For many Chief Marketing Officers and marketing leaders, especially in B2B, there is a seismic shift taking place in how marketing is approached and done. A staple in yearly strategic planning is the product or service as the central focus of marketing and sales plans year after year. Product marketing is just as the name implies – all about marketing the product. If this is the central premise of your marketing plan for 2014, time to go back to the drawing board before it is too late.
Decade after decade, marketing and sales focused on touting the superiority of a product or service as the main competitive differentiator. Everything from brand naming, marketing communications, events, sales support, and messaging centered on telling this all-important story about the product or service. Despite now operating in a world gone digital, the “product” story continues to be pushed.
How can this be? We have seen a dramatic rise in the use of content marketing during the past three years. And more B2B businesses are planning to make use of content marketing in 2014. 78% of CMO’s, according to Demand Metric; believe content marketing is the future. Counter this with SiriusDecisions finding 70% of B2B content goes unused.
Is content marketing really the future if this much of B2B content will be unusable?
What Matters First
Although I have written on several occasions about the ineffectiveness dilemma facing content marketing, I do believe it has its place in the future. However, much of content marketing filling the digital airwaves is still rooted in product thinking. It is no wonder 70% of content goes unused. What matters first is the challenge of creating brand experience. Without it, content marketing will be on a continuous treadmill of churning out unusable product-centric content.
Achieving brand experience as a difference maker will require more holistic thinking. Not only in a return to the fundamentals of marketing’s role to understand customers and create value, but to also understand how to create meaning for customers. Chief Marketing Officers and marketing leaders will need to be careful about tunnel vision with respect to content marketing and the side effect of too much product messaging.
Creating Meaning Through Experience
Business leaders are living in a much more complex world. Searching for answers to complex problems and achieving challenging goals, which can be characteristic of B2B environments. What will matter in 2014 is the experience of working through complex problems with all facets of an organization and its’ brand. And, for CMO’s, this is no easy feat when brand experience has to do with the sensory, interactions, visuals, and impressions.
In several recent conversations with marketing leaders, developing brand experience is the apparent supreme challenge in B2B. Shaking off the old garment of product thinking is tough to do in B2B. Putting on the new clothing of brand experience will be a new way of thinking. Especially when the call for more leads is breathing down the backs of many CMO’s. It is a challenge, which cannot be ignored for this reason – competitive advantage via products or services no longer lasts and is short-lived.
Developing Brand Experience
Developing brand experience starts with an understanding of the meaningful goals of customers and is ongoing when the brand experience represents the future. How can you make this happen? Here are some suggestions:
- Get to know customer goals. Goals can live both in the unconscious and conscious worlds. It is important to know the gaps customers face in fulfilling goals and how the brand can communicate a belief they can be filled. Qualitative insight research is key.
- Focus on the organizational advantage. In today’s business climate, it matters what it means to do business with an organization. When product advantages are short-lived, buyers are looking at organizational and operational advantage. Do you have them and does the brand experience put these advantages at the forefront of a buyer’s mentality?
- Create consistency across all involved. Oftentimes, a company’s orientation can be overloaded on leads and new sales, whereby those involved get consistency in brand experience and interaction. Outside of this though – it falls apart for those involved. Understanding multiple personas, which interact with the brand becomes important.
- Focus on stories demonstrating the brand’s ability to deliver the promise. Knowing the situational scenarios and stories by which the brand delivers the promise is essential. Usually, B2B companies attempt to tell stories around their product. They do not get read.
- Offer a vision of the future. Presenting and offering foresight is part of the brand experience. It must offer a sense of what the future beholds for buyers. And, makes a statement on what they are experiencing is sustainable.
These five suggested points help with getting grounded in building a brand experience framework. Content marketing, as it has been before the advent of our new digital world, is one means for supporting and communicating the brand experience. The overwhelming pressure to reach buyers and generate leads can make the brand experience responsibility one which gets a low priority or a forgotten prerequisite for successful content marketing.
In 2014, to succeed at content marketing, Chief Marketing Officers and marketing leaders will need to first succeed at building a brand experience framework. Not doing so will mean 70% or more of content produced will go unused.