Content plays a role throughout the buyer’s journey. Content marketing, which is the strategy of creating and distributing useful and relevant content to attract the right audience, is often seen as classic top-of-the-funnel, awareness stage content. Mid-funnel content might be focused on nurturing and demand generation, whereas content for sales enablement, which is the practice of equipping salespeople with the information, assets, technology and best practices needed to sell more effectively, is often seen as bottom-of-the-funnel, conversion stage content.
TrustRadius talked to several vendors exhibiting at MarTech who focus on one or more stages of content use. In general, these vendors discussed the importance of thinking about your content strategy across all stages, whether you’re using one tool or a set of tools to support and track your activities.
Meet the Vendors
The vendors we interviewed span a few different categories:
- Kapost, a content marketing platform. Content marketing platforms support content creation, publication, distribution, measurement and optimization.
- Vidyard, an online video platform. OVPs allow users to host and measure the impact of video content.
- Acrolinx, a tool that helps companies with large writing staffs produce writing with consistent quality and tone, and Persado, a tool that uses machine learning to write targeted, effective content for you. These are new types of content tools designed to help companies produce better content.
- Showpad, a sales content tool. Sales content tools are content hubs that enable content sharing for sales teams.
- Salesfusion, a marketing automation platform. MA platforms are used to deliver relevant content to nurture leads, and track their activities.
Content Marketing Trends
1. Marketers are now focusing on quality vs. quantity of content
Where in the initial stages of the content marketing boom, many companies struggled to create enough content to fuel their programs, now users are focused on creating engaging content that drives results.
“I’ll use some stats from the Content Marketing Institute. A few years ago in their annual report on the state of content marketing, the single biggest challenge was the quantity of content. It’s a classic case of, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Everybody focused on quantity. And all of a sudden there was this massive explosion of content that was created, and arguably a lot of it was not very good.
Doug Kessler has a famous Slideshare called, ‘Crap.’ And it says, ‘the single biggest threat to content marketing is content marketing.’ And he predicted this problem, which essentially is, people are going to be fighting for mindshare, and they think the way to do that is to suck all the air out of the room with volume. What’s interesting is if you look at that exact same report from Content Marketing Institute this year, quantity isn’t even in the top 3 issues. It’s quality, measurement and consistency.
The quality of the language has a significant impact. You cannot make up for quality with just spray and pray, and if you’re a large company that’s trying to create quality content at scale, there is no way you’re going to be able to do that with just more people. The economics of that will never work. That’s our value prop.”
—Steve Rotter, CMO at Acrolinx
“Content has been this huge bubble of ‘must create more content.’ The trend now is, ‘what am I doing with this content, and what benefit is this content actually delivering to my bottom line?’ The demand gen people can go home at the end of the day and know how successful they’ve been. The content people don’t. And I think that area of marketing has now reached a maturity level where that answer isn’t acceptable anymore.”
—Emma Dunstone, VP of Marketing at Showpad
The focus on content throughout the buyer’s journey beyond the initial acquisition/awareness stage ties into another trend: understanding the ROI of content, and tying it to business outcomes.
“Very often people can get good vanity metrics on a piece of content, so let’s say the Kapost Top 50 – that’s a popular piece of content that we have every year where we go out and we find the top 50 content organizations and so it’s pretty much a PR kind of piece. It gets lots and lots of touches, everyone wants to see if they’re on it, but we recognize that that’s more like a vanity, awareness metric. Whereas if I look at say the infographic attached to the Forrester report where they identified us as the strongest B2B player in the content management platform marketplace, that may not have had that many shares, but it’s really touching people who are in a decision process, so we’re driving revenue. So if you’re just looking at clicks and shares and things like that, you can really misguide your organization.”
—KC Hill, Director of Product Marketing at Kapost
2. Content can play a key role in sales & marketing alignment
Part of the value proposition of sales content tools like Showpad is usually improving sales and marketing alignment, since these tools allow sales reps to easily access marketing-created content, and provide marketers with visibility into which content assets are being used by sales reps, and which are most effective.
“I think there is going to be a much stronger focus further down the stack. Let’s not just do the top-end; let’s really figure out what that prospect is doing, and how we can continue as marketers to support the sales rep after we’ve qualified the lead.
In terms of sales & marketing alignment, when the conversation becomes greater than, ‘how many leads are you going to give me?’ is where it starts to be a partnership. The best sales cycles for us, the most exciting ones, are when the sales and marketing people are together.”
