Applying the 80/20 Rule for Content Marketing

The idea of not talking about yourself is counter-intuitive for many B2B marketers.

Look at most B2B high growth tech companies and they’ve missed the entire concept of creating TOFU (Top of the Funnel) content. They think that promoting their sexy brand is what potential customers want to see. Without a compelling reason or context, this content goes unnoticed and if you look more closely, never gets acknowledged or shared (except by their own employees).

This results in about 80% of content produced about themselves and 20% about their customers. For inbound, it should be the opposite and the 80% should include content about customer problems—not about how your brand solved them.

What’s worse, the majority of their large marketing budgets go to more self-promoting customer events where these marketers shamelessly put themselves on stage with all their glory thinking that this content can be reused or repurposed to attract prospects.

Go to their website and it is more of the same. They present themselves according to how they perceive themselves, not in eyes of someone who has never even fathomed their technology exists. Paid and earned media brings only branded referrals at best and their page abandon rates are consistently high.

So where’s the disconnect?

What’s behind the avoidance? Everyone has heard of HubSpot and invested in demand generation teams, channels and tactics…but they don't feed these channels with content that will resonate with their target audience.

96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. (Hubspot Demand Gen Report, 2016)

We can only speculate but in my experience, it comes down to two things.

  1. Overinflated Egos. Everyone has been drinking the Koolaid and thinks much too highly of themselves and they can’t contain it. ‘Brand’ is misconstrued for the act of self promotion. The concept of not talking about yourself, or your competitors directly and developing content that actually describes the problem you’re trying to solve in an intimate way (i.e. not talking about yourself at all) is simply foreign.

  2. It’s Hard. There is a lot of work involved in defining ICP (Ideal Customer Profile), buyer personas, editorial and audience development. What’s more, applying this knowledge requires a re-engineering of your marketing talent and assets. And then there is the development of this content which is hardest of all. Signifiant copyrighting resources and help from product marketing to create a myriad of content for different channels is expensive and time consuming.

What’s at stake?

It’s pretty simple. Do a cost benefit analysis on lead generation, quality and pipeline influence and you’ll understand how this investment fails.

It pays to have a documented content marketing strategy

Marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are more likely to succeed than those without one. 
—2018 Content Marketing Institute Survey Results

Getting relief from the echo chamber.

Here’s how you avoid this common pitfall and make the shift.

  1. Begin with developing comprehensive buyer persona profiles and/or target-account profiles based on in-depth research (e.g., closed-loop insights from your MAP and CRM data, sales and customer success teams, customer interviews, predictive analytics models, etc.).

  2. Develop a content strategy, audience insights, and audience development—map the content to personas at each stage of the buying process. Evaluate your content strategy periodically based on its persona messaging alignment, goals, themes, premium content and assets, distribution or owned media (blog, website, search, social and webinars) and paid media (syndication, events, sponsorships, display, paid search, etc.).

  3. Look to commission original journalism and personal essays from professional journalists who have written for industry and/or mainstream media. It turns out that typically when pitched stories about business problems and those that experience them they’re interested in developing real stories.

  4. Create a customer insights and analytics/operations team (if you don’t already have one) to build out marketing automation (including artificial intelligence) to personalize content for target audiences and create a vehicle for having one-to-one conversations.

  5. Develop storytelling content that supports an emotional connection. Rather than brand promotion, it’s leverages a brand story that reinforces the brand commitment and values. Buyers make decisions on emotion most of all and that comes from identifying with a brand that connects with them on an emotional level.

This all should make sense but it amazes me when I see so much avoidance. As the Content Marketing Institute suggests success relies on an interconnected web of processes around creating strategies; driving traffic, engagement, and conversions; and measuring and optimizing, based on learnings.

If there’s a gap in any of those areas, it’ll compromise your program’s effectiveness.