dead end sign covered in snow
PHOTO: Adam Birkett

Content is the lubricant of customer engagement. Buyers are attracted to brands with content that enables them to make a more informed decision. Valuable content keeps them coming back. Or so the story goes.

The reality is we are all sick of content.

Brands are burned out from producing rivers and oceans of content. Customers are fatigued by the barrage of irrelevant and often low-quality content. In fact, according to the Economist Group, 71% of buyers/readers said they were turned off by content that seemed like a sales pitch. And CMI & MarketingProfs found “only 54% of B2B marketers are using content to 'delight' and build loyalty with existing clients/customers.”

3 Causes of Content Burnout

Three things contribute to the demise of content: Inside-out content strategy, plethora of channels and content-centric lead generation.

Most content is developed from the inside-out. Various internal teams each believe the customer "needs" to have this or that information. The CTO has a white paper they are passionate about, product marketing insists on a data sheet, the CEO wants a blog, and the list go on. What starts out as a genuine desire to communicate differentiated value turns into a political football — it’s easier to just create the content and get on with life. Lost along the way is meeting the buyers’ needs.

Second is the overwhelming number of channels and their constantly evolving efficacy. Determining which channel and format for each asset and for which audience is enough to give you a migraine. Sure, omnichannel marketing is the remedy, yet stitching the systems together is hard and having the necessary clean, complete data is even harder.

The third uses content as the tip of the spear. Buyers are looking for more in the moment, contextually relevant ways to learn about brands. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers.

Related Article: The Party Perspective on Content Marketing

What Is the Buyer Trying to Accomplish?

In the thousand-plus journey interviews we’ve conducted, buyers and customers want information that helps them achieve specific tasks. They are unwilling to settle for content that misses the mark. As a result, buying teams increasingly rely on word of mouth, independent third parties/influencers, industry forums and peers to get the information they need. 

You can start to fix the content challenge by asking a question — what is the buyer trying to accomplish at each micro-moment?

Answering that question requires outside-in insights best obtained by interviewing customers and prospects. Keep in mind it’s not about your content but everyone’s content they look for. By broadening the inquiry, you’ll quickly learn if your brand is their ‘go to’ resource or if that honor goes to someone else.   

A manufacturing organization mailed out high-quality product catalogs to customers and prospects on an annual basis. We learned from journey interviews that 90% of those catalogs went directly into recycling upon receipt. Customers didn’t want anyone’s catalogs and some thought it made the manufacturer appear old school and out of touch. It’s easier to search and order online. Another client developed YouTube product videos to promote their products. We discovered companies were actually using them as employee training videos without buying the product. 

According to Sitecore, the true cost of content that misses the mark is poor customer experience, missed revenue opportunities, lost internal productivity and inability to scale. Ironically, companies tend to kick the can down the road. The result is a mountain of assets that aren’t inventoried, are out of date, and in channels that have been forgotten about long ago.

Related Article: Bridging the Marketing-Sales Gap With Content Marketing Strategies

How to Turn Your Content Strategy Around

Here are four quick steps to turn your content back into powerful customer enablers:

  1. Conduct a content gap analysis between your outside-in journey map and current marketing/sales processes to identify what content buying teams are looking for but not finding from you.
  2. Delete content that is not sought by members of the buying team. Same thing for content channels. If buying teams do not use a channel(s), drop it. (This is a good project to outsource.) Don’t fall into the FOMO trap of being everywhere with everything.
  3. Develop persona/micro-moment level content strategy that clearly defines how each asset satisfies the buyers’ objectives, the preferred channel and how to measure success. (Detailed journey maps make this step a breeze).
  4. Repurpose existing valuable content that is in the wrong format. For example, buyers might be looking for statistics or listicles instead of long-form text. There are sophisticated tools available, like SDL’s Content Assistant that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to parse existing content into preferred formats, from tweets to blurbs.

“Where do buyers go to learn about new products and research vendors? Social media. What’s the fuel for social media? Content. So a poorly thought out or executed content strategy can turn off buyers on your products, services and brand … at the very beginning of the customer journey,” said Carter Hostelley, CEO of Leadtail, a B2B social media agency. 

Once your content strategy is back on track, keep it aligned to the ever-evolving buyer needs. That means more than just updating your journey maps annually. Look to machine learning platforms for help in tagging assets with metadata to better organize content and AI to automatically assemble new content tuned for specific customers and journey steps.

There will never be a world without content. It will look different from today and be delivered in new ways but content is what informs, inspires and incentivizes. Successful brands will move away from thinking about content as individual assets to managing content as pools of multi-use information elements that buyers have identified as valuable. Those brands that use journey maps to assemble and align information elements to enable buyers achieve micro-moment target outcomes will win customer preference.