In 2011, marketers began saying that "content marketing is more important than advertising" and given the growth of content marketing in 2012, it would appear that they meant what they said.
And not just in the consumer space. Although selling content marketing to leadership has been a challenge for some B2B marketers, the use of content marketing at B2B organizations is growing rapidly.
As B2B marketers become more familiar with content marketing specifically, best practices are emerging. But that doesn't mean that mistakes aren't being made. Here are five of the biggest.
#1: Overemphasizing external distribution channels
Distribution is crucial to any successful content marketing effort and for an obvious reason: great content can't deliver great results unless it finds its way into the hands of the right people.
Unfortunately, many companies overemphasize external distribution channels. While there's a role for, say, press releases and social media, content marketing space, it's important not to underestimate the importance of building up homegrown channels, such as your company's own website. When used properly, a company website can be a powerful distribution channel and highly effective lead generator.
#2: Not segmenting
Segmentation is a big part of B2B content marketing. It's very difficult to produce ROI if you don't identify your target audiences, develop content relevant to them and deliver that content through the segment-appropriate channels.
The bad news: many B2B content marketers aren't thoughtful about who their company needs to reach, which messages will resonate best with decision-makers and how to reliably get those messages in front of them.
#3: Dumbing the content down
Content targeted toward a B2B audience must, like in the B2C world, be compelling. Design and presentation do matter. But many companies are fooled into believing that the sizzle is where it's at. The reality, however, is that with B2B content, a snazzy infographic or controversial blog post can draw eyeballs, but to successfully sell your products and services, presenting the steak -- the what, how and why of your offering -- matters.
#4: Being too impersonal
B2B shouldn't stand for "boring to businesspeople." Yes, B2B content marketing probably isn't going to be as fun or edgy as B2C content marketing, but that doesn't mean that it should be bland and impersonal.
There's certainly a place for some of the most popular formats in a B2B content marketer's toolkit, such as case studies, white papers and infographics, but too many companies sell themselves short by thinking that content marketing can't be more than PDFs containing pretty graphics and charts.
At the end of the day, deals are closed by people, not bits and bytes or pieces of paper. So be creative and think about how your business can use content to introduce its people to the world, not just its products and services.
#5: Not evaluating ROI based on the sales cycle
Companies are increasingly aware of the importance of measuring the results of marketing campaigns, but measurement is meaningless if you're not measuring the right things.
The B2B sales cycle can be complex, and it's highly variable depending on industry and even company. As such, measurement of content marketing initiatives requires alignment to the sales cycle to ensure that sales driven or influenced by content marketing efforts are captured, and accurately attributed. This is something that many companies don't do, or don't yet do well enough.