Content Marketing expert from ContentOvation, Jamie Green talks about the importance of content marketing in B2B marketing strategy.
Trust is more important that ever, but it’s also harder than ever to earn
1. Why launch ContentOvation – and why now of all times?
You’re not the first to ask me that question. A few of the people in my network of close friends and advisors actually counselled against the launch, at least at this time. Yes, the economy still sucks right now in many sectors. And I get it, a lot of companies have cut their marketing budgets just to keep the lights on.
But I disagree wholeheartedly that it’s not the right time for ContentOvation. I think now is the perfect time because of the value we offer. The world around us is changing at an accelerated rate but, in a weird way, it’s also slowed down. People are more thoughtful about their decisions. They have to be because what we think of as the “norms” are disintegrating right before our eyes. And in a lot of ways, that’s great. I’m a father. I have three children, and I couldn’t be more optimistic about many of the changes that are occurring in our culture, our businesses, politics, art, lots of areas.
But change and lack of certainty about the future creates a landscape that can be tough for companies to navigate. People are more careful and deliberate when it comes to making decisions and, when those decisions revolve around purchases – especially purchases at the B2B scale – the need for credibility is absolutely paramount.
Trust is more important that ever, but it’s also harder than ever to earn.
Now is the right time for ContentOvation because ContentOvation can help companies build trust among customers and expand their customer base, especially when their competitors are curtailing their marketing efforts.
2. How can ContentOvation help companies build trust in an era of skepticism? People can’t seem to agree on anything anymore, even basic facts.
Look, it’s not that complicated. On an interpersonal level, you build trust with someone, first of all, by just being present. Second, you show them that you understand their perspective, where they’re coming from, what they’re dealing with, because everybody is dealing with something, and they benefit from your empathy. And, last, you take action to help them if and when they need it.
Companies can apply those same steps. ContentOvation focuses mainly on B2B companies and, in B2B, trust is a huge factor ¬– you have to have the trust of your channel partners to stay in business, and your customers have to trust you so you can thrive. You build trust by keeping your brand front and center in the marketplace. Now is not the time to kill your marketing budget, though traditional marketing tactics aren’t as effective anymore. People need to understand who you are, what you stand for, and your fundamental promise to your customers when they do business with you. That understanding is directly tied to your brand identity.
And how do your customers identify with your brand identity – through your content. That’s where ContentOvation comes in. We help brands tell their story, attract an audience, build trust among that audience and, ultimately, convert that audience to customers and from customers to brand champions.
A brand’s audience is everything. And if a brand has not yet built an audience or has not yet even begun to think of their customer universe as an audience to nurture and grow, now is the time to make that transition. I heard Jay Baer say recently that “The audience is the new algorithm,” and I agree with that.
Companies that want to carve out a spot for themselves in the future should focus on building an audience – a community of customers and channel partners who understand the company’s brand identity, engage with it on a regular basis, advocate for it and, when the need arises, rely on it to solve their problems and satisfy their needs.
To build an audience and sustain their attention, you need content – high quality content that is useful and relevant to them. That content needs to be tied to a company’s strategic business objectives. ContentOvation’s core competency is helping companies do just that.
3. What makes ContentOvation different from other content marketing agencies?
Well, there are several reasons. But maybe one of the biggest is that that when we work with our own customers, we take the same approach I just described. When we work with a customer, we truly get to know their business. With some agencies, the approach is to learn enough about a company and their industry in order to fulfill an order. For ContentOvation, that’s our minimum threshold, our starting point.
We won’t even make recommendations to our clients until we have a very strong understanding of their businesses, its challenges, areas of strength, aspirations, etc. You can’t “order” content from our website, and our relationships with our customers aren’t mitigated by content briefs or input forms.
Our ideal customer is a B2B company looking for a partner who can come in and propose innovative content marketing solutions based on a solid understand of what’s unique about the company’s brand and its value proposition. For us, we’re building consultative relationships, not sales relationships.
Innovation is an important concept – heck, it’s part of what our company name is meant to connote – but innovative marketing solutions have to be built on a solid understanding of what’s unique about our client’s brand and its value proposition. The innovative programs we propose have to be tied back to a company’s business objectives and must be architected with a full awareness of the ecosystem in which that company operates.
We recently covered the news about ContentOvation’s launch (see: https://www.martechcube.com/contentovation-aims-to-take-the-suck-out-of-b2b-digital-marketing/).
4. What are your goals in your first year?
When I sat down with my advisors and really talked through my vision for what ContentOvation was going to be, it became crystal clear to me through that process that I did not want us to be a volume-based business.
Too many companies treat content as a commodity. That approach does nothing for a company’s brand, other than to damage it You don’t show up at a banquet for a charity you support wearing clothes you’d wear while doing yardwork. In that sort of setting, your clothes, your personal sense of style say something about you and what you stand for.
