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E-commerce and digital marketing consultant James Gurd is the author of our new B2B Content Marketing Best Practice Guide, which we've published this week in the build-up to our inaugural FUNNEL event on 1 November in London.
Below, he answers some questions about his 104-page report.
What inspired you to write this guide?
So much is written about B2C but the principles of good content marketing apply equally to B2B businesses and there are a lot of B2B marketers out there who don't have an e-commerce background (though I'd hasten to add there are also a lot of savvy digital marketers in B2B, you just need to dig more online to find the examples).
I thought it would help people at all levels of B2B marketing and e-commerce teams to appreciate the commercial importance of content marketing and give them a structure for planning and executing campaigns.
Often, the main reason people aren't making the most of their content is because they don't understand its full potential. To realise this, you need to map the different formats and distribution channels available and invest in those most relevant to your content and audience. Hopefully this guide will help people to make these decisions, or at least focus their efforts better.
Recent research by Econsultancy and Adobe found that marketers are more likely to agree than disagree that “content marketing is more important than advertising". Why has content marketing suddenly become such a hot topic?
Because people have realised that the tools are there to measure and analyse its impact. Web analytics gives people the insight to make business decisions and marketers can prove the financial and non-financial benefits that content is providing.
Another reason is the tightening of purse strings and an increasingly competitive marketplace. People need to make the most of all their assets and content is a key asset. It costs to produce any piece of content, even if the cost is an internal overhead, so business leaders are wanting to validate that the investment is justified.
Lead generation occurs via so many channels now and it's possible to prove which ones give the best ROI as well as establishing the attribution effect between offline and online channels.
What kind of audience and job roles is the report relevant for?
It's primarily geared towards B2B marketers who are responsible for strategy and planning. Content is intrinsically linked to marketing strategy because you can't market without content.
It's also relevant for graduates and people taking their first steps into B2B marketing because it gives a broad evaluation of the content marketing landscape and the tools and techniques that you need to master.
B2B covers a lot of different types of business. Is it relevant for a range of different types of B2B companies?
Yes it's relevant for everyone. In the report I've tried my best to be industry agnostic because I believe in discussing good practice and solid marketing principles and it would be wrong to position myself as an industry-specific expert. These principles can be broadly applied to any business.
That said, there are clearly differences in the way content marketing is being managed based on company size, type and industry. I think the most important differentiator is the complexity of the sales cycle. Long, complicated cycles involving multiple decision makers require a more detailed content marketing plan to cater for audience diversity.
Is there anything in this report for a business-to-consumer audience?
Yes, because content marketing is a basic principle of good marketing and communication, so the content formats and distribution channels are broadly the same. To be an effective digital marketer you have to understand the basics of content marketing regardless of the industry in which you operate. The case studies and examples, however, are targeted at the B2B audience.
Are there any obvious pitfalls for companies?
A major pitfall is to try and do everything or to put all your eggs in one basket. The advice I'd give is to start small and grow. Make sure you have thought through how you measure your content marketing activity, then run campaigns and use the analytics tools to validate performance.
You can fine-tune performance over time to increase ROI and then divest budget into new content formats and channels. If you try to do too much you risk diluting the effectiveness because you won't have the time to plan and analyse in detail.
All eggs in one basket is an easy temptation given the industry's love of bandwagon jumping. There are always flavours of the month, and you could be tempted to put all your efforts into the latest buzz word. Social media is a good example. In itself, it is neither a good nor bad distribution channel. How you use it determines how effective it can be.
There are case studies for both sides of the spectrum - great successes and spectacular failures. So before you produce content and distribute it to your audience, think carefully about what you are doing, why, who you are doing it for, how they will access it and how you will measure the impact.
Econsultancy's B2B Content Marketing Best Practice Guide is available for download here.