From where content marketing began…
If you’re a seasoned marketer, you’ll know that content marketing has been around for a little while. A long, long while actually; some point to the infamous American statesman, Benjamin Franklin’s publication of Poor Richard's Almanack in 1732 as one of the first instances of content being used to promote, in this case, his printing business. At their peak these annual almanacs sold up to 10,000 copies a year, which by 18th Century standards, was tremendously successful and cemented a reputation in American literary tradition.
Flash forward to 2018 and what we’re witnessing now is a staggering amount of content being shared across the world every second. 350,000 tweets per minute, 269 billion emails sent and received every day… last year it was estimated that there was more data created than in the previous 5,000 years of humanity. Take a moment to let that sink in.
The content challenges today
The challenge for content marketers today is therefore immense: finding cut-through in an incredibly noisy and fast-changing content landscape. In the B2B context, this is particularly challenging. Without the same natural virality as consumer-led campaigns (think highly popular examples like the Share a Coke campaign), B2B organisations are usually less reliant on emotive drivers to get people to respond and more reliant on actionable, solution-led assets that solve specific pain points. But that should not stifle creativity! We’re all humans selling to other humans, and it would be naïve to think that playful, and engaging content marketing can’t have a place within the B2B sector. Witness HP’s attempt in 2015 to sell in its Propel IT SaaS.
They created a demo video to promote the benefits of having a one-stop shop for IT solutions as a service broker, with an eccentric salesman featured in an 80’s-style parody of early product demo reels. It is intentionally cringeworthy, but entertaining, and a good example of disruptive creative techniques to promote what would otherwise be a fairly mundane product update. They still managed to rack up over 2,000 YouTube views. Not bad for a low budget demo video.
Another example is Cisco. Many people with a passing knowledge of the company will associate Cisco historically for its networking products. But not as many will know that it's a major player in the security market and the leading provider of security appliances. When it came to promoting its upgraded cyber security services, Cisco took an innovative approach by presenting its offering in the form of an 8-page graphic novel with action heroine SuperSmart. It’s a very pleasing example of how to sell in a B2B solution without needing to cram in a company value proposition or a dry roll-out of product features. It worked because of its authentic storytelling and subtlety, but also because it still managed to speak its audience’s language.
It’s all about relationship building
Putting together a disruptive, creative content campaign is achievable with careful planning and execution. Repeating this successfully is much harder, which is why many B2B organisations struggle to realise a positive ROI on their content marketing efforts over longer periods of time. A lot of this comes down to short-termism: commissioning pieces of content because there is available budget to spend before end of quarter deadlines, or to fit the needs of a specific campaign but without consideration of long-term value via evergreen content that works harder to achieve broader business objectives. For most content marketing strategies, you will not reap the rewards in one or two attempts. It is an exercise in the willingness to be patient to foster trust with your audience, which will build as they notice you publishing more frequently and interacting with them more. This act of relationship building by crafting content that very specifically meets the needs of your audience, is critical for your content marketing strategy to be successful, as is choosing the right distribution of that content so that it gets the attention it deserves.
At TBT Marketing, we know that great content starts with understanding where your customers are at, how you can serve them, and most importantly, how you inspire them. We put together a little guide (content.tbtmarketing.com) that helps you understand how to accelerate your content marketing strategy. And if you have any questions, give us a call on 0808 168 6900, drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us at @tbt_marketing. We’re a friendly bunch, and we love talking all things content marketing!