We can no longer afford to operate within silos in marketing - when we come together and combine our powers across marketing verticals we can succeed in a new age of marketing.
In this article, I’ll explain how to use content marketing as part of your product marketing strategy in five easy-to-follow steps and how you can leverage this content to drive B2B product success.
My name's Autumn Molay, I'm the Head of Product and Insights Marketing at Comscore. In this article, I'm going to be sharing how to leverage content to drive B2B product success.
Before I get started, though, I want to share a little bit about myself. I'm located in the Portland-Metro area, and I got my start in broadcast journalism, which explains my interest in storytelling and content generation to drive product marketing.
Since then, I've spent nearly 10 years in the B2B software service status and service space. I currently lead the product and insights marketing team at Comscore, which is an audience measurement company.
To dive a little bit deeper into my head, if I had to give any advice to product marketers today, it would be these three things:
- The most important thing you can do as a product marketer is to ask questions. I tell my team all the time to enter every single meeting, campaign, product situation with questions. Ask questions and if you don't know the answer, keep asking questions.
- Before you do anything, know who you're talking to and the actions you want them to take as a result of your efforts. You wouldn't get on a plane not knowing where you're going so you shouldn't start a campaign not knowing what your goal is or who you're talking to. I fundamentally believe this is a critical part of planning any kind of content or product marketing campaign.
- Make a conscious effort to be creative. I think as product marketers, sometimes we tend to get into the routine of things where we use the same things that work over and over again, and we forget to be creative. Sometimes taking a step back, thinking outside the box cannot only be really fun but also very effective.
What's the deal with the title of this article?
If you're a 90s kid, you'll probably recognize the 'our powers combined', it's from Captain Planet. Essentially, what it means is, all the planeteers’ powers combine to create Captain Planet who can save the world.
Marketers can no longer afford to operate in silos
I feel like the same goes for marketing, we can no longer afford to operate in silos. When we combine our powers across marketing verticals, including content and product marketing, we can succeed in this new age of marketing.
You've probably seen this quote before, it's all over the place. It's almost six years old now. Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
I fundamentally believe this is true, I think you're going to have more success telling stories, and showing what your product can do, then you are putting out a list of features about the things you sell into the world.
For those of you newer to content marketing, you may be wondering, how do I even get started? How do I use content marketing as a part of my product marketing strategy? In this article, I'll go into more depth about how to do so and how you can leverage this content that you create to drive B2B product success.
Know where you're going
What is my company trying to achieve?
You need to know your objectives and who you're talking to, what is your company trying to achieve? These are a few things that are pretty common in terms of objectives and goals for marketing and communications:
- Brand awareness,
- Lead generation,
- Revenue generation, and
- Market perception.
You may determine these things by talking to leadership, sales, and product management, just to name a few, or you may already know them because they might be widely communicated within your company.
But you need to know what you're trying to do and trying to achieve before you kick off your content production and your campaign.
Define your target audience and ideal results
You also want to define your target audience and your ideal results. Who is your target persona?
Think about what industry they're in, what company they're in - it may be a specific company.
- What's their job function or their title level?
- Are they lower down the chain and maybe doing some exploration or are they a decision-maker?
- What do they care about?
- What are they trying to do?
- Is there a pain point or a challenge that they're trying to solve for?
If you know all of these things, you can refine your persona, refine your audience, and be really effective at targeting your communication. Also, you want to be able to know the actions that you want them to take as a result of your efforts.
- Do you want them to reach out to learn more?
- Ask for a demo?
- Visit your website?
- Talk about you on social?
Ultimately, we all want our clients and prospects to buy our products - that is the end goal. But sometimes there are a few steps along the funnel to get there. Content marketing can be a critical tool in pushing people through that funnel.
Read the room
Know what’s buzzing in the industry
Read the room - know what's buzzing in the industry. There are a few ways you can do this.
