Balancing effective Content Marketing with sales objectives

This outtake focused on content marketing strategy – balancing effective content marketing with sales objectives and is taken from an hour of discussion recorded exclusively for our Pivotal Marketer Community on Facebook sees Geraint Holliman, marketing consultant, MSc in Digital Marketing trainer and published author and MMC’s Rene Power.

It’s the fourth part of a series of serialisations on content marketing strategy and implementation.

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Rene Power:

It’s actually now in ’21, where we’re looking at how people are using LinkedIn, how people are using and have been schooled to use the kind of dangled lead magnet into an email nurture.

And it smacks a little bit of desperation and playing by numbers, doesn’t it?

And I think if you can play to the brand values that you have and you play into a customer experience of how you want people to feel, and you want to be respectful, and you want to provide them with information and value, some of those things in themselves will help you stand out in a busy market. I don’t know if by implication, you’ll be doing something differently.

Geraint Holliman:

It’s interesting you sit on here, which reminded me of something you said earlier on, which is that content marketing isn’t a numbers game. It shouldn’t be a numbers game, it should be a quality game, yeah?

And the whole, “I’ve got to do something every day on Facebook”, it just diminishes its kind of impact and value because you’re basically extracting the value from it by just, “Well, I’ve just got to do something.” It isn’t about that.

It’s about connecting with people because you are understanding the way that they are buying, and you are helping them through their journey, and you’re helping them make a better decision.

And in the course of doing that, you’re creating preference and helping them by providing the information couched in the way that you want it delivered.

Therefore, you’re putting yourself at the top of the consideration set, yeah? Rather than just using the biggest spam gun you possibly can, and spraying it in every single direction, and hoping to goodness that something and somebody will get hurt by it.

That isn’t what content should be used for.

Rene Power:

That’s a good point, it’s a good point. And I think if you’re really clear on your pillars and your themes (session 2 with Geraint), I think you start with who are you talking to? Who do you want to influence? Who is your target customer? That might be a company, it might be somebody in a specifying role within a company, whatever that means to you.

By understanding that person, and their role, and their challenges, and everything else, and starting to look at, okay, so what things could we be talking about that matter to them and kind of be part of that conversation, that narrative?

And keeping that in mind, it does make all of this stuff easier, doesn’t it?

Thinking strategically about content marketing makes more commercial sense

And then also saying, “Okay, so we’ve got a sales imperative in the business,” coming back to the return on investment question, obviously as a business, marketing people are hired to help support, bring inquiries into the business that we can convert enough of those to pay everything off and make a profit at the end of it.

So there’s a sales imperative at the end of some of this stuff. So if you know, “Hey, we got to sell 10 of these machines at £100,000 each this year, we’ll make a million quid and that’s on a margin of 40% or whatever.”

Then if you know what that is, then you start thinking strategically about well, okay, who are the sorts of people who are going to buy one of these machines? How many of these people are there in the world? And how do we get in front of them? How do we cosy up to them? How do we make our stuff affect their decision-making.

And I think not enough companies and not enough marketers have the commercial smarts to route what they’re doing in terms of the impact on the business, meeting the sales targets, and advancing the company in the right direction, and all that other good stuff.

And if you can crack that, then you will become more worthwhile to the business. Your career will flourish and marketing, in your business, will be viewed in a very different way.

Geraint Holliman:

I completely agree, and this comes back to my point earlier on about the ROI thing (session 1 with Geraint) is, well, in the course of my career, I have watched marketing become diminished as a profession, okay?

I’m sorry to say that, but it just has. It’s become really fundamentally, I’m quite happy to be shot down about this, but this is my observation and my experience, is it’s just become the comms department really.

And what you just said there was so important, which is yes, absolute fundamentally, the raison d’etre of every commercial organisation in the world is to create value at a profit, so that people who own the business can realise some return, right.

That is capitalist economics at its simplest, yeah? And our jobs, as marketers, is to understand the market, who’s in it, what they buy, how they buy, what the alternatives are, what value they put on that thing.

And therefore, create our proposition, so that it meets or exceeds that value expectation. They buy us at a profitable margin and the economics of it all work, right?

We, as marketers, and I’m probably as guilty as many of doing this over the years, kind of defaulted to “Yes, okay. Well, but yeah, the comms part, the how would we kind of make it pretty? Where do we kind of spit out some social?

Really, what marketers should be doing is, “What is the value of the customer in this business? How do we make customers worth more? How can content that we create, make a customer worth more?”

We’ve got to know what customers are worth, for starters, we’ve got to be able to measure it, manage it, and monitor it. Then, how do you say, well, how does content improve that value? How to increase that value over time. How can we kind of segment customers better?

The message is the medium

And that kind of strategic thinking about content in the marketing sense is what has been missing, because we’ve just seen content being used as another tactic. There’s a guy, an economist in the ’70s, came out with Message is the Medium, I can’t remember the name now. But in the ’70s, the message… I’ll remember it in a minute.

So he was basically talking about, well, fundamentally the message that customers get is determined by the message in which they receive it, yeah? And that’s fine, yeah.

A lot of people say, “Oh, oh, Message is the Medium was very clever.” He also said something even better, which was our problem is that every technological advance that comes along (Actually Einstein said something similar) but every technological advance that comes along, we apply all the rules of the previous technology to it, and then expect it to work.

And the example of this… Marshall McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan was the economist! He came up with the message. So his example was, in the ’60s and ’70s, along came this thing called television.

And television presenters were all sat there, shirt and tie, reading from a script like this, because that is what happened on radio, which is the prior technology.

So, used all the radio rules and applied them to the new technology. And it was for a long time before kind of the benefits of the visual medium came to bear on the way that the medium was used, yeah?

Because we basically used it as radio with pictures. Well, the internet is exactly the same kind of thing. The internet is a massive technological leap forward from broadcast channel media, like TV and radio. Yeah, actually, we’re still using things like monetization techniques that we would use on television, which is eyeballs.

Moving away from interruption in marketing

Rene Power:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s talk about it’s all about interruption, isn’t it? You’re trying to interrupt people. What they’re doing and grabbing their attention and doing something else. So website pop ups and all of this sort of stuff-

Geraint Holliman:

Is there anything more irritating in the world, Rene, than a pop up ad in the middle of a YouTube video?

Rene Power:

Yeah. I mean, they are the worst.

Geraint Holliman:

Archetypal interruptive marketing, that people absolutely hate, yeah? Because we haven’t worked out how to use the technology and its monopolisation opportunities in a different way. So we’re using all these crappy old techniques from the ’60s and the ’70s on a medium which is really 22nd century. And content is being used in the same way, we’re using it just like a… Well, it’s just I’ve taken money out of my ad budget and put it into content. Well, that may or may not be a good thing.

Geraint Holliman:

I still see there’s a role for advertising in the right scenarios, by the way. But is that the right thing? You’re thinking about it so tactically. Whereas, if you think about it as a strategic tool for helping customers get through that buyer journey better, suddenly you’re thinking, “Wow, I need to think about this a little bit differently.” That’s why all these things we’ve been talking about like your sort of plan and your pillars and topics, you have to put these kind of structures in place to guide your actions.

Rene Power:

And then that’s the guiding principle. If you’re helping people to make a decision, the output being, they will make that decision to come to you for whatever it is that you do, by being helpful, and trusted, and all the rest of it, good advisor, regardless of if somebody’s going to buy or not, then you’ll certainly win more than you lose. And it’s that guiding light, I think, through all of this that sort of this is the thing that people should follow.

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