It’s sort of the same thing for a company’s content. When a customer is thinking about doing business with a company, it’s the company’s content that will help shape that customer’s first impression and, to an extent, determine the arc of that customer’s entire relationship with that company, good or bad. Customers today self-educate before they make a purchase decision. The average customer will engage with at least 10 pieces of content before reaching out to a sales person. Companies who have useful, relevant content so that their customers can self-educate on their site during the evaluation phase have an incredible advantage.
I see some companies with content on their site, probably developed by an overworked in-house marketing team without the specialization needed or an underpaid and unqualified freelancer, that is frankly embarrassing. If companies are looking for cheap content that does nothing to attract, engage, and inspire its customers, ContentOvation is not the place to go for that.
Our content is created by subject matter experts embedded in our customers’ industries. We don’t work with so-called generalists, and we don’t write just for algorithms.
B2B content marketing requires substance. And it’s important that the content strategies we develop on behalf of our customers are tied to specific business objectives.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
So our goal is never going to be to conquer the B2B content marketing world. We’re building out a portfolio of customers who understand our value proposition and are in need of what we bring to the table. We’ve run the numbers and developed the business plan, but I’ll leave the financial goals to the financial people. My vision for ContentOvation’s first year is to have built a relationship select number of companies for whom we have tangibly helped move the needle on their business objectives. We don’t need to have a huge number of customers to grow and thrive. I learned early on in my B2B career that when you help a customer grow, they stick with you, and you are more likely than not to grow together.
That’s one of the things I love about B2B. It’s about relationships and things like loyalty and trust. Marketing tactics are shifting dramatically, but those fundamental values are keys to a company’s success, and that’s not going to change.
5. Speaking of changes in marketing, how do technology and martech stacks influence content marketing?
I think we’ve pretty much reached the point that it’s clear you can’t have one without the other. And COVID has only accelerated our dependency on digital marketing technologies. There are some very exciting developments taking place, particularly in areas like AI and machine learning.
As I’ve been speaking with companies, I am seeing a lot of variance when it comes to brands’ sophistication levels with marketing automation. I think there will be a lot of opportunity for us to help brands use their content to target at the account-based level to move buyers seamlessly through the various stages of the sales funnel.
Recently, we’ve been working with some of our customers on content personalization and interactive content experiences. Brands that have not yet experimented with providing interactive content experiences soon should be. Things like online quizzes, the most primitive form of interactive content, get huge engagement. Buzzfeed pushes out something like 5-10 quizzes per day and gets nearly 100 percent completion on them. That’s incredible. I think the future of content marketing will involve more interactivity with audiences participating in the content experience.
6. What work-related hack do you use for maximum productivity?
I love that question. I would say that what’s been a gamechanger for me is a habit I refer to as “focus sessions.” It’s kind of a variation of the Pomodoro Technique that I’ve adapted for my own work patterns.
When I’m doing immersion-based tasks, I work in one-hour blocks. Fifty minutes of deep focus, followed by 10 minutes off. I use a timer, either on my phone or laptop, to keep track of the time. During those 50 minutes of task-level focus, I mute my phone, close down my email and social media feeds, and pretty much shut myself off from all external connections.
I basically narrow my world down to my brain, my laptop, and a blank sheet of paper I keep next to my laptop. For me, the blank sheet of paper is key to the whole ritual. Any time I get an idea not related to what I’m working on or I think of a task I forgot to do or need to complete later, I quickly write it on the paper and then return to the task at hand. Then it’s gone, out of my head so I can focus as much as possible on my work.
When I have work that requires that level of focus, I use my “focus session” technique. It’s low-tech, but it’s effective.
7. Would you mind showing us your phone? We’re curious, what apps do you use the most?
I have more apps on my phone than I can use in a year. And I really need to get them organized. Other than the standard messaging, email, photo, weather apps, I’d say the apps I use the most are Evernote for notetaking, Reddit, which I use to chat with my fellow gardening and tropical plant geeks, and Stitcher. I’m a huge podcast listener.
My favorites podcasts are “Spartan Up!” and the “Jocko Podcast” for fitness and resilience. I like “3 Books with Neil Pasricha” and “The Knowledge Project.” I just had a friend get me hooked on “The Peter Attia Drive,” which covers issues related to health, performance, and longevity.
For marketing-related podcasts, I like “Marketing Over Coffee” and “Marketing School” with Neil Patel and Eric Siu. They release one short episode every single day. I really appreciate Neil’s views on content, and I’m a big fan of his. But I’m not sure how he does what he does. It’s possible he’s found a way to clone himself. In addition to the everyday podcast thing, he’s pushing out multiple YouTube videos a week as well as blogs on his site. He’s a content generation machine. And, most importantly, his content is engaging and useful.
I think more companies should be thinking of podcasts as a format to showcase their thought leadership. ContentOvation can help with that, too.