Track topics that are getting a lot of press
First track topics that are getting a lot of press. Most of you should already be subscribed to your industry newsletters or keep tabs on the headlines of the day on your industry publications. If you haven't subscribed to newsletters, I would suggest you do so maybe queue up a few bookmarks of things to check every day.
Keep an eye on industry event agendas
Keep an eye on event agendas, what are people talking about? What are they doing panels on? Having discussions on?
Keep up with your partners and competitors on social media
Is there anything they're focusing on that you're not? Or is there anything that you can focus on that they're not? Identify the gaps that you can fill and then know how you can take advantage of your data, insights, or thought leadership strengths.
How do you do that?
Use what you’ve got
Pick messages that will resonate with your target audience while promoting your key offerings
You already know what your objectives are, you know what the industry hot topics are, and now you can start to merge those two things in the form of content. This process frequently involves that you work with sales, product management, analytics, and leadership, just to name a few.
It frequently involves cross-functional conversations. What I typically like to do is start with a SWOT analysis. You know your strengths and weaknesses, or those of the product or solution you're trying to put out. Then you can discover what the opportunities are, that you can take advantage of in the industry. That's where that industry research comes into play.
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- What are your unique selling propositions? And,
- How can you maximize them in the industry using content?
Designate internal experts and develop a roster of writers and speakers
There are three key roles here that I have listed on the right-hand side of the checkmarks, that I think are critical to content production.
Subject matter experts
The first is subject matter experts, you probably already know who these people are from your product marketing efforts. But if you don't, it's time to ask around.
If you have specific verticals, or products, or topic areas that are important to your company, designate a subject matter expert who knows a lot about that area, and who can help educate you on how to best speak to it.
Often these people know what the benefits are in a way that they can clarify for you or help you in crafting the message.
Next, identify external speakers. These first two might be the same person, external speakers should have very deep product knowledge, but also be able to speak to it publicly. This is a rare skill set.
But once you find these people don't let them go, because you will use them in all kinds of campaigns, you will use them in webinars, events, videos, etc.
Finally, the last but I feel like the most important piece to all of this is finding out who the content creators are or could be in your company.
In marketing, sometimes we assume we're the only ones that can write or that can produce content and that's not true. There are plenty of people I would bet in your companies that can write really well and who are capable of helping you produce this content.
That way, if you have limited bandwidth, a smaller team, or maybe not as much of a budget, you can lean on these people to help you create more of a cadence, more of a quantity of content that you can put out into the world.
Put your plan into motion
Once you know who's going to help you out with your content, then it's time to pick the content to match your goals.
Pick content to match your goals
Different content is going to be more effective with different goals.
Brand awareness and market perception
For instance, if your goal is brand awareness and market perception, you're trying to catch the attention of an audience, you might do something more high level or more flashy, something that doesn't really involve a great deal of knowledge about your product or your company.
These could be things like blog posts, industry reports, infographics, videos, etc, just to name a few.
Then when you move on to the lead generation stage where they might know who your company or your product is and want to learn more, it's time to move on to deeper dive content pieces like interviews, Q and A's, white papers, newsletters, etc.
Finally, in the last stage when they're getting ready to buy, they might want to see your product in action. This is a good time to pull out case studies, client testimonials, or maybe create a mini sellable report that is a version of whatever product or data you produce to help convince them to make that final step.
Set a strategic timeline and align on responsibilities
Take note of important dates
These could be industry events, product launches, announcements, etc. You may want to align your content production and distribution with these dates for maximum effect.
Make sure your timeline is realistic
Make sure your timeline is realistic and build in extra time for unforeseen roadblocks. It's better to pleasantly surprise than to disappoint.
Create a RACI-style matrix
It helps designate responsibilities for the various pieces of your campaign.
- Who's going to create the content?
- Who's going to review it?
- Approve it? And,
- Who do you need to keep informed?
Create a project checklist
With deadlines and the person responsible for completing each step. This should include both the content production and the promotion, so that you can make sure you're building in adequate time for all of these pieces, depending on how many people are involved.
