Content is king, and that’s not going to change any time soon. It can deliver results at every stage of the funnel for enterprise sales team in virtually every industry. Especially as account-based marketing (ABM) becomes more widespread, the importance of quality, targeted content for enterprise sales teams is only going to increase. After all, it generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing—and costs 62 percent less. So why is so much content marketing just so bad?
In this piece, we’ll break down what brands are doing wrong at various funnel stages and provide tips (with examples) for what sales and marketing teams can do to create or commission content that resonates with buyers and starts conversations.
Know your audience
Before you even think about creating content, you have to understand what your target audience—in this case, your key account prospects—are struggling with. What are their pain points? What industry trends would they find compelling and instructive? Sure, you could guess and produce content that might appeal to a general marketing audience, say, or a typical IT buyer. Or you could produce much more tightly targeted content that appeals to challenges or interests you know they have.
Your best bet is by finding a source that knows your targets’ organizations and what key decision-makers find compelling. It could be a current or former employee within your network, or even someone you reach out to via a professional network. You can also leverage content insights from an ABM platform that provides content recommendations based on the behavior of your targets. Or, in an ideal world, both. An ABM platform’s recommendations vetted by an insider is a killer one-two punch for pinning down what your audience wants.
Customize your content
Once you’ve identified key topics your audience members are interested in, you’ve got to develop content that targets them at different stages of the buying journey. Just like your sales funnel, your content strategy should be based around a funnel that starts with awareness and ends with conversion. But you can’t just push the same content to your prospects as they move down the funnel. Instead, you’ve got to get increasingly specific as they move from top to bottom.
- Top-of-funnel: Focus on content that covers trends and industry insights. Formats like blog posts and infographics are reliable here, as are white papers and ebooks. Top-of-funnel pieces should be SEO-friendly and largely evergreen, meaning that they stay relevant regardless of season.
- Mid-funnel: Dive deeper in to problems and solutions here. Think pieces, features, and blog posts that address key problems and pain points are ideal. Make it clear that you’re aware of their challenges and have a comprehensive understanding of the available solutions.
- Bottom-of-funnel: Now that you’re ready to go for the sale, introduce content specific to how you can help your prospects overcome their challenges. Case studies, customer testimonial videos, and the like should be deployed here—and only here.
Now that you’ve got a high-level understanding in place, it’s time to talk about creating the content itself.
Deliver utility—not brand mentions
Let’s say you’d like to refinish your deck. You Google “how to refinish a deck,” and up pops a post from a large hardware retailer.
“Refinishing your deck can be a challenge—but not with DeckGloss One, the latest deck sealant from HomeDepartment.com.”
You’re going to roll your eyes and close that tab immediately. Believe it or not, your audience feels exactly the same way. That’s because once a brand inserts a single product mention, readers’ trust drops almost 30 percent.
When they come to your content, your audience is looking for real utility—in the form of education, advice, insight, or instructions. They want to learn about how to solve a pressing problem; that’s their priority, not your bright shiny new platform. Just ask yourself: “Would I read this through to the end?” If not, rethink your approach.
Analyze and adjust
Content marketing isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Much as you’re constantly adjusting your sales pitches and refining your messaging, you’ve got to continuously adjust your content strategy based on performance.
Start by examining metrics that matter at different funnel stages. At the top, you’re looking for page views, uniques, sessions, and social shares. You’ll also be looking for pages per session, which show that your audience is following CTAs and links to other content on your site.
In the middle of the funnel, look for time-on-site, which will gauge how long your audience is staying on a given story. Obviously, longer is better. If you’re seeing an average time-on-site of less than a minute, you need to make adjustments. Audit your content for quality and make sure you aren’t using bait-and-switch headlines. As your content game matures, you’ll also want to start measuring return viewers, which provides insight into whether or not you’re building a loyal audience that returns to consume additional content.
At the bottom of the funnel, the only metric that matters is conversion—for instance, your prospects are requesting demos or asking to speak to a sales rep to learn more.
You should be reporting on each of these metrics monthly and quarterly, and adjusting your content when you see metrics failing at each stage of the funnel. For example, if you’re not getting enough overall traffic, you might need to retool your approach to SEO or adjust the topics you cover. If you’re finding that people aren’t making their way to the bottom of the funnel, you should analyze the behavior flow of your readers using Google Analytics to see where their interest is tapering off.
Remember: You’re going to need to continually retool and adjust your topics and how you cover them based on performance, which leads us to our next point…
Play the long game
Content marketing isn’t a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. In fact, there’s no finish line at all. You’re never done when it comes to content marketing, so strap in for the long haul. You’re going to need to allocate resources accordingly and determine who’s in charge of producing content and monitoring its performance. If you’ve got internal resources who can write, design, and post content, great. If not, consider engaging a content partner who can understand your business, its audience, and the content
they’re looking for.
If there’s no long-term plan in place with clearly delineated owners at every stage of the process, you’re going to lose momentum quickly. That usually results in creating poor-quality content that doesn’t work or even no content at all—and that means you’re leaving money on the table.
Never stop learning
What you just read is Content Marketing 101—something sorely (and sadly) needed by too many enterprise revenue teams. Consider subscribing to blogs and newsletters from expert sources like Buffer, HubSpot, and the Content Marketing Institute. Tactics and technologies are constantly evolving, you’ll want to stay ahead in order to create content that continues to resonate with your prospects.
Great content marketing takes time and effort, but when done right, it’ll drive leads and help you sell more effectively. And the flip side is that if you’re not delivering the content your prospects want, your competitors will.
Content marketing is both cheaper and more effective than traditional marketing, but many enterprise revenue teams still struggle with producing valuable content (or producing any content at all). Start by identifying your audience and its needs, and customizing your content to meet those needs at every stage of the funnel. From there, focus on delivering value, and continually adjust your approach based on performance—you’ll have far greater success at driving leads and conversions.
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