Many content marketers have invested heavily in technology and marketing solutions to better measure their efforts.
They’ve doubled down on AdWords and SEO. They have a CRM and are carefully watching customers slide through the acquisition funnel. However, PR pros can offer a unique angle for organizations looking to reach a targeted audience: an editorial mindset.
That’s the contention of Edelman U.S. Managing Director Joe Kingsbury in our recent conversation about the future of content marketing, especially for B2B efforts.
“They are trying to connect with sophisticated buyers that are oftentimes highly educated,” explains Kingsbury. “When you think about really sophisticated buyers and you think about what it takes to really influence the perception and behavior and to generate trust with people who know what they’re looking for … [you have to be] able to carve out a position on a topic or within the industry that would really be compelling.”
That’s not to say technology and tools aren’t important, he adds. It’s just that you can’t let gadgetry get in the way of telling a good story.
“It’s really about stepping back and understanding the buyer audience or, in some cases, the buyer committee that might be responsible for making decisions,” Kingsbury says.
He points to time-honored PR and marketing questions: “What are the pain points that they’re dealing with day to day? What are the kinds of current topics where they need help, they need insight, they need somebody looking around the corner for them?”
Only once you have answered those questions can you begin to think about making the sale. Kingsbury says your content should be used “as a way to kind of earn the permission to sell.” The content itself isn’t the sales pitch; it’s a tool for building a relationship.
Content marketing’s value
What unique value does content offer an organization in the modern media environment? Kingsbury says that’s in the eye of the beholder.
“We often work with clients that are in crowded industries where the conversations around certain topics are very noisy,” he says, so noisy that the conversation becomes a “sea of sameness,” especially around subjects such as AI or machine learning.
“It’s really difficult to break through around a hot topic like that,” Kingsbury says, but he argues that when it’s done right, thought leadership content can be a differentiator.
What goes into that content has to be comprehensive, though, to be useful.
You can’t just expound upon your product’s features and services and expect to gain notice, Kingsbury says.
“I think across the board in terms of a buyer committee, but especially with a senior-level decision-maker audience, they need something more,” he says. “They need insights around the trends that are happening around the industry—and not just identifying the trends but really illuminating why these things are happening to them, some type of underlying analysis that tells them what the implications will be.” That, he says, demonstrates that you understand the problems of the customer.
What tech can do
Where is technology most useful for your content creation strategy? Kingsbury has a one-word answer: “personalization.”
Even in a B2B context, “the ability to personalize and to customize your content and what you have to say is becoming more and more necessary to really break through,” says Kingsbury.
“Who’s specifically within the buyer committee? Do you need to break through and convince them to bring you into the conversation? Or do you need to get different members of the buyer committee, such as procurement and marketing and technology, all aligned and having a common view on a challenge in order to condition the selling environment in your favor?”
Kingsbury concludes: “The ability to really customize, and also obviously to target with a lot of precision, is a really powerful combination.”
For some B2B campaigns, impressions and web traffic could be pointless metrics in establishing the effectiveness of your strategy. If only 50 people from a select handful of companies are your target audience, their eyeballs are more valuable than thousands of irrelevant site visits.
“What you’re not necessarily looking for is a ton of impressions or the ability to say we had all of these click-throughs,” Kingsbury says. “Yes, those kinds of underlying KPIs are good indicators around the health of a program and can help you course correct along the way, but you go into [your campaign] with a totally different objective, which is: Did you get to the 50 people on the planet that matter the most?”
When you’re thinking about this kind of targeting, Kingsbury says, the technology can become liberating from an editorial viewpoint.
“You’re trying to tell a story, but if you go public, it has to work for multiple audiences, because it’s all going to be out there. … You fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone,” Kingsbury says. “But with the technology and the ability to segment very narrowly and also to target with precision, it frees you up to tell stories and to communicate in much more specific ways.”
How are you adapting your content strategy for the latest media best practices? Share your takeaways in the comments.