Host a kick-off call to ensure alignment
Finally, post a kickoff call to ensure alignment on this plan by everyone involved, including the approvers. This is a really critical piece because you can make sure people know what they're responsible for and by when to keep the train on track.
Promote your content
When you've produced your content, that's when you need to start thinking about how to promote it. There are myriad ways to promote your content. However, similarly to how you designed your content to speak to specific personas originally, you should also promote your content to those same personas in an effective means.
I want to highlight a couple of them that we've had some success with this year at Comscore.
The first would be targeted emails, this can be anything from the account level, all the way down to one to one. This is really an excellent opportunity to personalize and catch the attention of specific accounts or specific leads that you have in mind, to help nurture them and create a relationship.
Also employee amplification, I feel like it's one that's not really taken advantage of all that often. Your employees can be your brand influencers. Encourage them to share your content, and they will do so and the net that you're amplifying your content will widen.
Keep up the momentum and amplify your success
Look at all available KPIs
First, look at all your available KPIs to see what worked, and what didn't. If something worked really well do it again, or keep it in mind for your next campaign.
This next part is really, really important.
Let your audience guide you
For instance, if you're hosting a webinar and you get a whole bunch of questions in during the webinar on a particular topic, maybe use that as an opportunity to do a follow-up blog series on that topic that dives in a little deeper than your webinar did.
This can be a great way to continue to nurture your leads and create a cadence and momentum that keeps them interested and helps guide them toward conversion.
Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate
Finally, keep evaluating. Don't just put content out in the world and consider it done. Check in on your stats, and you can adjust and optimize your success.
It's all well and good to outline all these steps but what does it look like in real life?
I have an example here from a campaign that we did earlier this year that I would like to share with you.
The scenario: goals & objectives
Setting the stage
To set the stage about five years ago, over the top, or OTT, began to grow in popularity. That's what you may know as the Netflix and Hulu that are shown on your Roku or your Apple TV.
At this time media buyers and sellers wanted to be able to understand how to take advantage of the space that was growing pretty rapidly. In 2017, we debuted our first state of OTT webinar, which was a really high-level report on audience consumption and how audiences were interacting with OTT.
We were immediately surprised by the success of this report and we've been doing it every year since. The challenge being we've had to beat our own success every year, which I'll get to in a minute.
2020 posed a really interesting challenge for us in that COVID hits and it changed our industry pretty dramatically, really fast. Brands were really struggling to find the audiences they were trying to reach in this new normal, and we wanted to help them with that.
Our goal was continued lead and revenue generation for our OTT and connected TV measurement solutions, but also generally just helping the industry understand what was happening during this really unprecedented time.
Our Marcom goal, a little more selfishly, was to beat our last year's record-setting webinar attendance.
Our target audience was:
- Streaming services, so again, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
- Device brands - that would be the Roku and the Apple TV. And,
- Advertisers - media agencies and TV networks.
The scenario: evaluation hot topics in 2020
We started by evaluating the hot topics in 2020. We found that three were really key.
How COVID-19 had affected consumption
As I mentioned, COVID-19, how did it affect consumption with everybody staying home, did everyone move to OTT? Were they watching more streaming?
I think intuitively we knew the answer to that was yes. But we didn't know how much and we wanted to look at that and share that with the industry.
Growth of ad-supported services
As more people move to this new platform, obviously, advertisers want to reach them. They wanted to know how to do so.
Connected TV viewing trends
That'd be things like smart TV, or videos that are viewed over your TV. How are they doing? And how are they doing in comparison to other platforms?
The solution: leveraging our internal resources
We leveraged our internal resources to make this happen.
We evaluated our internal roster and selected a presenter
We looked at our roster, and we selected a presenter who knew the product inside and out, but who could also speak publicly with a lot of confidence. He did a very excellent job.
