TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Why Content Marketing is Important
- The Biggest Challenge Comes from Within
- 5 Content Marketing Challenges & Solutions
- Content is Everything
Why content marketing is important for B2B
In simple terms, Content Marketing is how a business communicates their solutions and services to their customers and potential customers. From sharing educational tips to showcasing your company values and delivering product details, content marketing encompasses all of your communications with customers.
Content marketing is important for B2B businesses as it provides a vehicle for building relationships, credibility and trust amongst target customers. In the long term, this trust drives revenue and growth.
Without content marketing, a B2B business would have to rely on word of mouth which, although great on a small scale, doesn’t really support ambitious growth plans.
However, the degree to which content marketing reaches the right audience(s) is a key challenge for marketers.
Getting the right message across to the right people, at the right time is ultimately the purpose of effective marketing.
How that message is conveyed has shifted dramatically since the internet. And it continues to change as digital channels evolve and new ones are introduced.
Although content marketing predates the internet (think of Michelin guides in the early 20th century as an early example), in this day and age it is mainly concerned with content that is tailored to different digital channels.
The biggest challenges come from within
Many B2B businesses have a raft of content marketing challenges that seem commonplace in the industry.
And when you examine them closely, it seems they all emanate from one source…
Whether it’s the business culture, operational constraints or a simple lack of investment and/or belief in content marketing from the leadership team, the main challenge of content marketing is often the business itself.
So how can you navigate these challenges, and keep your content strategy on track?
5 content marketing challenges – and how to overcome them
Challenge: Competing business demands
Content marketing teams in B2B businesses are often under-resourced.
A 2021 survey by the Content Marketing Institute indicates that 41% of large enterprise businesses (1000+ employees) have content marketing teams that consist of only 2-5 people.
This resourcing issue is exacerbated when there are competing demands for content from internal teams.
The content team is already stretched when suddenly there is a request (often last minute) from the Product Team, or Sales or other internal stakeholder to produce a piece of content for an upcoming event or other purpose.
For example, an event brochure, sales deck or product one pager that wasn’t previously reflected in the content calendar.
The planned content strategy gets put on hold whilst the urgent request is addressed.
When this issue is repeated often enough, it can eat into resources allocated for other campaigns and content – and even impact the results the marketing and content teams are able to achieve.
Now I’m certainly not advocating ignoring internal ad hoc content requests! The crux of the problem is a lack of resources. Or a lack of adequate flexibility to facilitate additional resources as and when they are required.
This problem is as much a responsibility for project management and operations as it is for the content team.
In addition to permanent content team members, the business should have a pool of trusted freelancers they can call on to address needs that fall outside of the scope of a planned content strategy, in a timely manner.
There will always be urgent requests for content from departments – this is simply a fact of life. Having content talent on tap, to address unforeseen requests helps keep permanent staff costs down whilst addressing additional content resource issues.
When planning the content strategy for the week, month or quarter, the marketing team should also allocate some time for ad hoc requests. Project management tools such as Asana can help the team to assess capacity and avoid overloading content creators.
Challenge: No/limited access to customers
All good marketing needs to start with WHO.
Who you are targeting will define the final strategy and dictate which channels to focus on for your content marketing efforts.
Carrying out thorough persona research prior to creating content is absolutely essential and the best source of information for this, is actual customers.
However, this can range from being difficult to almost impossible.
There may be a number of reasons for this.
To support a strong B2B SEO strategy, I always ask if it is possible to speak with a customer(s) when onboarding a new client.
Nobody is better placed than customers themselves when it comes to explaining their key challenges and the motivations which led them to buying from a business in the first place.
This knowledge is invaluable and can be used to underpin keyword research and other content so that the outputs are hyper-focused around prospects’ challenges – giving your content the best chance of success!
If access to customers isn’t possible, speaking to Sales or Customer Support is a good alternative.
These teams will have insight into what makes the customer tick – ask for call recordings or see if you can sit in on some prospecting calls, even if you can’t interview customers directly.
This information is priceless when it comes to creating content that resonates with the intended audience.
