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The B2B Funnel is Now a Sieve

Leaky_bucket

The buying process has gotten messy for B2B marketers. This easy access to information means that engagement one second can turn into disinterest in the next. Every new channel puts a hole in your funnel. (Although I've never liked the funnel construct, it's appropriate for making the point.)

Marketers who don't integrate new channels into their content marketing strategy will find they have a very leaky funnel. I'm not talking about using them, I'm talking about considering how they all work together.

If you want to plug the holes, it's time to consider:

Consistency of Story

Given that only 32% of enterprise B2B marketers consider their content marketing effective, they need to pay attention to what they're doing with the 17 tactics they use, on average. Forty-one percent are creating more content than they did last year but the question remains as to what it is and why they're creating it?

Many of them don't have a documented plan which leaves me to wonder how they manage it all. But I'd wager that this is an indication of why consistency across channels is lacking. If you're relying on memory or hoping that everyone is publishing to the idea of the plan, good luck.

The problem I see is that in lieu of a strategy, marketers use different channels for different things. One example I've seen a lot is a really well done blog and a Facebook page that's about the company's favorite sports team and silly contests. If you're a buyer and you encounter a really thought-provoking blog post and then click through to the silly Facebook page, what are you left thinking?

The other is a conflict of personas. You may have a blog focused on IT professionals and a LinkedIn Group for line of business. But somehow there are cross links that make no sense but were done for SEO purposes. I've seen horrendous crimes done to content in the name of SEO. This can also happen with hyperlinks on phrases that link to product pages on the website with no context. Who do you think you're fooling? I just read a buyer research study that found buyers are hesitant to click on links when they don't know where they'll go. Why do you think this is?

Marketers need to think about the impression made by all the channels in use where prospects and customers may encounter their company. What will the overall impression be if they run into your company on the channels you publish in most? When's the last time you looked at it from the outside, from this perspective?

Depth of Relevance

I was reviewing content for a potential project the other day. The content was solid, focused on industry trends that mattered to their prospects, but it felt off. It took me a bit to put my finger on it, but I finally figured it out. The company had taken the idea of journalism to an extreme. They were trying to be so unbiased that their content was dry, it was like straight reporting and it was stiff because they weren't actually taking a stand or speaking directly to anyone.

The company is actually really interesting and has SMEs galore that are willing to contribute content. But they don't know how to talk to their prospects with any tone, voice or personality. If you stripped away the company brand, the reader would think the content was provided by an association or news publisher. And that's not the lasting impression you want to leave.

To get to depth of relevance you not only need to know your buyers intimately, but your brand's personality. Instead of brand guidelines, why not create a brand persona that can help your company become more relevant in information, as well as in style?

Formats Don't Matter More than Information

One of the first things I hear in a lot of content conversations is about the type of content the marketing team wants to create. We need a white paper or an eBook or an infographic, etc. This is the wrong place to start.

Start with the idea. What topic and for whom? What will they get from it? What do you want to accomplish? How will it work within your storyline?

These are the questions to answer. Then you can define a suite of content to develop around the idea complete with a distribution plan and how you'll connect the dots across channels. Remember that the expectations in channels also vary. Instead of one content asset, start thinking in terms of content hubs.

If you don't want to lose your audience, you need to move format to the end of the list. It's not the most important element. The information is.

Social Does Not Mean Broadcast

I think we've forgotten how to actually "be" social. There's a big difference between broadcasting and engaging. The lazy way out is to post title and link...repeatedly. Or to post title and link when channels including LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ allow you to add much more narrative. Yet, we tend to treat every social channel with the brevity required by Twitter. Why?

What a missed opportunity. Although this would also mean we'd need to think about how to be meaningful - and who has time for that?

The Point

The point is that marketers are putting a lot of investment into channels they don't own, but they're not applying the effort to make them pay off. Buyers have a choice. It's often represented by the back button and then the ignore trigger that has them scan right past your post. Once they start avoiding you, will you be able to win them back? If their experience with your brand across channels is reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you've got work to do.

The best approach is to think of everything you publish as a form of Natural Nurturing. I wrote about it in my book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, in 2009. This is not a new concept. Every time your content comes into contact with your audience you have an opportunity. Squander it and your funnel becomes a sieve.

 

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.