Understanding what Content Marketing is really about and managing the “bargain” of insight for contact details

This outtake focused on content marketing strategy – plans, pillars and expanding the narrative to ensure greater success with content 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 third part of a series of serialisations on content marketing strategy and implementation.

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Geraint Holliman:

Well, I spend most of my time in B2B at the moment, but I have spent most of my career in B2C and people do say to me, “Is it different, B2B, B2C?” And my answer is no. There are differences, but it’s not different.

And clearly some of the approaches are different, the way people buy in each category are different. Clearly, in B2B, you’ve obviously got lots of people involved in a buying decision, whereas in B2C it’s typically one person and the journey might be quicker, less stages, all that kind of stuff.

Helping buyers make better decisions

But the principles of content – helping people make better decisions at each stage of their buying journey – is the same for B2B, or B2C, or D2C even, or B2B2C!

It doesn’t really matter. The point is, content helps buyers make better decisions because it means at each stage of their buyer journey, you’re informing them better and making them think, “Oh, these guys actually helped me make a better decision here”.

Now I’ve gone from not understanding the problem at all, to understanding what the problem is, to understanding what the solutions might be, to understanding who could help me, deciding what they could do, which would help me, to deciding how to decide which one’s the right one, to choosing the right one, to buying it, to onboarding it.

In fact, on that very subject, it’s worth saying about mapping content to the buyer journey, I’ll get another one of my biggest kind of concerns with a lot of content and marketers and content in general, is that they seem to think that the job stops at acquisition.

Geraint Holliman:

You acquire a client, fantastic, company is bought and no, no. Everybody on this call knows that you make more money from existing clients than you get from new clients because that cost of sale is lower, yeah.

So retention of clients is the nirvana for all of us. So therefore, you’ve got to think about, well, once a customer becomes a customer, what content do we need to make them stay a customer, to get more value out of decisions that they’ve made, the purchases that they’ve made?
How can we help them get more? What content will be required for that? I often find when I see content, and I speak to a lot of people about their content plans, I look and say, “Yeah, but what’s your retention content? What’s your upgrade and cross-sell content?”

Rene Power:

Content that supports all parts of the buying process

It’s interesting that because I would argue that so many businesses are so fixated on acquisition, which as we know, is the hardest thing.
It’s the hardest thing, is to get somebody to buy from you that first time and getting them to switch from something else that they’re probably perfectly happy with. And this is B2C, B2B, whatever, and it’s harder.

You’re right, it is easier to keep happy customers loyal. But you’re right, from a content perspective, there’s a high percentage of the content that companies put out is always aimed at attracting new customers or the retention relationship stuff isn’t necessarily done in public. It’s done more direct, through EMA model, whatever it is. So we don’t always see it.

Geraint Holliman:

No, no and you often don’t. I mean, I was talking to somebody the other day about content for ABM and say, “Well fundamentally, the principles are all still the same. It’s just your target audience is different, yeah? But they’re still buying in the same way. It’s just you’ve narrowed your segment, you’re targeting so narrowly, you know the name of the company and the name of the people.

Okay, but the fact is, they’re still going through the same kind of journey and you just might understand that journey a little bit better than you would if it was just you’re talking to a wider market. Content, it really should be able to help you make better decisions generally, right, as a buyer.

So think about that as your kind of guiding light when you think about what content should we be creating? What content? How should we go about creating? Well, how does it make the customer make a better decision?

And that’ll help you sweep away a lot of requests for content that frankly, probably wouldn’t help a great deal, in most spends.

Rene Power:

It’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because if I went into most of the sorts of companies that I work with, I mean, I’ve worked in agencies, marketing agencies, you would think would be pretty good at this sort of thing, but often they’re not.

Their content strategy or editorial plan, if you like, is focused on putting up blog posts that are written by the team, talking about the sort of things that we sell, we’re talking about best practise and whatever.

They might write a few press releases. They might write up a few case studies, share some testimonials, but it’s all very self-absorbed. And I think a lot of, in business to business are probably the same.

Moving more towards with problem solving and serving

If you’re operating in a business like that, how do you affect a switch to this more valuable customer focused problem solving?

Because that’s what people want. And we go looking for anything online. If we’re going to, if we’re going to download something from a website or try and get access to something, we know we’re going to give some details, we’re giving away our contact information in exchange for this thing that’s been produced, that if I read it, watch it, listen to it, it’s going to help me do something right now, therefore, I accept I might get of emails or I might even get a phone call.

How do we, as a business, move the dial from doing that stuff that’s a bit more self-absorbed and quite salesy actually, to doing that more customer centric helpful stuff?

Geraint Holliman:

There’s a guy called Jay Baer, who wrote a great book called Youtility. Now, he’s a clever chap, but he’s a great content strategist. And he said, “Look, when you write content, think about the balance of the content within it as being 90/10, which is 90% about the customer and only 10% about you.

So when you go looking for content, other than very specific technical content about tech sheets or where you’re actually deciding about which parts of the functionality you want to choose, other than that part of the buying process, content should be 90% about the customer and 10% about you, okay?

