is the fact – nearly 70% of content goes unused. Which means, there is plenty of work to be done in content purpose and creation. In my mind, CMO’s in 2014 will need to balance their priorities a bit to not only doing content marketing well – but finding out exactly what “well” means in the eyes of customers and buyers. At present – the stats suggest not “well” enough. Good stuff as always Michael.

    Tony

    • Michael Brenner said…

      I completely agree Tony. I think at buyer-centricity is at the heart of content marketing. I once told an executive that as a content marketer I can NOT create content that I am sure no one wants. So meeting buyer needs and tracking the proof points of effectiveness are key.

  6. Daniel said…

    Michael great piece,
    i consider myself an advocate of powerful and valuable content marketing and data analysis, however i do raise the question.
    After Google’s approach to guest posting, keyword impact reduction, Facebook ads primordially only, twitter rumors on getting out of the hash and many news of this sort.
    Don’t you think Content marketing will be heavily affected?

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hi Daniel,

      Yes I definitely think all of these things are impacting the changing nature of content marketing. The way we consume information is changing every day. And so must our efforts. But some things will remain. Good stories. Told by real people. In imaginative ways. There are some constants such as these.

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