Content that Counts
The New Reality
Content shock and how to handle it
Dealing with the sheer volume of content that is published is the key to keeping content marketing effective and relevant.
For B2B marketers, ‘content shock’ is the current reality; content supply and demand has been thrown off balance by the sheer volume of content that is available.
Brands are all fighting for a limited audience attention capacity and the danger is that unless the content is of sufficient value for the audience, it gets lost. To make matters more challenging, in addition to the wealth of content that is already out there, competing for the attention of your target audience, there is also a plethora of content that offers advice on creating content – ironically adding to the content shock phenomenon. The content shock that we are experiencing has made it more challenging for brands to engage their target audience through content, but turning this on its head might be the answer. We are becoming increasingly productive, with more available time to consume content, so the challenge for marketers is developing a content strategy which exploits the opportunity. We think the opportunity may lie in using content shock as the strategy.
According to a recent study by Activate, people now have a 31-hour, 28- minute day, rather than a 24 hour day, simply due to the fact that they are multi-tasking their media consumption and physical tasks throughout the day. This means that the time available to consume content has increased, which is a positive sign for marketers. The challenge here is creating content that stands out amongst the clutter and grabs the audience’s attention. Some marketing experts would suggest that, to combat the effects of content shock, B2B marketers should create content shock for their competitors; in effect, content shock is the content marketing strategy.
Content supply and demand has been thrown off balance by the sheer volume of content that is available. So, what makes content 'count' now that we are in a state of 'shock'?
How do we define 'good' or 'valuable' content?
Getting your content in front of the right people is only half the battle; content strategy success is only achieved if the content that is consumed is deemed valuable by its readers. So, what makes a piece of content ‘good’? Is there a secret formula determining what works and what doesn’t? Is there such thing as the ‘ideal content’ for a niche audience, and do different audiences prefer different types of content? There are several variables to consider: format, length and level of detail can make or break the success of your content when it is distributed.
These considerations, combined with high content production costs and the content shock landscape mean that it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that the content you produce is as ‘effective’ as it can be. Primary research is an invaluable tool in understanding the content demands of your target audience.
The B2B Technology Marketing Group surveyed more than 600 tech marketers to find out the latest content trends and best practices. According to the results case studies are the most effective content subjects.
Format & Channels
What does the C-Suite want?
Forbes Insights and Deloitte recently surveyed 300 CXOs globally on their preferred types of content and content channels, to understand what the C-suite wants from thought leadership. The survey, “Thought Leadership in Action: Strategic Content to Help CXOs Learn and Lead,” showed that the most popular content type is the whitepaper (22%), followed by business books (21%). In contrast, webinars and videos are less popular (6% and 4% respectively), revealing a preference for long-form over short-form content. This may go against current thinking that shorter is better when it comes to content, as a lot of publishers are moving towards short, snappy content that can be read easily and quickly. That’s not to say that these bite-sized content pieces are not valuable, but they should be an additional asset in support of a longer form piece, rather than the focal point in an overall content strategy.
The C-suite’s preference for long-form content is not surprising. CXOs are looking for insight and information that helps them with their strategic approach to challenges and opportunities, which is difficult to capture in short-form content. More in-depth content strands, supported by case studies and detailed research, is more appropriate for a senior audience that already has a superficial knowledge of the topic being covered. It’s not just the type of content that is important to consider; you must also think about the formats and channels you will use to deliver it. Perhaps surprisingly, the Forbes Insights study found that digital isn’t always better, as half of the CXOs surveyed said that reading print is important to them and they prefer it as a format for longer form content. In a ‘digital first’ world, this is a reminder that we shouldn’t be discounting the enduring power of traditional print.
A good example of this is Airbnb, which launched a print magazine, Airbnbmag, in partnership with Hearst, in 2016. This could be considered an unexpected move for a company that is a disruptive innovator of the traditional business model. However, in a disposable digital world, the glossy, inspiring travel stories are made tangible and sensory – a great way to sell experiences.
Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb. Forbes.com
“There’s the possibility that print can be saved,” Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb told The Wall Street Journal “It isn’t ephemeral, as opposed to content on a feed that expires.”
Get it out there!
What makes the distribution of a piece of content successful?
Once you have created a piece of content, and decided on the preferred format and distribution channels, how do you judge individual success, in terms of distribution and reach? It’s one thing deciding on the primary channel you will use to deliver your content, and it’s another to drive traffic to that content. For example, when it comes to traditional print – which, as highlighted above, the C-suite are still in favour of – are you maximising your opportunities for influencers to share your content? The power of influencer marketing and word of mouth plays a huge part in this, particularly as content that is shared by someone you know, or someone who is a known influencer in their space, carries more influence than something you have come across by ‘push’ marketing, or by chance. When thinking about the impact of your content and subsequent action, you need to work backwards and consider who, and in what context, is more likely to motivate someone to absorb the content in full, to comment on it and to share it. Whatever paid-for distribution you invest in for your content should stimulate the organic reach and natural sharing. As part of this, marketers should be thinking about primary, secondary and tertiary audiences.
Another factor affecting your content’s visibility is accessibility. For example, having content that is freely available to view online, versus having downloadable content sitting behind a paywall. With content that is freely available for anyone to view, measuring ROI may be more difficult than paid for content, particularly when readers submit their data to view or download content. On the other hand, while the paywall option might allow you to monitor who is downloading and viewing your content, and gain leads through data capture, it may be limiting the visibility of your thought leadership. Having to pay for content does not necessarily dissuade audiences though. On the contrary, it can imply that the content is of sufficient value that it worth paying for, if the content is delivered via a trusted and well-known source to justify the investment. This is an advantage that comes with media brand-created content and endorsement, compared to content that comes from a brand directly. This thinking is supported by the recent study showing that The New York Times’ readership has been increasing since the point at which it introduced a metered paywall. What does this mean for marketers? If your audience finds the content is of value to them, they will read it.
