Monday, January 28, 2013

Moving Beyond Content Marketing

I went to bed last night thinking about a question. I'll share the question in a moment, but first let me say why I went to bed thinking about a question.

It's fairly common for me to go to sleep considering some particularly challenging problem. I find that the time before I'm fully awake can be a time of imaginative free-thinking that can lead to creative solutions. It's one of the ways that I solve problems. Other times that I find to be productive for problem-solving thought include when I'm in the shower, or when I'm out on a long, exhausting bike ride. When I empty my mind of other thought, either through exhaustion, or snoozing, or similar activities, I can typically achieve some clarity on thorny questions.

The question I was noodling last night was this. The standard B2B marketing success playbook looks something like this:

  1. Create various forms of content:
    • Thought leadership pieces on where your industry is going
    • White papers addressing particular challenges in your customers' environments
    • Case studies describing how your product or service improved your customers' business
  2. Make that content visible through a wide variety of channels, frequently behind registration walls:
    • Social media channels
    • On the company website
    • In email newsletters
  3. Use the gathered email addresses from registrations to feed a marketing automation process
  4. Track user activity and adapt content to drive users to a conversion point
There are various challenges and problems with this model:
  • Everybody wants to be the thought leader in their segment, but that clearly can't be the case.
  • All customers get lots of these marketing automation emails.
  • Recent data shows that while companies believe they're engaging customers, they may not actually be doing so.
  • All companies within every segment are pursuing exactly the same playbook, which, in the mind of their consumers, leads to a lot of noise.
It seems to me a new playbook is needed to break through this noise. 

Since it's Super Bowl week, let me provide a football analogy. In the mid-1980s, San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh introduced what came to be known as the West Coast offense, which emphasized short, horizontal passing routes in lieu of running plays in order to stretch defenses to open up long runs and passes. It was highly successful and changed the game for the next twenty years. Now, with the recent advent of quarterbacks capable of running as well as passing, like Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick, the read option offense may again be redefining the game.

So what is going to redefine the B2B marketing game? That's the problem I went to sleep considering. What did I come up with? I have an idea, which I'll share in my next post, so please check back here in the next week or two, or subscribe in the box to the right so you'll be notified when I publish. In the meantime, if you have thoughts on this, please leave a comment.

(Images provided by freedigitalphotos.net. The sleeping man image -- not me, by the way -- is from imagery majestic, and the football is from Idea go.)
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