Don't let your B2B marketing dog be wagged by the tail of mediocrity

Ed Marsh | Feb 24, 2016

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An ocean of crappy marketing

Let's be honest. There is a lot of really poor content marketing out there. So much that it's reminiscent of the garbage islands forming in the pacific.

Everyone once in a while some worthwhile piece catches a current and turns up on the beach to the delight of the crowds. But most of it ends up, appropriately, in an enormous mass of waste.

That's not news. Tons of ink (the solution to bad content must be more content, right?!) has been spilled on the topic. But there's an odd trend that's perpetuating the problem.

The B2B marketing echo chamber is creating an entire class of self substantiating "data."

Lies, damn lies and data

OK, Mark Twain originally said statistics, but you get what I mean.

Data is powerful when it's used responsibly. But it can be easily abused - and the abuse these days is rampant.

How many articles have you read that promise to unlock the secrets to B2B marketing success by polling marketers on what they've retrospectively done and plan to do? Here's a shocking collection of data points from the Content Marketing Institute 2016 Benchmark Report:

  • only 30% of B2B marketers are effective at content marketing
  • only 32% have a documented strategy
  • sales is less important than lead generation
  • 88% use content marketing
  • only 32% are sophisticated or mature
  • only 44% know what a "successful" program looks like
  • only 28% have a documented editorial mission
  • less than half even meet at least weekly
  • 76% plan to produce more content in 2016
  • 51% say they'll spend more in 2016

Glass half full - people are honest about the shortcomings

Glass half empty - most of the content marketing being created is horrible!

So from this group, that frankly appears to be lucky to put on matching outfits each morning, we're going to discern the trends that will give us the edge? Seriously?

When 76% of this group (up from 69% in last years survey) says they're dumping more money into illustrations/photos this year, why would anyone ascribe any value to that trend? (I understand if you're a company that makes products around image related marketing, this is meaningful.)

Don't revert to the mean

Do you sit in a staff meeting and set define your goals as "We just want to be the same as XXX competitor?" You certainly won't say it, although some may secretly think it...but in practice, most follow precisely that approach.

Why would the fact that 50% more B2B marketers plan to use more video in 2016 (from 40% to 60%) prompt you to decide to use more video? If anything, wouldn't it incline you to use less? Why would you dump resources into a channel that's going to be flooded?

And isn't this by definition paradoxical? "To stay ahead of the curve, it is essential to keep up to date with the latest content marketing trends" How can keeping up with trends vault you ahead?

As Seth Godin wrote this week "For those unwilling to think deeply....You can choose to be a cog in a machine you don't understand. If that's working for you, no need to change it."

If following the crowd reflexively is growing your business profitably at the fastest rate for which you're comfortable scaling, then you're good to go!

If not, then here's an alternative.

A single, simple benchmark

There's one way to know where you should focus your efforts - look at the metrics you're collecting.

If you've:

  • got a decent product/service
  • built real personas (with rigorous qualitative interview based methodology)
  • mapped a full 3D buying journey
  • and created content (types and channels per your persona work) targeting specific phases of the buying journey 

Then your visitors, social engagers and content consumers will tell you what's working. If you're attracting the right visitors, and creating the right leads, then do more of what's working.

If you're not attracting the right visitors or converting the right leads, then revisit the persona and journey to look for how your content might not match their expectations.

Worried about too many whitepapers? That's fair. Experiment with some other pieces to balance what you've got. Case studies and consultations might be effective compliments for other stages of the buying journey - where as surveys, meme type graphics and image galleries may be irrelevant for your targets.

Your engagement with ideal prospects is the only benchmark you need to consider. If you're converting visitors at a rate of >3% from growing traffic volumes, and your qualified lead gen and attributable revenue are increasing, then you're on the right track. If not, step back to your ideal prospects, don't just revert to the mean of mediocre B2B marketing built around content for content's sake!

If you want to go with the flow....

Then get excited about pitchers and catchers reporting and first workouts - and save your independent edge for the important work of your B2B marketing!

If you want to be successful, focus on your prospects' challenges and wants.

And to give you more of an edge there, check out my free guide for turning marketing automation into a revenue growth tool.

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images - freeyork & natgeo