How to use content effectively at each stage of the funnel, from awareness to lead generation, lead management to sales and retention?

I moderated a discussion at Econsultancy’s Digital Cream event yesterday about B2B content marketing and this was among the many things we talked about.

Of course, one of the discussion points was how to ensure content is good, ergo in the right format and length most appropriate for the customer’s location in the funnel, as well as best suited to your specific product and sector.

Creating good content may also entail curating content held internally, making sure that it is repurposed in ways that suit the customer, perhaps dialling down some of the technical fervour within your organisation to make things easily ‘digestible’.

But aside from these myriad discussions about content formats (what it takes to be a good writer/editor/producer, who should create the content and how often) there was a bigger beast to slay.

That beast is a mess of data that may be inaccurate. A consensus that the buying journey often affords a company only ‘one shot at a customer’ was clear for many of the people I talked to. Having good data and a good contact strategy is key.

In this post I thought I’d continue the spirit of Digital Cream and spark discussion of combining content with customer data. I’ve also shared an infographic from Experian Data Quality, discussing data quality more generally, and the impact it has on businesses.

To start there was an agreement that the customer can be lost easily, she is sensitive about being contacted at the wrong time or with the wrong content. This means that data collection has to be done correctly, with buying third party data becoming something that some find too risky.

Once data is clean and represents a pool of aware customers, it’s clear companies need to have contact strategies well defined from the start.

Content can’t be curated or created without knowing what the contact strategy is going to look like, and it’s unwise to start hitting customers with messaging, without any foresight into ‘what next?’.

Of course, the complexity deepens once the ball is rolling and you are targeting your customers with content and moving them through the purchase process. More data comes rolling in and depending on what companies are tracking and what’s feeding into a CRM and automation platform, there’s the potential for data to be further obfuscated.

Clearly, attribution is improving but it can be hard to track customers across call centres, email and social, especially when many may switch between email and social profiles. There’s also the problem of tracking mobile interaction. Whilst this may be minimal for big ticket, considered purchases in B2B, it’s not a device to be discounted, nor is the tablet.

Of course, a lot of companies, perhaps particularly in B2B, are sifting through content in a fairly manual way, but this is another area that data will increasingly play a part. Is your content shared across your organisation and appropriately tagged up and curated to allow sales and marketing to access it easily?

This is another tension in the B2B funnel. More esoteric product knowledge associated with thought leaders traditionally sits outside of marketing and sales. How is this brought to the people who need it on the sales front line? Knowledge is data, after all.

So, now you’ve listened to me ramble, it’d be great to hear from the practitioners. Let me know, within reason, what challenges you’re facing when ensuring data quality, whether in B2B or B2C, and how this marries with providing content to customers.

And here’s the infographic on the damage that poor data quality is doing to companies’ revenue. You can read the full study here.

(click to enlarge)

data quality infographic