As part of our ongoing conversation about content marketing, we reached out to Jeffrey L. Cohen (@jeffreylcohen) a marketer, strategist, author, speaker and blogger with a 20-plus year career in business to business (B2B) marketing. He is the director of content strategy at the Oracle Marketing Cloud; coauthor of The B2B Social Media Book, which has been translated into Italian, Korean and Vietnamese; and is the co-founder and managing editor of SocialMediaB2B.com, the leading online resource for social media’s impact on business to business marketing. Jeff spoke with Maggie Schneider Huston, Oracle Social Cloud’s Senior Content Manager, about overcoming content marketing challenges.
Maggie Schneider Huston: How do you set a content marketing strategy? What factors should a business consider? Take me through it step-by-step.
Jeff Cohen: A content marketing strategy is not that different from creating a marketing strategy. It all starts with your audience. The more you understand about who you are trying to reach, the easier it is to create this strategy. Many B2B companies already have detailed personas as part of their marketing, and these come in very handy when crafting your content marketing.
The next thing to focus on is the message. Again, it sounds like marketing, but in a content marketing world this may be driven by the platforms your audience frequents or the kinds of content they consume. A consumer company with millennial customers would create a way to tell their ongoing brand story with images on Instagram, and a B2B company might provide helpful business articles on their blog or LinkedIn.
Once your prospects or customers become aware of your content, what action would you like them to take? This is where content marketing begins to stray from a traditional marketing approach. The point is to get some sort of engagement from your audience, where they take some action that shows an affinity with your brand or its ideas. In the examples above, the brand on Instagram is looking for more than likes or even comments, but shares or even their audience sharing their own images. The B2B company entices their prospects with a call-to-action on every blog post, offering a more extensive piece of content, like an ebook or white paper, in exchange for contact information.
And the last part of this simple content marketing strategy is how you measure success. These goals must align with your business, so you can talk about success in the same terms as others in your organization, especially executives. Don’t tout your ebook downloads when everyone else focuses on marketing-qualified leads. Don’t boast about likes when the business goals are about sales. These metrics should be agreed upon beforehand, so you will know if your content marketing efforts are meeting company goals.
MSH: How do you convince the C-suite that this matters? Do you ever face resistance?
JC: The main philosophy behind content marketing is that you provide something of value to your prospects and customers to build trust and ensure retention and advocacy. The C-suite understands that customers now hold the power in the relationship and this is the new way to build it. Cold-calling, product-focused marketing and pure brand-awareness advertising are no longer the means to success in business.
If you encounter resistance from executives in taking this approach, you can start by piloting something small. Pick a product, or persona, or market and create helpful content. Make sure you agree on what success looks like from the start, and you have enough time to generate those results.
And remember, it may not just be executives who resist this idea. Other marketing colleagues may also expect you to fail. Using content marketing is a cultural mindset, and not all businesses are ready for it.
MSH: Where do marketers frequently make mistakes in content marketing?
JC: One of the biggest content marketing mistakes is when marketers don’t put themselves in the minds of their prospects. This causes them to create content about their products. Prospects don’t care about your products. They care about solutions to their own business problems. If your content doesn’t address that, they will not care about it.
Another mistake is focusing on the wrong metrics. It is critical for brands to build their own audiences that are separate from their social channels, for example, an email list, but that is not a goal. That is a means to the end. The goals need to relate to leads and sales, and in the same way others in the company talk about these results.
MSH: How do you manage content across different platforms? How do you stay organized?
JC: The core of our content approach is based on the ebooks we release. We use the editorial calendar within Oracle Content Marketing to show the publication dates and the associated blog posts of these pieces, as well as content offerings from other teams. We also provide links to production schedules, PDFs and associated artwork from within the calendar for more detail. Everyone in our marketing organization has access to this calendar, so they can create their own plans for other channels based on our new content.
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