Once upon a time in content marketing, the main goal was to throw out as much content as possible, usually based around certain keywords. Content marketers thus adopted a "spray and pray" method, hoping for an overall boost to all marketing efforts.
As we now know, that "method" does not lead to fairy tale success.
Today, 90 percent of companies are using content in their marketing initiatives, and 42 percent have an executive overseeing that strategy. With all that noise, the field of content marketing is constantly evolving.
Great content marketers focus on super-targeted audience groups -- the ones their companies want to close business with -- and they're brought into the process through marketing automation. This means that rather than producing heaps of content around keywords and hoping the right people stumble upon it, content marketers are creating content tailored for those people and companies they feel will be the most profitable customers.
With this shift in strategy comes new ways of working with content marketers to help them deliver successful outcomes. Here are three important actions content marketing specialists need you and other company leaders to make in order to put their expertise to optimal use:
Keep them in the loop on sales challenges
In B2B marketing, the name of the game is domain expertise and speaking to pain points. This is where alignment of sales and marketing teams becomes very powerful and why many organizations will direct up to 40 percent of their revenue toward sales and marketing.
Salespeople have their ears to the ground and are able to hear rumblings about particular issues affecting the industry, so it makes sense to keep these two units in sync with each other and optimize both budgets. If sales teams keep their marketing colleagues informed, they can collaborate to ensure that the content being produced is actually relevant to the targeted prospects.
This communication is most beneficial if it’s a two-way street. When sales teams communicate their challenges, marketing can develop content to help address them. And when marketing hands over leads, they can communicate to sales how those leads came to them. Knowing which content drew in specific leads also helps sales focus on the right talking points.
Equip them with marketing automation tools
While email is still the most effective way of reaching prospects, one in 10 brand emails are deleted without being read. To maximize the effectiveness of your content, you should always send only the most relevant and appealing content to your target audience.
Because generic, one-size-fits-all emails are even less likely to be opened, smart content managers use marketing automation to reach the correct targets with compelling messaging. Depending on your CRM system, once you've bracketed prospects and customers according to their needs, you can segment emails based on the IP addresses from which the leads originated. Marketing automation tools make this process simpler and the targeting more accurate by automatically delivering specific content to specific customers.
If you're producing content for public dissemination, your content marketing team should be hip to which kinds of marketing automation tools you have already and what the best platforms are out there so that they can audit them. You definitely want somebody from the content team to have a voice in that decision to make sure these tools integrate published content with follow-up emails.
Make content production a company-wide effort
One of the greatest challenges in content production is, well, the production. Content teams rarely possess the domain expertise needed to produce every shred of content your company needs and often aren’t given the latitude to recruit their co-workers as subject matter experts.
Set a policy at your company that encourages everyone to help produce content. My company asks every employee to write one blog post every month. We send the most relevant posts to the content department for publication and strategic distribution.
This exercise not only increases the amount of content you can choose from, but it also serves as a professional development tool, as it provides the added bonus of strengthening team dynamics. Everyone is forced to take a step back, reflect, and articulate new skills they’re learning and how they might dovetail with other departments' efforts.
Content marketing is part art and part science.
Working with your content team, set up production calendar every three months. Start by outlining what you're going to say, when you're going to say it, and where you're going to publish it. Plan specific topics for blog and social posts, as well as emails, so that target audiences receive messaging that’s most relevant to their needs.
To get the most from your content team, you have to understand that the landscape they work within is constantly changing. Take measures to help them coordinate with the sales team to produce the most relevant, lead-nurturing content possible. Equip them with the best tools for the job, and don't expect them to go it alone.
With all of those pieces in place and all hands on deck, you'll build the perfect laboratory for your content marketers to create content that goes beyond driving leads to your site. By nurturing them with content they'll find valuable, you can convert prospects into sales.