A couple of weeks ago, Matt Owen from eConsultancy wrote about how content marketing is not all about campaigns. I couldn’t agree more. Content marketing is about producing useful information that has a long shelf life, yet solves a pressing problem; something that may not align well with the “focus campaign of the quarter”.

But with all our clients operating in the B2B space, that’s what we tend to encounter in greater proportions. “I’ve managed to dig up some budget and we need to push this solution/product/vertical over the next couple of months” is usually followed by “can you come up with an interesting campaign proposal? I want to have something viral.”

Unfortunately, not every campaign can hit Gangnam Style proportions, nor should they need to. Instead, why not funnel some of that campaign budget into creating a carefully tailored a mix of content that addresses different levels of audience acceptance, and using established channels to get the message out? The payoff from content marketing can extend further than the just immediate quarter.

Here are a few important areas to consider when formulating a content marketing strategy for B2B audiences.

Don’t make your content try to be everything at once

Let’s suppose that one part of your content strategy includes an introductory article on “how to improve IT efficiency with a virtual desktop infrastructure”. It’s targeted at the prospect that doesn’t yet have a clear idea what a virtual desktop infrastructure is, much less is interested to invest in it off the bat.

If that’s the case, don’t fall into the trap of including the latest hardware bundles or discounts at the end of the article. It’s tempting to do so, but it’s better to stay focused on the prospect’s goals at that particular moment. Save the selling for another piece of content.

What you can do instead is to craft a series of articles designed to address different stages. We often refer to the Eloqua Content Matrix to determine the right mix of content to create.

For example, if the prospect is not even aware you exist, maybe a an article about “How I escaped helpdesk hell” would catch their attention.

And for those who already know about the solution, maybe a different article titled “Has the virtual desktop infrastructure finally come of age?” would be more appropriate.

Remember, content marketing should not be a sales push from the start. People see right through that.

Don’t build a new platform

To avoid the hassle of going through their internal web requisition processes, some of our clients tend to ask us to build lots of campaign infrastructure from scratch. For example, create an entirely new website with a new domain name. Custom build all the lead-capture web forms. Setup and host your own customer database. And create a new Facebook page, Twitter handle, or LinkedIn group.

But, it takes a lot of work (and deep pockets) to build up an audience from scratch.

Instead, we usually recommend that our clients make use of the web real estate that they already have. That makes it better for SEO to use a website that is already ranked.

As for building web forms and lead capture from the ground up, don’t. Cloud tools like wufoo.com and hubspot.com can provide a huge range of tools to make sure that you focus on the content journey, and not the IT plumbing to make it happen.

As for distributing your content, the first instinct is usually to rent a mailing list from a trade publication. However, I tend to focus first on the distribution channels that the client may already have, but won’t use since “it belongs to another team”.

For example, you may already have people in your organisation blogging or tweeting about the company’s products. You may already have social media presence on Facebook, or belong to an interest group on LinkedIn. You may also already have a regular newsletter that is sent out to partners or customers. Use them first. Inject your content in there and have it lead back to your landing pages.

Don’t shut it down

Content marketing requires patience. Unlike campaigns, which have an end date, content marketing means that clients have to stay the course, and invest in producing timely, relevant content over a longer period of time.

So if you circle back to the original request to “create a campaign”, ask yourself whether your content can evolve to address the broader marketing objectives even after the campaign has ended.

Will the communities and web presence that you spent money building up become ghost towns? Can the leads and subscribers that you’ve built up be integrated back into the internal customer database? Is there a way to keep touching them with content beyond the campaign period?

So remember, the next time you think “campaign” as your must-do item for the quarter, take a step back and consider getting someone to build up a content marketing strategy. It may take a little longer to get off the ground, but the long-term results will be worth it.

Alex (alex.tan@yingcomms.com)

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