In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
No matter how much you believe in the benefits of content or are committed to creating a content strategy, it can be a struggle to execute a successful content marketing approach. In working with a variety of B2B firms across a range of industries, I’ve discovered six common challenges facing marketing professionals and executives when it comes to content marketing.
1. Internal resistance
It can be difficult to get internal buy-in for a content marketing initiative (or, let’s face it, for any marketing initiative). Many people assume that content marketing is more about PR and sales blogs than anything else. They don’t necessarily understand how effective content marketing is for attracting leads, nurturing them through the sales funnel, closing them and retaining existing clients—all of which impact sales and revenue.
However, in order to create and implement an effective B2B content marketing plan, it’s imperative to have internal buy-in and support. The best way to get the internal team on board (including sales) is to educate them about how content marketing impacts sales and revenue. I’ve found statistics and case studies to be the best forms of proof for convincing internal stakeholders about the efficacy of content marketing.
Here are a few statistics on B2B marketing:
- 51 per cent of B2B buyers rely on content to research buying decisions*
- 47 per cent of buyers viewed 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging a sales representative*
- 95 per cent of B2B buyers consider vendor-related content to be trustworthy*
2. Lack of a clear strategy
Did you know that 70 per cent of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy? Lack of a clear strategy is one of the largest challenges facing B2B marketers today. It’s difficult to determine where to go, how to get there and the potential results if you don’t have a clear strategy mapped out. The issue is that many marketers don’t feel they have the time to sit down and map out a clear, cohesive strategy.
There are a few solutions for this:
- Hire an internal content strategist/manager
- Work with a content marketing agency
- Create your own simple strategy to execute
The first two solutions make the most sense since you want to work with an expert in content marketing. The last solution is often the most difficult because if you struggle to find time to create a strategy, you likely don’t have the time to implement that strategy.
The good news is that a content strategy doesn’t need to start out as a large, complicated approach. It can start with a professional website and a six-month editorial calendar of blog topics. Simply writing out the topics to cover in the next few months and where to share/promote those topics can be the start of a long-term strategy.
3. Not enough resources
As a long-time digital marketer, I know that not many organizations have large marketing departments. In fact, it’s more common to see a marketing department of up to five people, which may or may not include a copywriter. A serious lack of resources (human, time and budget) is a challenge faced by many marketers in the B2B sector as well.
The truth is that content marketing cannot be successfully performed without the right investment of resources, like content marketing staff and budget. An excellent way to address this challenge is to start small, show efficacy and earn the investment of resources over time.
Ideally, a B2B firm’s blog posts should be written by a professional writer. However, in many cases, it’s written by an internal subject matter expert (SME) and polished by the marketing team, or it’s written by a professional writer who interviews the SME. The first option saves budgetary resources but takes an investment of time on behalf of the SME and the marketing team. The second option typically takes a monetary investment but reduces the amount of time spent by the SME and the marketing team.
While it may not be easy to change the amount of resources at your disposal, you can determine how best to invest the ones that you do have. Again, statistics show that 75 per cent of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing. If all of your competitors are increasing their investment in content, can you afford not to invest?
4. Content is considered boring
Working primarily with B2B firms, I’m exposed to a variety of topics, specialties and expertise, and I’ve never found it boring. However, a common concern that we hear from current and potential clients is that their field isn’t exciting, so any content created will be boring. Many B2B marketers refrain from producing content for this very reason.
The easy solution to overcome this challenge is to create exciting, engaging content. The best way to do that is to put yourself in your potential client’s shoes. Why does your content matter to them? What motivates them? What are their pain points? How can you provide content that helps solve their problems? Write a blog that doesn’t discuss features but instead discusses problems and solutions. Solving a problem is exciting, and your content can be exciting, too.
5. The Website is difficult to update
The core of an effective content marketing strategy is a great, professional website. In the B2B world, many marketers are saddled with a website that is outdated and difficult to update. As the digital face of your firm’s brand, your website should be current and easy to update. While it makes sense to limit access to a brand’s website, the marketing team should always have access to the backend of the website to make updates, add content and remove outdated content.
If a B2B firm’s website is difficult to update, I always recommend a new website. As the central lead generation point of a digital marketing strategy, it needs to support all the digital marketing efforts and create a great user experience. If the most basic updates are tough to make, it’s going to be a bigger struggle to add a new page, blog post, case study or infographic.
6. Internal review is cumbersome
There is a Winston Churchill quote that I find helpful in marketing: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” As marketers, we can become obsessed with getting things just right. The truth is that most of the time, our clients don’t care about the things we spend a lot of time obsessing over. This is especially true when it comes to content marketing. While all of the content you create should be grammatically correct and coherent, it doesn’t need to be flawless.
A common issue I see that stalls out the progress of content creation and promotion for B2B industries is getting bogged down with perfecting the content. In many cases, the internal review process is too cumbersome, or there are too many folks involved in the process. It’s ideal to have at least two people review a piece of content (besides the author/designer), but more than three often slows down the progress of content creation. As long as the content is on message, is grammatically correct, is coherent and is adding value, there is no need to delay it from being posted, promoted and shared. If you don’t post a blog, 100 percent of your visitors won’t be able to read it.
Creating valuable, usable content can prove to be a significant source of revenue and lead generation for a B2B marketing firm. While there are several challenges that are unavoidable, they can be overcome with the right approach, resources and solutions.
*Source: DemandGen Report
About the author
Jeremy Durant is the business principal and co-founder of Bop Design, a B2B web design and digital marketing firm. He works closely with clients to develop their unique value proposition and ideal customer profile. He received his bachelor’s degree from Merrimack College and his MBA from California State University–San Marcos. His writing has been featured in EContent Magazine, PublishThis, Marketing Agency Insider, Visibility Magazine and Spin Sucks.
- This article originally appeared in the CMO Council Marketing Magnified newsletter, November 2016.