We picked a date for our webinar and backed out a project plan
Then we picked a date for our webinar and backed out the project plan to create time for us to do a lot of promotion, to create time for content production, and for reviews, etc.
This was really important because there were a lot of people involved in this project who were doing other things outside of this. We needed to be sure that we were cognizant of their schedules but also effective with the content and the promotion.
The solution: thinking creatively to go above and beyond
Then we thought creatively, like I said at the beginning of this article, we stepped outside of the box and thought about new ways we could promote this piece of content that maybe we hadn't thought of before.
We deployed our ‘test your OTT knowledge’
In the previous year, our creative thought was to create a ‘test your OTT knowledge’ quiz to drive webinar registrations, and this was a hit. People love taking quizzes and they really loved taking our OTT quiz and it actually helped send more people to our registration page to register for a webinar.
Internal employee competition
We also turned it into an internal employee competition. Similar to what I said earlier about employee amplification we allowed our employees to take the quiz and encouraged them to share their results and share it on LinkedIn etc. to amplify with their social networks which drove even more registrations.
Created a ‘TL;DR’ email
This year, we created a 'too long didn't read' version of our email with the top five webinar insights in infographic form. So those people who maybe didn't have time to view a webinar or had Zoom fatigue could just take a high-level glance at the top insights that were in the webinar and that might lead them to download the presentation.
What was the success?
Broke our worldwide webinar registration and attendance record
I am super proud that our 2020 state of OTT webinar broke our worldwide webinar registration and attendance record. This was really thrilling for our team.
Webinar attendee engagement
On top of that, we also had a record-setting webinar attendee engagement. A tonne of questions asked during the presentation and a tonne of interest from our clients and prospects.
Increased marketing-influenced and marketing-sourced leads
This lead to increase marketing-influenced and marketing-source leads, compared with the previous year.
Gave sales tools to initiate conversations and spur interest
It also gave our sales team an effective tool to use in reaching out and initiating conversations and spurring interest with our prospects.
Invitations to participate
Finally, it led to invitations to participate in other major industry events, which was really great and we're going to continue to do so through the end of the year.
Keeping up the momentum
What did we do to keep up the momentum? We didn't stop there.
Springboard for other efforts
We used the state of OTT as a springboard for other efforts in promoting our OTT and CTV measurement including, we sent follow up emails to promote the presentation download, we created deep dive blog posts like I mentioned earlier, leveraging the questions that were asked during the webinar to really get into the topics that our attendees were the most interested in.
We hosted several partner webinars taking a look with our partners at specific areas of the platform. Then, as I said before, industry event speaking engagements. We have had a lot of interest since our state of OTT webinar this year in being invited to speak about the topic at other industry events.
Know where you’re going
In order to leverage content to really help bring in those leads and that revenue and spread your brand awareness or your product awareness or whatever the goal is you're hoping to achieve, first of all, you need to know what your goal is.
You also need to know who your target audience is.
Defining those things may be more complicated than you think but it can really help in informing your efforts moving forward.
Read the room.
Know what the industry is saying, what the buzz is out there, from your competitors, your partners, and from the press. This could help you select a topic that is really hot in the moment and will get you a lot more attention.
Use what you've got
Mine your own data for stories, look for your internal resources to create content, find out who your subject matter experts are, and lean on them to get these ideas.
Really source whatever you can internally because this is free, you don't have to pay anybody to do it. It's something that you can use and leverage to create a ton of content on a really good cadence.
Show don't tell
Make sure that you're not just providing a list of features, you're using content to tell a story, to really dive into the topics that matter to your audience. This in turn will drive them towards your products and your solutions.
Put your plan into motion
Finally, I told you how to put your plan in motion, how to pick tactics that match your goals, and also how to pick the promotional tactics that are best suited to distribute your content.
At the end of all of this, just remember to keep up the momentum and think creatively about how you can promote and put your content out into the world.
Content marketing can be a really effective tool when done correctly and can help to generate a ton of interest in the products that you're supporting every day as product marketers.