Let's talk content marketing

Ryan Skinner

"What's at the heart of content marketing?"
"Why does content marketing make sense for me?"
"How do I do it well?"

Chances are, you're asking yourself one or, indeed, all of the above questions. And that is why I have decided to join Forrester's Marketing Leadership research team as a senior analyst.

I've been working with content marketing since 1998, well before it was called content marketing, and most recently at an agency that specialized in it, Velocity Partners. Before that, I helped major Scandinavian brands like Kongsberg and ABB understand how to weave content marketing in their marketing strategy and mix.

Every time I discuss content marketing with practitioners, two observations regularly surface:

1. It's very powerful. The idea of doing marketing that customers want, that they even seek out, is enticing. It can create a virtuous cycle that makes everything else (social media, email marketing, events and campaigns) much more effective. Red Bull is the consumer brand poster boy for this, but companies as diverse as GE, Hubspot, American Express, Ford and IBM are also doing it well.

2. It's very difficult. Most brands have very little experience making content that customers want and seek out. Producing great content-driven experiences, repeatedly, over time and with a limited budget, that deliver visible value for customers and prospects, and that drive business outcomes for the brand, is hard. It's particularly hard for marketers accustomed to a product-benefit or brand benefit frame of thinking, and the big bang ad campaigns that go with it.

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Strengthen Your B2B Brand With Better Content Distribution

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.

Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.   

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Strengthen Your B2B Brand With Better Content Distribution

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.

Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.   

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The Role of PR in Content Marketing and Thought Leadership

Laura Ramos

After hosting a Forrester webinar on April 25 about "3 Ways To Turn Content Marketing into Thought Leadership", I received some interesting questions from clients. I thought I would share the questions -- and a short response to each – since this line of inquiry points to broader question about the role of public relations (PR) in content marketing generally and thought leadership marketing specifically.

Here's the Q&A I found intriguing:

Who should lead the IDEA framework process?

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B2B Thought Leadership? Not So Much . . .

Laura Ramos

What does it take to become a thought leader in your market?  

Deep understanding of what inspires your customers (or keeps them awake at night), executive commitment, companywide involvement, and authentic generosity. 

Unfortunately, most business-to-business (B2B) marketers fall short when they publish promotional content or threadbare case studies masquerading as thought leadership.

At least that's what I found when researching my latest — and first — publication since returning to Forrester. (Please take a look and rate/share what you think!)

Great marketing content can fuel your company's demand generation engine. It can boost your brand's visibility to key audiences and bump aside competitors. Most of all, it attracts buyers interested in the types of challenges your company can solve. Because, as successful marketing execs know, business buyers don't buy your products and services; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.

Thought leadership is different. And it's rare.

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Which Comes First: Content Marketing Or Thought Leadership?

Laura Ramos

Once upon a time, there was a little marketer with a big problem. Her sales executives said, "We need more leads." So she bought a big new shiny marketing automation engine . . . .

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I'm sure we all know the end of the story. The marketing engine didn't live up to expectations because data and content didn't come in the box.

More than ever, marketers view content as the fuel needed to run a powerful revenue generation machine. But the debate over the quality of the content created seems to have reached a fevered pitch. Look no further than posts from SAP's Michael Brenner, Marketo's Jon Miller, UK-based Velocity (the slide show here is a riot!), Dr. Liz Alexander, and SHIFT Communication's Christopher Penn to see the backlash against bad content marketing practices grow.

Why now?  I see four key trends converging on business-to-business marketers that drive interest in, and failure with, content marketing:

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Off And Running . . . In The B2B CMO Race

Laura Ramos

"Hello, I'm Laura Ramos, and I write for chief marketing officers."

That's the standard line around here. It'll take a little gettting used to saying it. Heck, I still find myself saying "Xerox" instead of "Forrester" from time to time, but I hope to get out of that habit soon.  
 
Luckily, I won't have to break my habit of thinking and writing about the issues that face large companies that sell highly-considered products and services to other businesses through a direct sales force or channel partners. I've always been a business-to-business (B2B) girl, and I'll stick to that focus here at Forrester.
 
As part of the research team focused on the top marketing role in B2B firms, I plan to lean on my experience in lead-to-revenue management, marketing mix effectiveness, as well as industry and social marketing best practices to help CMOs reimagine and reinvent the role, organizational structure, and skill mix marketing needs to affect the business in this new age of the customer (subscription needed).
 
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Connected, Customized, Personalized . . . My Day At CES 2013

Sheryl Pattek

After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.

What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.

Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.

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CMOs, Are You Ready For 2013?

Corinne Munchbach

I only just recently started watching Mad Men — a shock to many of my marketing peers and to regular folks who now think I’ve been living under a rock for the past five-plus years. I’ll save my thoughts on the show for another time, but what strikes me at least once during each episode is how much everything (tactics) and nothing (strategy) have changed. Similar fundamental challenges weigh on Sterling Cooper’s clients’ minds and on our CMO clients’ minds today: How do we connect with our consumers in a way that differentiates us from the competition? While Don Draper was limited to print and TV, thanks to digital platforms and tools, today’s CMOs have an almost-infinite number of options with which to build relationships with consumers.

2013 is the year that digital takes on a much more significant role in marketing and business strategies at business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations, and CMOs will be responsible for shepherding the change. 2013 is the year that CMOs will leverage digital tools to drive innovation of new compelling brand experiences — not as add-ons or enhancements but as integral elements of the brand’s messages, actions, and products that will differentiate your offering.

B2C CMOs, your 2013 resolutions should be to:

  • Embrace digital disruption. Digital disruption has remarkable strength. It's able to bulldoze traditional sources of competitive advantage faster, with greater power, at less cost than any force that came before it — and no business is immune. CMOs must make a strategic commitment to innovation and stop thinking about digital as another media channel. Digital is everywhere and should elevate marketing and business priorities for consumer benefit.
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2012 Tech Marketing Priorities – From 50 Tech Marketing Execs

Understanding the priorities of fellow tech marketers is a great way to tune one’s own 2012 initiatives.   Over the past two months, my Forrester Technology Council colleagues and I have spent quite a bit of time surveying and talking with members (~ 50 tech CMO’s and VP’s of Marketing) about their priorities for 2012.  Before the champagne pops up here in Boston, I wanted to share a few of the priorities my colleagues and I are hearing most about for 2012:

  • Demand management wins out across the board.   In years past, the top priority for our tech marketing members centered around "driving leads into the funnel."  In 2012, tech marketing execs still care about driving leads, but there is an increased desire to trade lead volume for better lead quality.   Quality that comes from strong nurturing activities to help leads move from the top of funnel into the middle and ultimately into a position where they are "sales-ready."  A vocal number of members expressed commitment to building a more comprehensive demand management process where they would balance their lead nurturing and lead generation initiatives appropriately.  
  • Brand/rebranding comes into vogue.  Many of our members have put brand and/or rebranding at the top of their lists for 2012.  The need to create greater market differentiation against competitors and to build market awareness in new markets (e.g. verticals, geographies) were cited as the top reasons for steering funds, resources and time in brand or rebranding initiatives.     
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