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Solving the “Dry Well” Challenge of Content Marketing 

David Dodd | Mar 6, 2017 45 views 5 Comments

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Consistently producing content that connects with potential buyers remains one of the greatest challenges facing B2B marketers. The need to make content relevant for individual buyers at every stage of the buying process, to publish content in multiple formats across multiple channels, and to publish new content frequently have combined to strain the creativity and resources of B2B marketers.

In the early stages of a company’s content marketing efforts when marketers are focused on “building out” their content library, it’s relatively easy to identify good topics for content resources. But after the initial build-out phase is completed, it can become more difficult to identify content topics that are relevant and fresh.

Of course, some topics need to be addressed more than once. It’s important, for example, to update your content when the capabilities of your product change, or when new research about a topic becomes available. But sooner or later, many B2B marketers will feel that their well of relevant and meaningful topics has run dry.



To address this challenge, marketers need to think more broadly about the kinds of topics that can be effective in their content marketing program. From a topical perspective, there are four basic types of content (shown in the following diagram).

Product Content – This is just what it sounds like – content that describes the features and functionality of a product or group of related products. In a 2015 study by LinkedIn, business buyers ranked product info, features, functions as their most preferred type of marketing/sales content.

Product Category Content – This is basically “educational” content that discusses issues or needs that a type of product or service can address. When a provider of account-based marketing software creates content that explains why ABM is a more effective approach to marketing, or describes what capabilities buyers should look for in an ABM solution, that’s product category content. Good product category content usually doesn’t promote a specific product, but it does “evangelize” the product category.

Most of the marketing content created by B2B companies (excluding pure brand advertising) falls into one of these two categories, and these are the types of content topics that marketers focus on first. This is a valid approach, but these two categories will only provide so many good topics for content resources.

There are, however, two additional types of content that can complement product and product category content, and thus provide a valuable source for good content topics.

Business Function Content – This type of content addresses issues relating to the job responsibilities of your potential buyers, but which aren’t directly related to your company’s product or service. For example, suppose that your company offers a sales enablement solution to financial services firms. Your buying group will almost certainly include chief marketing officers and chief sales officers. Once you’ve developed enough product and product category content, you can create content resources that address more general marketing and sales issues. This type of content could include topics such as:

  • How to win business from millennial investors
  • How financial advisors can use social selling to attract and win new clients

Industry-Related Content – This type of content discusses issues that are related to the industry in which the prospect operates. To continue with my financial services example, the sales enablement provider could create content around topics such as:

  • The impact of “robo-advisors” on traditional financial services firms
  • New (or pending) governmental regulations affecting financial services firms

You may be wondering why you should create content that isn’t closely related to your company’s product or service. One of the objectives of content marketing is to demonstrate that you understand the issues and challenges that your prospects and potential buyers are facing. Product category content helps you achieve this objective, but so can business function content and industry-related content.

Top illustration courtesy of Paani Program via Flickr CC.

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5 Responses to Solving the “Dry Well” Challenge of Content Marketing

  1. Thomas Wieberneit March 7, 2017 at 1:32 am (211 comments) #

    great advice, thanks David! One question that remains in my mind, although I might confuse the sales and marketing aspects here, is that direct marketing to specific customers involves a specific value proposition. This is how I would interpret ABM. At this point we are no more talking product category but specific product – or why should prospect buy from me – and not from my competition.

    Am I wrong/

    2 ct from Down Under
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  2. Andrew Rudin March 7, 2017 at 6:45 am (178 comments) #

    There is so much written about ‘content’ and the ‘marketing’ of it that many people don’t take the time to question its role in the larger challenge of generating revenue. I’m still unclear how and why ‘content marketing’ got spun off from marketing in general, apparently taking on a life of its own.

    The buying process at many companies is long and arduous, and significant parts don’t involve reviewing vendor information, or having direct engagement or interaction with them. So is it really necessary to “make content relevant for individual buyers at every stage of the buying process”? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I believe it’s one that every vendor must reflect on before investing. And I recommend having a clear understanding of what relevant means to your customer. Most people bypass the opportunity to explore that.

    Similarly, many content marketers have imparted how crucial it is to update content frequently, but do customers need it? Does doing so improve a vendor’s likelihood of achieving the right sales outcome? If so, by how much? Again – for me the answers are unclear. And where they might be, they shouldn’t be extrapolated to all B2B sales environments.

    As Bharat Anand discusses in his book, The Content Trap https://www.thecontenttrap.com/ companies are better off when improving conversations and connectivity with prospects and customers, rather than simply pushing ever more content to them across multiple channels, and hoping something will stick.

  3. David Dodd March 9, 2017 at 5:46 am (19 comments) #

    Thanks for your comment, Thomas! It makes me think of the old adage about the three critical questions that are involved in any sale:

    1. Why change?
    2. Why change now?
    3. Why change with me (the seller)?

    Even with ABM, some target accounts will not be in an active buying process, and some will be very early in the process. So, you still need content for the “why change” and “why change now” questions, and that’s the role that product category content often plays. Product category content can be tailored for specific accounts, but that doesn’t change the kinds of topics that are addressed.

  4. Andrew Rudin March 9, 2017 at 7:43 am (178 comments) #

    I’m unclear why you’re recommending content as the way to advance a buyer through the purchase process. There are other resources that could be more instrumental instead. Or, at the very least, in addition to. For example, installing pilot system as a proof of concept, a site visit to an installed account, a customer reference. Could you elaborate?

  5. David Dodd March 9, 2017 at 11:02 am (19 comments) #

    Andrew,

    I do not contend that content is the only way to advance a buyer through the purchase process. The techniques you mentioned – a pilot system, a visit with an existing customer, a customer reference – can all be important components of an effective demand generation system. What I do contend is that relevant, useful, and valuable content is necessary for effective demand generation in most kinds of B2B companies. (There are probably a few exceptions to this “rule,” but not many.)

    Any effective demand generation strategy must be based on the attributes and preferences of the buyers who make up the target market. So, the specific role that content plays in the overall marketing/sales “mix” can vary from company to company.

    In most cases, content is necessary for effective demand generation, but content alone is rarely sufficient for effective demand generation.

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