• B2B content marketers often struggle with the complexities of pulling together strategically effective plans
  • Programs demand better audience focus with content personalization, but technology, process and regulatory challenges lurk
  • On the occasion of Halloween, here are a few tricks to help unlock the secrets to better content planning

In a passionate discussion on the toils of B2B content planning, Christine Polewarcyzk and I bantered about the successes as well as the struggles we see across our client base. Christine noted that we sometimes see folks create “Frankenstein” content plans. They cobble together unrelated content, struggle with a database of targets and activation/distribution channels chosen for ease and expediency rather than strategy, and try to align it all with a technology stack recognized as a house of horrors. The whole situation is downright macabre!

A key cause — or the ghoul in the room, if you will — is the increasingly critical need to personalize B2B content and programs. And although there’s plenty of technology designed to support personalization and customization, implementing, integrating and adopting that technology is a witch’s brew at best. For example, field marketing teams often receive “campaign content” from multiple business units and then must hybridize it to make the content locally relevant.

So, in recognition of All Hallow’s Eve, we’ve identified some of the B2B content program hauntings to avoid, and some advice to help you steer clear of the undead.

  • Cadaverous content. In other words, this is content that’s essentially dead on arrival (DOA). Our 2018 State of B2B Content Study revealed that 77% of B2B marketing organizations report serious content waste issues, with relevance and customizability as key challenges. Content is DOA when you make assumptions that the same assets can work across different audiences, without really wiping away the cobwebs to understand unique audience knowledge requirements. You can raise your content from the dead with only minor customization (e.g. changing the opening paragraph in a white paper to align to the needs of a specific industry). To do it right, you need messaging that’s specific to prioritized audiences (e.g. different personas, industries and accounts), along with the wizardry of first- and/or third-party intent data to clue you in to preferences.
  • Nefarious nurture paths. You’ve connected the dots on paper, but does the path truly make sense, or is it a psycho mirror maze? Yes, you want to link the right content to the phases of the audience journey, understanding the shifts back and forth across it. But are you making that journey easy for your audience? Are you getting them on the right path from the get-go using web technology to recognize who they are, progressive profiling to ensure they only must enter data once, and interactivity to gather additional data that enables them to choose their own journey? Overcome any technology terrors: audit existing technology to determine needs and uncover features lurking in the shadows that may fulfill them. You may be able to minimize additional investments. Focus on understanding and gaining support for critical technology integrations.
  • Deadly database management. Your customer database contains the right accounts and titles, except the vast majority are zombies — the people are gone and so is any useful information about previous interactions. Poor database health can haunt even the best content activation plans and performance. If content in later journey stages is DOA when the folks consuming it should be accurately represented in your database, investigate database health and work with demand marketing and marketing operations colleagues to exorcise the demons and work toward making organic improvements. Progressive profiling to gain meaningful opt-in and use of third-party intent data, for example, can provide some magic to bring the right people to your content.
  • Spooky segmentation. Also known as “frightful filtering,” this occurs when, in an attempt to pump up activity, you pass content to a questionable audience segment (e.g. sending content created for the CIO to other C-level executives, or sending that same content to line of business professionals who may be solution users). There was a time when checking a few more boxes on the list pull wasn’t so scary, but those days are like the ghostly howl of a distant werewolf. If you really believe that more personas or titles can work, conduct A/B testing, but don’t waste the few opportunities you really have to engage the right people (see next bullet).
  • Ghoulish General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. Some marketers have been spooked by the potential impact of GDPR requirements, and indeed, there are CMOs that consider it the cause for a drop in top of funnel inquiries. However, some also cite improvement in later-stage engagement, and most B2B teams report a mix of results. Part of the problem is the difficulty in interpreting the law. But another part is that, oftentimes, corporate content strategy doesn’t align to regional content needs, and that includes developing the right content specifically to drive opt-in interest. While the regulatory cauldron bubbles on, one thing is for sure: over the long term, the renewed emphasis on good data ultimately supports better program results.

Got a content nightmare or heroic tale to share? Please reach out to me — and check out our webcast on content strategy and operations planning assumptions for 2020.