And that allows you to think, “Well, if I write the content in a way which or creates content which speaks in their language, sees the problem, or challenge, or the opportunity through their lens, yeah?

And at the end you say, “And by the way, we can help you with this, this is the kind of thing that we do. This is our raison d’etre.” Then what you find is that the customers say, “I’m connecting with the challenge that they have posed or created here in this content. And I can see they’re seeing it from my point of view.

“Well, these are the kind of guys I need to speak to then, guys and girls that I need to speak to you because they clearly understand my challenge and advantages.”

Another thing is, you just said at the end there about forms and the like, the bargain that comes with it. And I’m coming back to this in just a second, but what I want to say is there is a fundamental misunderstanding in digital marketing.

Is or should all content be free?

And with the greatest respect to you and I, because we might be of a slightly different generation to maybe some of the people watching this, is I see a lot, not so much in marketers, but in the audiences that consume content online, is there is a very, very significant feeling of that stuff on the internet is free, right? Content is free, right?

That is not true. It is not true, right? Every single piece of content ever created by a human being, or even a bot costs somebody something to be put there. There was a cost. So it is never free.

So there’s always going to be a bargain somehow, some way, between the content provider and the content recipient.

And often, the way we’ve kind of squared that circle is to say, “Well, look, what we will typically do in the old media world is you want to watch our programme on television, you’ve got to sit through an ad break and we’ll bombard you with messages you don’t really want to watch. “But that’s the bargain. You want free TV? You have to watch our ads”.

And we kind of use that same monetization technique for content, which is you want this white paper? You give me your email address, yeah.

And as you said, I’ll spam the living daylights out of you or not. I mean, the point is I don’t really have a problem with people filling in forms if it’s for the right reason and in the right context. But by and large, most people don’t want to give away something which has got value to them, which is “my details”.

So if I’m going to give you my details, Rene, for a piece of your content, we’re entering into a bargain, right? And that trust is on both sides here, which is you’re going to give me something over time, which has got increasing and growing value to me.

So I always say, Rene, I’m going to give you my email address, but every time you send me a piece of something or ask me a question, because you’ve got my email address, would Geraint be prepared to pay for that, in financial terms?

Because if this is so valuable, what I’m about to give him, then the fact that he’s given me his email address, which has got a real notional financial value to him, that will be really, really worth it.

So if I would say to people, I get this is the hospital part of all hospital parties. Geraint, what do you think would be the content? I don’t know. I’m not the target audience, not marketing.

I can critique its layout. I’m a big fan of typography, so I might have a bit of a fetish about that. And I might say something, “Oh, it’s nicely crafted.” But I don’t buy sock manufacturing machines for a living. I am not in the target audience. I can’t tell you whether this piece of content is good, bad, or indifferent. Other than to say, it’s got a headline, it’s got an end, it’s got some stuff in the middle. It’s got some pretty pictures of sock machines. I can’t give you… if I were in that market, and this was valuable to me, I might be prepared to say to you, ” Oh, this is real insight here. This would make my life better. This would make our business better, by knowing this.”

I’d be prepared to say, “Yes, Rene, email me. If you’ve got more stuff like this, that has got real value, that I’d almost be prepared to pay for it, ‘almost’. Then yes, have my details.”

I’m doing a lot of work at the moment in the venture capital world on due diligence, on investments and in the SaaS world, software as a service world.

And it’s astonishing, just astonishing how many software companies, early stage software companies I come across, where it says, “If you want a demo, you’ve got to give us your details. If you want to know how our product works, you’ve got to give us…”

No, no. Well, I don’t know if I now want to speak to you because I don’t know how the product works. If you tell me how the product works, I’ll work out whether I want to speak to you, not the other way around.

Rene Power:

Barrier, it’s such a barrier to trial, isn’t it?

Geraint Holliman:

It’s an absolute barrier.

Rene Power:

Barrier to trial. And there are technologies now where you can automate webinars and you can do all… I know Squarespace do it twice a week. They run webinars to people who haven’t yet signed up and then webinars for people who’ve just signed up.

And they literally run two webinars, you can jump on them every week. So that at any point you buy into Squarespace with sort of web design software, they’re there. But equally, I think you’re right. I think there is huge obstacles in place where people are just, they want to grab every single piece of the data. You’ve got to earn the right first, whether it’s-

Geraint Holliman:

Absolutely you do.

Rene Power:

.. it’s something in my game, it may be in your consulting game, when you’re a smaller business you can afford to be a bit more nimble with this, can’t you?

So you might do simple cheat sheets or checklists just to get somebody interested. And if they come back and want a bit more, then you’ve got more substantive downloads, like the white papers, like the best practice guides, like the how-tos that might then end up with people being invited through an email sequence to get on a call or whatever.

It’s the classic going straight to third base on a first date analogy, isn’t it?

Geraint Holliman:

Exactly, exactly. Yeah, it’s nice to meet you, shall we get married? No, can we not have a few dates first. I mean, that kind of stuff. So yeah-

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