In our latest webinar, FT Longitude editor-in-chief, Sean Kearns, interviewed Rob Mitchell, CEO and author of our new ebook, to provide our audience with an overview of this important topic and find out where he got his inspiration for writing it.
We asked you, our audience, to submit your questions on the topic of influence and impact in B2B content to help us frame the discussion. Those questions came in thick and fast – thank you! We received so many that we were unable to answer them all on the webinar. So here are the ones we missed and what we have to say about them.
How do you draw up a content plan for a year that is structured and responsive?
All content programmes must be engineered so that they quickly yet consistently produce powerful and timely ideas. In the past year, we’ve seen content production shift to shorter, faster sprints, with bigger themes explored iteratively over time. This approach has proved to be particularly effective, so much so that many of the clients we work with have already committed to a more agile model for their longer-term content strategy.
Our advice to marketers and companies who take this approach is that content planning team should include individuals who are responsible for tracking emerging business trends and formulating the company’s thinking on those issues. This requires a more ambidextrous approach than many are used to, so we focus on applying a multi-speed content model that combines a continuous flow of short-form commentary and points of view with bigger, more strategic content investments.
Which key metrics do you recommend to evidence the effectiveness of the content
There is no quick and simple way to measure the impact of content, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach. Our work on Proving our value for the Thought Leadership Network presents a three-tier measurement framework that you can customise for your own campaigns.
The goal is to gather a range of evidence and proof points, including short term and longer-term, qualitative and quantitative across areas including alignment, engagement and influence and impact. When it comes to tracking engagement specifically, it’s important to look across Paid, Earned, Social and Owned – but bear in mind that these metrics are not usually reliable indicators of the wider impact of your campaign. Where possible, look for KPIs where there is a demonstrable link between content and outcome.
What metrics matter to the CEO and Sales vs the metrics that matter to Marketing?
Senior executives see a lot of bland content masquerading as thought leadership, so it is not surprising that they can be sceptical about its value. As marketers, we need to educate by showing them what constitutes real thought leadership and identify the right KPIs that align with the objectives to help to demonstrate the return.
Depending on your business and commercial goals, the metrics you choose to focus on could range from impact on policy to degree of attention in the media. But once you’ve identified which to measure, setting a go-to metric for your campaign ensures you can pinpoint the value and trace that all-important ROI.
Where possible, look for KPIs where there is a demonstrable link between content and outcome. Our three-tier effectiveness model details specific key metrics to consider that will resonate across all areas of your business.
How do you overcome fear of being left behind? How do you change mindsets and only publish the best?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying too much about the content your competition is publishing. Companies get obsessed with finding the so-called white space, and get hooked on expressing ideas that are different from those of their rivals.
Worry less about what your immediate competitors are saying, and think more about what your audience actually wants. This means saying something distinctive. Focus on what sets you apart from the rest, but because it’s fresh and relevant to your audience – not because it’s different from what others are doing. The best content is relevant, timely and adds to the conversation. That’s what will get you noticed.
Anyone who creates quality content knows that it requires considerable time and effort. It’s not something that can be churned out in huge quantities or in a short timeframe. Focus on a few key messages, with which there is a greater emphasis on quality to attract attention. There’s also real value in the scarcity of good ideas. We advise companies to create fewer but bigger and more impactful content programmes. Strong ownership of a small number of issues is what helps these companies to stand out from the crowd.
How can I measure the impact of my content in a way that’s meaningful to the sales and other teams?
Commercial teams need to see the link between your content and what they are trying to sell. If that link is too tenuous, or the content seems abstracted from the conversations they want to have, then they won’t use it. Think about your content as an enabler of commercial activity, igniting conversations that may ultimately lead in that direction rather than overtly being about the product or solution itself.
Most discussions between sales and marketing focus on the funnel and see the sale as the ultimate destination. But the first sale is only the start of the customer relationship. Good content campaigns also consider existing clients, and how content can be used to strengthen relationships and build advocacy. Marketing teams should therefore always consider the needs of both business development and account management – and ensure they capture their needs as part of campaign planning.
2021 and 22 – influence — a new formula?
2020 was a year of extraordinary disruption to normal business practice. The face-to-face meetings, events and conferences that were once the bedrock of commercial relationships went away and got replaced by webinars, digital events and Zoom calls.
From a practical point of view, as life begins to return to some semblance of normality again, we expect that companies will adopt a hybrid model that uses digital delivery where it has been proven to be more effective in influencing audiences (e.g. in terms of scale) while at the same time bringing back the human element when and where possible.
From a more holistic perspective, B2B marketers are now blending the rational with the emotional content as part of their campaigns. That means treating the audience as individuals and thinking about what will influence and inspire them – not just the features and benefits of your offering.
How do you work with other influencers to gain traction in the marketplace?
Influencer marketing may be synonymous with B2C, but influencers now play a large part in B2B content strategies, too. The roles of these influencers mean they are keen to share their expert insight with existing and new audiences. Not only does this add credibility to your story – it also helps to generate awareness of your content and brand among a different following, and therefore increases the reach of the campaign.
We carry out in-depth interviews with experts and influencers to help bring survey results to life on a personal level, generating the unique stories that content needs to engage with audiences.
On a more practical level, using direct quotes on social media and in PR will provide those all-important soundbites that make audiences sit up and take notice. Interviews with the right influencers and external contributors can quickly and easily be turned into extra campaign materials, such as Q&A interviews, case studies and personal profiles — just a few of the ways to get the maximum mileage from an influencer interview programme.
To those of you who joined the webinar, thanks for tuning in. And for those who couldn’t make it, catch up with the on-demand webinar here. We look forward to welcoming you to another FT Longitude webinar again soon!