Content and Beyond
Today's content challenges and where will content lead?
Some of the most common issues associated with a content-centric strategy are centred around time and resource requirements - things that B2B marketers are constantly under pressure to optimise.
B2B marketers are time-poor and often turn to outsourcing marketing content. However, no one knows the ins and outs of your business as well as you do, so there is a risk associated with outsourcing your content creation, in that the output may not fully align with, or represent, your brand and its messaging. If you do turn to outsourcing, ensure that the company or individual you employ to write your content invests the time required to get under the skin of your business, and uses primary research to inform their work. For example, researching the media landscape to identify the pain points being discussed by CXOs is a good way to pinpoint the themes that you should be covering in a content piece that is directed towards CXOs. Directly addressing the topics that your target audience is discussing in the media is a great way to ensure relevance and resonance with them. Finding a balance between outsourcing media research and using internal talent to create content based on this may be a good solution to time and resource constraints.
Ensure Relevance and Resonance
Speak to your clients directly about the biggest problems they are facing. Moreover, engaging with your audience to find out what kind of content they consume, and what content they consider useful, will help to inform your content strategy and to decrease your chances of ‘getting lost in the clutter,’ as it will give you direction in the type of content that will turn the heads of your audience. Leveraging social platforms can be a powerful tool in responding to your audiences’ pain points through content. Social media listening can help to uncover what your audiences are discussing online, and LinkedIn is a valuable source of data that could uncover insights into C-suite trends and behaviours. Similarly, another way to minimise the chances of your content being lost in the noise is creating content alongside a media partner, especially a well-respected brand such as a broad business media title, or a leading trade press title for more niche media spaces. This may be a good way to boost your own brand and create some high-level content that reaches a wider readership than your proprietary content would, simply thanks to the media provider’s amplification capabilities to its readers.
The Next Five Years
Marketers need to continuously adapt their strategies to new technologies, ideas, platforms and audience needs, so setting a strategy for the long-term is challenging, but could be ideal. In fact, there are seven major changes in content marketing that have been predicted to take place over the course of the next five years. These are:
- Content-generating algorithms;
- Greater demand for video;
- Virtual Reality integration;
- New publishing expectations, including app-based publishing, such as publishing content to an app directly, without publishing to a website first;
- Higher quality standards, as the overwhelming amount of available content increases;
- More interactive elements, including personalised rather than ‘mass-produced’ content; and
- Significant user curation.
Understandably, some of these predicted changes are more likely to have a bigger, positive impact than others. For example, content-generating algorithms, where, essentially, a machine is producing content for you, are not going to be as powerful as, say, app-based publishing when targeting niche audiences. Why is that? Machine-generated content is likely to focus on producing short reports based on quantitative data, lacking the depth and insights of traditional content by human writers.
On the other hand, the rise of app-based publishing will have a larger impact, both in terms of how the content is consumed by the audience, but also in terms of its implications on publishers. In-app content is easier to consume, as readers will not have to switch between webpages to consume different pieces of content. As a result, it could be that publishers end up with less traffic to their own website, and less control over who is able to view their content. Predictions around Virtual Reality and personalised content have the potential to truly impact the world of content, as more and more audiences are seeking experiential formats in which to consume content, as well as content that is tailored to their specific needs and interests. While it is good to be aware of predictions, to anticipate, and respond to, a changing content landscape, it is important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ content strategy. Best practice for your company could come from testing different strategies, and anticipating which of these predicted changes might have the biggest impact on your company, and the content that you produce.
So, what should B2B marketers aim for when creating content that counts?
The most valuable content is content that offers new information and perspectives, rather than rehashing ideas that CXOs have read about countless times before. Offering a fresh outlook is more likely to get your audience to sit up and listen to what you have to say, especially in a content landscape that is becoming more and more saturated. Focusing on primary research on your target audiences, in terms of the topics they are discussing, the pain points they are highlighting, and the individuals they consider influencers, will provide the intelligence and understanding required to create content that counts. To create relevant content, it is good to reflect current trends to show that you are knowledgeable on what’s going on in the market, especially if you are looking at issues that your target audience is talking about directly in the media. To extend this, rather than simply being informative, the most successful content is useful in a practical way. How? By guiding strategy, answering a question or solving a problem that the reader is experiencing, therefore offering practical advice with tangible outcomes. Not only will this demonstrate your knowledge of your audience’s pain points, but it will also position your own brand as the expert that can help to tackle these issues. Achieving this goes one step further than knowing your audience, and taps into knowing your subject, or your area of expertise. Marrying the two will equip you with content that goes beyond creating ‘content for content’s sake’ and really delivers something valuable to your audience.
How we can help
What is unique about EI Advisory?
- Primary research
- Media supplier mapping
- Independent opinion
- Detailed reporting
- Negotiate and support for integrated B2B sponsorships
EI Advisory offers B2B media intelligence services to global organisations, giving independent analysis and insight to clients, based on primary research and years of expertise in media markets.
EI has clients both in the UK and overseas, and specialises in, but is not limited to, financial services, professional services and tech firms. No matter the industry,
Since its inception in 2007, EI has built extensive research capabilities across a number of media markets. Using its database of over 8000 international suppliers, EI tracks activities including events, broad business media, trade media and business schools within a particular media space, identifying the leading opportunities for clients
We focus on creating integrated target audience engagement plans through:
•Face to Face opportunities
EI always works to identify the best opportunities for B2B marketers to achieve their goals, be it thought leadership, brand awareness or lead generation.
A small selection of the companies we work for