Monday, December 7, 2015

How Content Marketing and New Technologies are Transforming B2B Marketing Models

By Giuseppe Caltabiano
Vice President, Marketing Integration - Social Media,
PR, Content Process and Tools
Schneider Electric

B2B firms tend to be concerned that their solutions aren’t attractive enough for content marketing  – but this usually occurs only if the approach to doing content marketing is wrong in the first place. So, how do you transform your marketing strategy from an outdated traditional model to a modern and successful model aligned with growth and business goals?

This can be done through proper integration of content and social media marketing and a deep transformation of the overall marketing model, using new marketing technologies and tools. Technology’s influence spans all industries and continues to change and revolutionize everything it touches. The content-marketing industry is no exception.

Traditional marketing has always been about getting company products and services in front of the audience. Content Marketing is about meeting the informational needs of potential customers so they become interested in you.

In the last few months I have been working on a content strategy that is going to change the approach of my business unit, moving from an advanced but traditional to a new, modern, content-based marketing model. The new model will introduce elements of uniqueness, like the Business Unit editorial board and the Business Unit editorial calendar (many boards and many calendars were in place before the transformation). It will integrate content, social media and PR. It will make advantage of the latest marketing technologies for content management, distribution and cohesive analytics.

Based on a definition from Content Marketing Institute (CMI), "Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Why do companies need a content marketing strategy today? 
Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you. Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. With content’s high adoption rates (27 million pieces of contents shared every day), there is great potential to provide measurable business benefits, and enterprise-wide appeal.  A strategic content marketing program is virtually essential to staying competitive in today’s marketplace.

A content marketing strategy has to be documented. Based on research from Content Marketing Institute, firms with a properly documented marketing strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing and are able to justify spending a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing. I think there is a tendency to overcomplicate the strategy definition process. So, I have put together a simple list. A well prepared content marketing strategy should include the following elements:

1. The business case for change/innovation
Firms need to assess the situation "as is" today and start thinking about a "to be" model, based on objectives and medium-long term vision. Content Marketers have to communicate reasons for creating content and moving away from a traditional model, the risks involved, and the vision of what success will look like. This is more likely to gain executive and functional support for your strategy.

2. The business plan for content marketing
This covers the goals you have for your content program, the unique value the firm is looking to provide through content, and details of its business model. It also should outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you execute your plan.

3. Editorial Process & Procedures
The business plan has to stand side by side with an internal transformation. In fact, today's marketing organizations are barely designed to properly support a content marketing strategy.  The content editorial board is the core of your transformation. The board has to handle all content-related requests and issues, has to define internal communication and distribution plan and channel strategy. In large organizations, like the one I work for, the editorial board also has the key role of alignment and coordination between several division and sources.

Also, you can’t have a proper content strategy without the tools to manage it. And the best tools are the ones that combine a content marketing platform with workflow, calendar, publication and distribution functionalities.

The editorial calendar is much more than just a calendar with content assigned to dates. A good editorial calendar maps content production to the audience persona. Ultimately, your editorial calendar is your most powerful tool as a content marketer. Without a plan, an editorial board and editorial calendar, nothing will happen.

3. Audience persona and content map
This is where you analyze the audiences for whom you will create content, what their needs are, and what their content engagement cycle might look like. You may also want to map out content you can deliver throughout their buyer’s journey in order to move them closer to their goals.

4. Brand story 
Here, you characterize your content marketing in terms of what ideas and messages you want to communicate, how do they are connected with your brand(s) story, how those messages differ from the competition, and how you see the landscape evolving once you have shared them with your audience. For instance, this is my company brand story: working on a content marketing strategy we've secured that values and messages of our brand are reflected in all new content created.

5. Channel strategy, including distribution and amplification 
Content marketing strategy comes first, followed by channel strategy. But as content marketers, it is our responsibility to look at all available channels to tell our stories and adapt contents based on the channels. These include: the technology platforms you will use to tell and distribute your story, what your criteria, processes, and objectives are for each one, and how you will connect them so that they create a cohesive conversation. Today, the most innovative and forward-thinking companies have merged content, social and PR "channels". By doing so, they can capitalize on the synergies between these three.

6. Measurement and Optimization
Everything you measure needs to start with an objective. Dashboard and KPIs have to be in place in order to measure results and facilitate decisions. Until a few years ago, the ability to track real ROI from one piece of content was virtually non-existent. Now,  all that has changed. Marketing automation tools like HubSpot, Marketo and ActOn let marketers track which content gains the most engagement, leads and revenue.

As a conclusion, you might not be an expert content marketer; but you have to diligently plan and document your strategy. In some cases you will need to re-design your organization to be aligned with the strategy and to make things happen. Gone are the days of content marketing simply being a fancy term for articles and press releases. Now, companies can easily create media contents, videos, infographics, podcasts and other value-adds  for a well-integrated content marketing strategy. Furthermore, the way companies use content marketing technology to combine original and syndicated content in a community style is unique and indicative of the future of marketing.
Giuseppe Caltabiano is Vice President for Marketing Integration at Schneider Electric; he is responsible for integration of Content, Social Media and PR strategy to support and enable Data Centres and IT solutions. His current focus is on driving improved processes, tools and performance of earned media initiatives for the IT Business Unit of Schneider Electric, including Social Media and PR, as well as Content processes & tools and redefining the campaign development blueprint process for business demand creation and capture.

Giuseppe has an MBA from Milan SDA Bocconi School of Management, a degree in Electronic Engineering from the Milan Polytechnic University and trained on Mergers & Acquisitions at the London Business School. Giuseppe has more than 15 years of marketing experience in the fields of IT, Software and Industrial Automation. He currently lives in London.