We had the pleasure of sitting down with Christine Polewarczyk, Research Director in the Content Strategy and Operations service at SiriusDecisions, to ask our most burning questions around marketing’s greatest challenges. Read on for part one in a three-part series.
One of content marketing’s biggest challenges is creating relevant, targeted content. To you, what does “the right content for the right customer at the right time” mean?
To me, “right audience, right content, right time” is the new marketing mandate. It’s challenging ourselves as marketers to leverage a blend of audience insights, multichannel marketing prowess, and integrated content strategy to deliver content and interactions that are contextual and relevant to where the buyer is in their journey.
The digital era has really empowered buyers to control much more of the experiences that they have with companies. Our research at SiriusDecisions shows that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now completed digitally. The key to delivering the right content to the right audience at the right time is all about understanding audiences, their behaviors, needs and preferences, and then tailoring content and interactions to meet audiences where they are—in their journey, on their preferred channels, with their preferred asset types, on the topics that interest them most.
Having strong audience prioritization, personas, audience-centric messaging, and value propositions are foundational elements to achieving this goal. Companies need to focus on getting this right first and making sure they have a differentiated position and voice in the market.
From there, they need to bring that to life by building a content strategy that contextualizes that messaging and makes it consistently and persistently relevant to the audience as they progress through the evolution of the customer experience they are building with your brand and offerings.
Why is delivering the right content for the right customer at the right time not only important, but also critical? What benefits could one expect to see? What proof points already exist?
In many ways, content is the universal variable in driving customer interactions whether they be at an event, in a search engine, on social sites, or through email interactions with a sales rep. Many B2B organizations that we work with understand the value of doing content marketing, for example, to build awareness and drive inbound traffic and leads.
However, too few have done a content audit and inventory and mapped and tagged their content to key attributes that allow for content sequencing and delivery based on audience segment, journey stage, offering, vertical, program type, and so forth.
Many also tend to be focused on top-of-funnel asset creation but are lacking an integrated content strategy that considers the knowledge requirements of the buyer through the full journey. For example, our 2016 Sales Content Survey revealed that buyers are consuming an average of 6-8 content assets per journey stage (education, solution, selection) per sales rep that they engage with during a purchasing process.
This is incredibly significant because it indicates how important sales reps are as a “distribution channel” for content. Also interesting is the fact that buyers rated industry-related articles produced by the vendor as a “top 10 most impactful content type” in every single stage of the buyer’s journey.
So that “top of funnel” thought leadership content is not just relevant to the education stage of the buyer’s journey, but wanted and impactful all the way through.
“Right content, right place, right time” is not only a mandate to marketers for serving external audiences; it’s also a call to action to make sure that content is tagged to sales stages—and all the core attributes I already mentioned—to make it easily findable by sales teams. This is essential to support those critical content-driven interactions that sales is having with buyers after the “handoff” from marketing.
How do you actually execute the delivery of right content to the right customer at the right time?
So I’ve already touched on this, but I think it’s worth emphasizing again that it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that “right content, right customer, right time” is something that must be considered within the context of external AND internal audiences. Content findability, quality, and relevance issues are not only issues for external audiences, but are rampant within B2B organizations trying to serve their cross-functional marketing and sales teams across roles and regions.
So as companies start thinking about whether their content ecosystems are delivering on this core tenant, they need to be thinking about making sure their communications, demand, digital, field, and sales teams, just to name a few, also have access to the right content, in the right place at the right time.
One of the biggest gaps in delivering on this goal right now for B2B organizations is a fragmented, dysfunctional, or immature end-to-end content lifecycle. The most typical causes are:
- Poor role clarity across the teams and individuals that contribute to the content lifecycle
- Undefined, unclear, or sub-optimal cross-functional content processes, workflows
- Lack of content analytics and measurement capabilities to inform and refine content planning and workflows based on process and performance metrics
Immature or outdated infrastructure and tools exacerbate all of these issues. B2B companies need to adopt a common vocabulary and framework to talk about the end-to-end content lifecycle (like our SiriusDecisions Content Model).
They also need to establish a content center of excellence to own content transformation and content ecosystem optimization for the organization. We call this function “Content Strategy and Operations,” but what you call it is less important than just actually making sure you have this function in place to drive an integrated approach to content planning, production, and promotion.
Especially for organizations that are focused on digital transformation, it is critical to have this function in ensure that content transformation is addressed as part of overall digital transformation.
Delivering the Right Content to the Right Customer at the Right Time [Webinar]
In this “fireside chat” webinar, Kapost CEO, Toby Murdock, and SiriusDecisions Research Director in the Content Strategy and Operations service at SiriusDecisions, Christine Polewarczyk, team up to talk everything from marketing’s greatest challenges to the actual execution of a successful content strategy.
Christine Polewarczyk is a Research Director in the Content Strategy and Operations service at SiriusDecisions. She uses her nearly 20 years of experience in B2B marketing roles across a range of in-house, agency and consulting roles to help SiriusDecisions clients transform their B2B content ecosystems from into high-performing engines. Her areas of expertise include digital marketing, content strategy, content marketing, localization, SEO, lead generation, and content technology.