Challenge: Lack of content process
How many times have restrictive brand guidelines and a convoluted sign off process slowed the progress of content actually getting published?
What generally happens is the people who have the power to sign off are inundated with other commitments; it takes time to review, feedback and sign off on a piece of content.
Most pieces of content go through a few reviewers within the marketing team first. Then, other teams across the business often need to be involved too – for example, finance needs to sign off the stats being included in a report or the leadership team wants to ensure it’s in line with their strategy. And in larger businesses, there’s also a brand team who will want to ensure it’s on brand.
Sometimes teams can spend hours producing a great piece only for it to go back to the drawing board.. Sound familiar?
The key issue here is a lack of clear process.
As well as frustrating for the team members involved, not having the right content approval workflow in place can significantly slow content output and can actually impact your ability to win new business and drive revenue.
And it’s a common problem. According to the Content Marketing Institutes’s content management strategy survey 41% of businesses still don’t have a formal content workflow in place.
Implementing a content workflow and communicating this with all stakeholders within the business, can help smooth your content production process. It ensures everyone knows what is expected from their role in the process and ultimately leads to more approvals and greater content efficiency.
As part of the workflow, communicate to reviewers when each round of feedback is needed to keep the content on schedule.
This will also empower the content creators to do what they do best, and keep creating great content!
It’s also important to remember that content teams need a certain amount of autonomy – they’re the experts after all. Where possible it’s best to limit the number of reviewers to avoid content by committee. If an agreed Editorial Mission Statement for content has been set, then there are really very few situations where leadership should need to be involved.
Challenge: Unclear content briefs
A strategy based on insights about the ideal customer should be central to good content marketing.
And it is the job of a content brief to guide the creation process to ensure that the strategy is followed.
Having unclear briefs hinders content production as it results in back and forth Slack messages, email or Zoom calls as questions arise and need to be answered for the writing to progress.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person creating the content. What do they need to know in order to bring your vision to life?
Clear content briefs help the writer and ensure a smooth transition from strategy to reality. A good content brief to support blog development should include the following:
- Intended audience and buyer persona information
- Target keywords and synonyms
- Search intent
- Word count
- Top ranking content for reference – ask the question how the top ranking content can be improved upon
- Internal linking recommendations
- How content should be structured into subsections
Challenge: Expecting ROI too soon
This is a challenge common to content teams and often the wider marketing team in general. People outside of these business areas have a tendency to expect results overnight.
They may have the idea that as soon as content is published, leads will suddenly come pouring in, quickly followed by sales and revenue.
This is the wrong way to think about content.
Effective content marketing works by building trust amongst a target audience first.
Not everyone is ready to purchase your product, but with the right content, you can nurture them all the way from the awareness stage through to consideration and purchase.
A prospect might consume your content for a whole year before ultimately deciding to buy your solution – however, without the right content in place, you won’t build this trust and they’ll be consuming your competitor’s content instead.
Ultimately seeing ROI from your content strategy takes time.
It’s a long-term play. But it’s very worthwhile.
(Tracking this ROI can be another challenge as the buying journey isn’t linear – but that’s a topic for another blog.)
There needs to be better communication internally about the importance of content marketing and how it benefits the business, both in the short and long-term.
Running sessions with senior leadership to communicate the need for investment in a strong content strategy and to set realistic expectations is a must. Agree on key metrics to report on monthly, quarterly and annually.
Having an Editorial Mission Statement will help ensure that everybody in the business is on the same page; unrealistic expectations can put unnecessary pressure on the team so communicating clearly can help reduce the likelihood of this.
Content is everything
Content is the essence of online marketing. Without it, there is no marketing!
The main challenges inherent with content marketing often lie within the business itself. Whether it is a lack of resources, unrealistic expectations or minimal access to key insights needed for content creation, the business has the means to overcome these common obstacles by taking a step back and putting the right processes and strategies in place.
Key in surmounting these obstacles is an organisation that fully understands and appreciates the merits of content marketing. Leadership teams that are fully invested in content will reap the rewards in terms of reputation, customer satisfaction and indeed revenue.
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