—Emma Dunstone, VP of Marketing at Showpad
Now some marketing-focused content vendors are recognizing the sales use case, and adding features to allow sales reps to access the content.
“What we hear a lot from customers is, ‘we’ve got all this great marketing video content, but it’s sitting over here.’ So we’re trying to make it available in the platform of action for sales people. With sales, you have to make it really easy for them, or they’re not going to use it. We’ve seen sales reps going to YouTube and grabbing a url and dropping it into an email. You can’t track the engagement that way, and you’re not delivering a great experience.
So we’re allowing sales reps to send videos from Salesforce.com itself, or from their email. You can bring up your Vidyard library right there, choose a video, and send it out.”
—Jeff Gadway, Director of Product Marketing at Vidyard
“[Some of the less sophisticated] sales enablement tools are trying to surface content, but they have content with no tagging on it, no metadata on it. So then it appears in their system, but there’s no way to curate it, there’s no way to make recommendations based on that persona, that stage of the buying cycle, that sort of thing. So to augment that market, we’ve got an integrated Salesforce application so that if you’re on a contact record, you can see the content gallery. Today, you would put in the parameters of what you were looking for, you would search and find it, and you would share it directly, and the system can track who’s sharing what. And then as we continue to develop that capability, recommendations start to surface, and for organizations who just have so much content, it provides a way for them to be able to get very focused, in terms of right content, right person, right time.”
—KC Hill, Director of Product Marketing at Kapost
3. Personalization means serving up the right content to the right person at the right time
Many different marketing technology vendors discuss the trend of personalization or serving up targeted content on a one-to-one or near one-to-one basis to improve the customer experience.
When it comes to content, personalization can mean creating different content for different personas (requiring more content than marketers might currently be creating), or using dynamic fields to make one piece of content feel personal to an entire audience.
For Salesfusion, personalization is about serving up relevant content based on actions an individual has taken and then using those actions to identify those most likely to actually buy.
“We track the buyer’s journey, and it’s interesting to see how engaged people are with the content along the way. Then we have to try to understand, based on the actions they take, which ones are really potential buyers, and which are just wanting to be up to speed on the latest marketing trends.
Buyers are so different and the actions that they take are so different. Having a tool in place to be able to track the buyer’s journey and give analytics back about the propensity to buy, based on the actions they take, has been extremely helpful so that we can focus our efforts on the right people, and then actually personalize those journeys. So, based on the activities that they’re doing and the content that they engage with, we’re able to systematically provide other content that is relevant to what they’re interested in and personalized for them.”
—Malinda Wilkinson, CMO at Salesfusion
The CRO at Persado, a technology product that promises to write better content based on emotional profiles and previous successes, says machine learning will play a key role.
“One overarching trend is the concept of personalization, the concept of, the more specific your offer is to an individual or an audience, the higher the customer experience. We approach personalization very differently than anyone else. We use the term ‘emotional segment of one.’ We think about the emotional result, not the product preferences. Based on our data, we believe the role of emotions is so powerful now that the combination of a very well targeted product with the right emotional description is like nirvana.
The other trend is machine learning, which is realizing that actually there are certain things that machines can do in terms of understanding and learning rapidly, better than humans… The transparency of markets (i.e., being able to find out anything about anything), coupled with personalization means that ultimately the whole concept of machine learning is really important because you have to be smart. Because if you’re not smart, someone else will figure out how to target Lawrence Whittle with the perfect offer at the perfect time, and with the perfect message.”
—Lawrence Whittle, CRO at Persado
Mayur Gupta, Head of Digital at Healthgrades, and an expert in MarTech, agrees that the ability to deliver relevant experiences is the end-goal for marketers, but doesn’t think anyone software vendor enables it alone; rather, marketers need to assemble the right set of tools.
“The ultimate pinnacle is leveraging context to deliver experiences that matter, thinking beyond the channel, thinking about the consumer and the consumer need, real-time, just-in-time, and being able to give her what she needs before she knows she needs it… But you’re only solving 10% of the problem with one tool. There is no single tool that can deliver the ultimate experience. The real symphony happens when all the instruments are working together. The challenge for brands and for marketing technologists is their ability to create the symphony. They have to be the orchestrator.”
—Mayur Gupta, Head of Digital at Healthgrades
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