what is content strategy?I have been struggling with this dilemma for months. When you talk to most marketers and even the majority of business people, they get that the web, social media, mobile devices and the content we place on these channels are all important factors in driving real business results.

But then the questions arise: How? What is Content Marketing and this thing called a Content Strategy? And more importantly, how do I execute it?

Well I am going to propose some answers. And in doing so, I’ve created what I believe is the only chart you will ever need to explain the benefit of a content strategy for your business.

The Problem

Imagine walking into a sales meeting and explaining that as a marketer you are not going to help them promote your products. At this point the sales folks will immediately assume you are going to talk about what color your logo should be.

You also say you aren’t going to talk about your brand efforts either. Now the sales team is starting to think you’ve lost your marbles.

No, instead you say that what the business really needs . . . what the marketplace really demands . . . is a Content Strategy . . .

A few eyes roll. The more impatient ones actually stand up to try and suppress their violent tendencies. And someone manages to blurt out: “WTF is a, um . . . content  . . . um, strategy?”

This is why marketing is so hard. Because at times, it is completely counter-intuitive: not talk about our company or our products? That is sheer lunacy, right?

I have written before that our first instinct as human beings is to talk about ourselves. Our brains are hard-wired to intuitively try to persuade anyone and everyone we can that they should “BUY FROM US” whatever we are selling.

The Biggest Challenge In Marketing

Effective marketers overcome this tendency. And they overcome the intense pressure from sales to see salesy, or promotional behavior from their marketers.

And they do this by putting the customer first. They identify their customers’ buying stages. They research their information needs by stage. They analyze their buyer’s media consumption. And they create and deliver the content their buyers want. And so there it is . . .

Content Strategy Defined

Content Strategy is delivering the answers to your buyers’ most important questions.

Creation. Curation. Syndication: Since no person or company has all the answers, this means you will create some of the content required, you will gather (or curate) content produced by others and you will share (or syndicate) this content in all the places where your buyers are looking for it. You can actually become more credible and more trusted by your buyers if the majority of the content you publish is not created by you.

Brian Rice, Dan Criel and I created Business 2 Community for the sole purpose of syndicating the valuable information we curated from amazing minds and thought leaders we were meeting in our business and social interactions.

Content Strategy requires a solid understanding that Thought Leadership content is not promotional. It does not seek to persuade your buyers that your company is best positioned to meet buyer needs. (Um, that’s called positioning!) Thought Leadership answers the big(ger) questions. . . And this is what leads me to my chart:

The Only Chart You’ll Ever Need To Explain the Benefits of Content Strategy

Having The Right Content Can Lead To 300% More Conversions

The chart above plots keyword search volumes on the X-axis, average conversion rates on the Y-axis and the bubble size reflects the number of conversions (high-quality visitors).

If you analyze organic search traffic, you will find that the number of people searching on “solution” terms such as “what is a widget?” will be hundreds if not thousands of times greater than the number of people searching for branded keywords such as a product or brand name. (I know there will be obvious differences across the spectrum of B2B companies. And there are those exceptional cases like “Google” and “Kleenex” where brand term = category, but in general this assumption will apply to most). For the chart, I used a conservative category to brand search volume factor of 100X.

You can also assume that there will be higher conversions for your brand terms than for more generic category terms. I assumed a conservative factor of 3X. The actual people behind this search volume will be very different. Category searches come from those likely in the early stage of the buying process. And brand terms come from people who have already named their problem and the solution set. They are now fully in the “consideration” stage of comparing different vendors.

Have The Right Content. Help Your Buyers. Get More Customers.

But the conversion of the above traffic is simply a factor of having the right content. And who wouldn’t want to start engaging earlier with prospects in the buying process.

When you do this math, you can clearly see that if you have content that answers the more general or bigger questions in your product category, then you will have at least the opportunity to convert more of these visitors to qualified leads and ultimately to more customers. If you have the content that helps your buyers at all stages, you will acquire more customers.

You can play with these numbers yourself using Google’s Keyword Tool. As I loved to say to an old-school manager I had in the past, “it’s just math!”

It’s also common sense, however counter-intuitive it may seem to so many. And this is why I believe Content Strategy can save Marketing and help us all to drive better business results in today’s dynamic environment.

Sooo, did I lose you? Is this clear? Is the chart helpful? Or did I oversell it? ;-)

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Photo is from MorBCN via 50 Photos to Inspire Life

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

10 Comments

  1. Tony Zambito said…

    Hi Michael,

    Another good article and posing of a dilemma in business. I prefer the focus on Content Strategy and the definition you have in your post. While content marketing as a term has become more popularized, it has fallen into the trap of being misunderstood to use the new channels to “promote” with content as opposed to answering buyer’s questions. A serious dilemma that appears to be on a runaway train at the moment.

    Thanks!
    Tony

  2. Michael Brenner said…

    Thanks Tony, I wish I could just continue re-running my posts on the “biggest mistake marketers” make and the “biggest challenge in content marketing.”

    Both speak about the problem you mention: Marketers tendency to take each sign of buyer control and turn it into an excuse to SPAM.

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail I guess.

    I wish every CMO made it their main goal to focus their staff on audience-first, buyer-centric marketing. Nothing is more important.

  3. Carmen Hill said…

    Michael, you definitely did NOT lose me. What’s great about this post is that it brings quantifiable support (aka math) to an approach that intuitively makes sense…to me, anyway.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Carmen, It’s good to know I’m not just talking to myself. And I love when the math helps support the business case. It’s not always easy to demonstrate the opportunity we see in business like this so I was excited to share.

      Best, Michael

  4. Annette said…

    I agree that content strategy is underappreciated even among seasoned marketers. Today’s customers search for what they need and good web content that speaks to your audience and addresses their pain points will help position your company as someone they’ll want to do business with!

  5. Mae Koep said…

    This is incredibly fascinating, You are a really skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to looking for more of your fantastic article. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

  6. Becky Remmel said…

    Michael: I came across your blog because I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to promote the new startup I’m working for (www.Justuno.com). We have a great product, but are in the initial process of developing a launch strategy. Thanks for the direction. ~Becky Remmel

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