MVP: Baseball, Product Development, And B2B Content Strategy
Years back, a product marketing client with a propensity to throw around a lot of acronyms brought up “MVP” in a discussion about the challenges besetting B2B content strategy. “Hold it,” I thought. “What do ‘most valuable players’ in baseball have to do with content?” Nothing, clearly! Getting my brain out of the dugout and back to business, I thought, “What about the other definition of MVP, or ‘minimum viable product’: introducing a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers to inform future development.” What does this have to do with B2B content strategy? The client I was speaking with felt the philosophy, applied to content development, was sound: Applying an audience needs-based approach produces the minimum volume of content required to meet objectives.
At the time, I balked at the notion. Philosophically, I didn’t like the idea of using volume reduction as the basis for content planning. Today, I stand by the thinking that volume concerns should not be the top driver in B2B content planning. (Audience needs should hold that spot!) However, in retrospect, MVP thinking in B2B content planning has its place.
According to data from Forrester’s 2020 Content Credibility Study, 59% of buyers say that the content they get from vendors is “more style than substance.” Additionally, 57% of B2B marketers, in the Forrester Analytics Business Technographics® Marketing Survey, 2021, say that improving their customers’ experience was a top focus. This same survey indicated that “understanding customers’ content preferences” was the most frequently cited content-related challenge.
You don’t have to be Billy Beane — the famed Oakland A’s general manager, to whom the movie Moneyball is attributed — to get the math here. B2B content strategy has a poor batting average. According to the Moneyball theory on putting together a winning team in baseball, you only need to know two things to make good draft picks: Does a player get on base, and can he hit? There’s a striking parallel to B2B content here: Does it successfully reach an audience, and do they engage with it?
Now, back to the minimum viable product metaphor: It makes sense to produce only the content you need to successfully engage your audience. Building upon the data shared above, here are my thoughts on why the “less is more” philosophy may benefit your B2B content strategy and how to get more “at bats”:
- Overcome information overload. In both our consumer lives and business roles, we’re bombarded with an enormous amount of content daily. This certainly isn’t news: B2B organizations push out as much content as they can to drive ongoing engagement with a robust asset set and ensure top billing in searches. Less, more relevant content is the ball game here. The pregame show is all about understanding your personas’ information needs and engagement preferences. This frees you from building generic content bills of material just because that’s what’s always been done.
- Four rights make might. Delivering the content B2B buyers want and need — which makes the case for you versus a competitor — requires an offensive game plan for the four R’s: 1) right audience, 2) right content, 3) right place, and 4) right time. First, you need to target the right audience, understanding not only their needs and preferences as individual personas but also the role they play as part of a buying group. Based on your audience knowledge, you then must create the right content based on their information needs. Look to leverage rich primary assets to create derivatives you can use to share some of the same information in different formats. Sharing those assets in the right place and time is key — that means knowing where and when your target audience goes to play ball, so to speak, and showing up with your best players (i.e., assets). Your content may live on your website, but use an omnichannel approach to get folks to it wherever they go, be it third-party websites, search, content syndication, etc.
- Put your best players on the field using modular content. The long game for minimizing content waste and maximizing value is to expand use of content modules — discrete, tagged content elements that are created, managed, activated, and measured at the individual component level and reused and deployed in infinite ways. While still nascent as a content production and management approach, modular content is going to be a core way that B2B organizations will meet the ever-growing need to craft and scale hyper-personalized experiences. We recommend researching modular content opportunities as part of your spring training regimen. Add these stats to your scorecard: In Forrester’s 2021 Global Marketing Survey, 75% of B2B marketing decision-makers agreed that buyers expect an immediate response to their questions, but they don’t think they’re getting that now. Buyers, customers, sales, and channel partners — everyone in the value chain — will increasingly expect curated, contextual content with little or no effort.
Consider adapting your approaches to content strategy, development, and activation by adopting these best practices. Achieve more relevance, less content waste, and better results. Make your minimum viable content your most valuable content by ensuring it addresses your audience needs and helps you score home runs.