It is said that the greatest barrier to change is a closed mind. This is very true in content marketing, although the greatest obstacle to progress in this most fashionable of marketing disciplines is not intolerance or stubbornness, but inherent failure.
In science they call it the reality of paradigm paralysis: the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking. And content marketing is headed toward a paradigm shift around this very issue.
A tipping point has already been reached, caused largely by sheer overload, but also by a few other issues and incidents, including a failure to build a compelling audience narrative, or understand buyer personas or see the warning signs of buyer contempt, all of which have become significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.
Buyers are tuning out the noise.
Despite the fact that B2B marketers are creating more content than they have ever done – output has increased by 80% in the last 12 months – buyer engagement with content is decreasing.
Various content marketing experts put the decline at 40%. My own recent survey of twenty B2B brands says it is much higher. I believe 75% of B2B content goes unread, which means buyer engagement with content has actually decreased by 60%.
Buyers are not simply “overwhelmed” by the amount of content available. They are past that point. They are now more resentful than disinterested and, as I said earlier, have flicked the switch to off.
What is the lesson here? That higher volume does not equate with more engaging or valuable content? No, that was yesterdays lesson. Today we must learn a much harder lesson – overkill damages brand reputation.
The biggest question every buyer has is “why change?” But if that buyer has been ‘turned off’ your brand, then even the most compelling audience narrative that addresses that fundamental question, is not going to get them back, easily.
So how do we a) prevent buyers from hating us b) get them tuned back in to our content?
Firstly we need to stop hitting buyers with rubber bullets from our relentless content machine gun. Despite the tidal wave of content awash in the B2B marketplace, it still comes down to the basics of having a relevant and valuable story for the right target audience. If you focus on your core message and narrative and quality instead of quantity, you may be able to find a way to cut through the noise.
But we also need to understand that the buyer’s journey is never linear. Yes, we want content tailored to the stage of the buyer’s journey, but even more impactful is ensuring our content has a clear narrative structure and addresses the critical questions a buyer has as they move through their journey, at whatever pace and direction they pursue.
We spend so much time and energy churning out blogs,posts, case studies, videos, infographics etc – in short, all the usual suspects in terms of marketing content – we rarely if ever consider all of the other types of content that we could be creating e.g. technical manuals, product data sheets, and customer service FAQs to cite a few examples, and how all of it could align with and support our content marketing efforts.
Most marketing teams never engage their peers in other departments about their content marketing activities and, as a result, it’s easy for silos to form and for other departments to create content without regard for brand reputation.
Content marketers must partner closely with their counterparts in other departments such as technical, customer service, product development and sales. It is vital that a brand organisation brings the content of its entire organisation into the fold of its content marketing program.
The goal is to create a single content engine to fuel a unified customer experience from start to finish.
This is the tipping point and beyond it lies a brave new world of content marketing where higher conversions and return on content investment reward those who adapted to make the journey in the first place.
About the author: Phil Shirley
“Phil Shirley is a marketing entrepreneur who helps ambitious growing businesses make their marketing pay. He has helped over 500 businesses make more than £500 million. Phil is also an experienced copywriter, ex-journaist and author of several successful books.”