What Makes Valuable B2B Content: Targeting (Part 1/3)
Content is a powerful tool for B2B brands. It’s how brands communicate with their audiences. And B2B businesses are investing heavily into creating and promoting content.
According to Content Marketing Institute, about one third of the average B2B marketing budget is spent on content marketing, and a staggering 84% of marketers report that they’ll maintain or even increase their content budget by 2018.
So, the question is how can marketers be sure that they’re using that budget to create valuable content and not just adding to this ever-increasing volume of B2B content?
When we’re talking about content, value is reflexive.
Content needs to provide bang for the marketer’s buck as well as value to the audience, who should come away from consuming a content asset with some gained benefit. In this three-part series, we’ll explore what content value means from the perspective of both the content publisher as well as the content consumer.
Each part of the series will examine one of the three most important elements of truly valuable content: targeting, style, and substance.
Part 1: Content Targeting
In marketing, we talk a lot about targeting and for a good reason. Targeting is critical because proper targeting ensures that we are spending our resources on the activities and content that will drive results, i.e., money in the bank, y’all. We have to make sure we are focusing on the right people with the right messaging.
So, the first step toward creating valuable content is to ensure we know who we’re creating value for and how that value should look in terms of the content itself.
We do both of these things by nailing down the content targeting of the audience and the composition of the content.
Targeting Your Content Audience
First, let’s talk about targeting your audiences correctly. There are two ways to approach targeting your content production efforts to specific audiences; by personas or by accounts.
Audience Targeting Approach #1: Creating Persona-Targeted Content
Most people are familiar with this method to create targeted content, whether they know it or not. The first step in producing persona-targeted content is to understand who you’re marketing to — your ideal customers. From there, you’ll distill those ideal customers into a 2-3 generic personas that are representative of your ideal customers. Those personas serve as the hypothetical audience for whom you’ll wrap your content strategy around.
Personas often include job titles, industries, geographical areas, etc. as well as the pain points that those hypothetical customers are likely to feel or challenges they face in their jobs. By visualizing your target prospective customers with personas, you can then begin to craft an editorial calendar with content topic, formats, and promotion plans that will resonate most with your personas.
Audience Targeting Approach #2: Creating ABM-Targeted Content
The other approach to targeting content production is based on account-based marketing, or ABM.
ABM has gained in popularity as a marketing strategy within the past year or so, and it’s somewhat more complex than persona-targeted content. With ABM, you instead create a wishlist of accounts that you’d like to land and work backward from that list to create content assets that are targeted to those accounts specifically.
There are varying degrees of customization at the content creation level for ABM-driven content. One option is to take the Mad Libs approach to creating a standard piece of content that features some customization points which can be tweaked to target unique accounts in your target account list. So, you’re creating one core piece of content and then ‘filling in the blanks’ for sections of the content asset to target each individual account within the master target account list. As you can see, ABM is obviously more time-consuming and labor-intensive than persona-driven content.
Then, there's the fully-custom approach to creating ABM-targeted content, which can be very expensive. In this targeting strategy, you'll create fully-custom pieces of content for each target account on the master list. Imagine how compelling it would be to receive a fully-custom, one-off piece of content!
Now that we’ve looked at how to two ways to correctly target content to an audience — whether it’s a persona-driven or an ABM-driven approach — we now need to consider what type of content we should produce for our audiences.
Targeting Content Themes, Topics, and Formats
We break targeting the ‘content’ of your content into three components: themes, topics, and formats. Let’s take a look at each of these components.
Themes are the editorial pillars of your content strategy and content creation. By developing 2-3 themes to cover, you’ll create consistency in your brand’s messaging. Consistency leads to brand authority. If your product or service caters to the human resources professional, a few themes you might use for targeting your content are the future of work, workplace culture, and HR technology. Your themes should always have a healthy tie-in to your brand’s core offerings.
Topics are the granular bits of content you’ll create within those themes. You can have a great theme but bland, uninteresting and irrelevant topics, so you need to consider your subject matter at both the macro (themes) and micro (topics) levels. To continue with our example of targeting the HR professional, within the theme of workplace culture you might build out some topics such as encouraging diverse candidates to apply to your open requisitions, creating a culture of open communication within your organization, how to motivate the management team to emphasize work/life balance, etc. into your editorial calendar.
Lastly, formats are critical in targeting your content! You’ll need to balance the requirements of a topic’s scope with the promotion angle you’re planning to leverage to get the most qualified eyeballs on your content asset. For example, let’s look at two topics from the example we’re using. “Encouraging diverse candidates to apply to your open requisitions” sounds like it would be a great infographic because could cover a list of tactics that you might use to encourage diverse candidates to apply as well as do’s and don’ts. If you think about it, this could be a topic that would translate well to a visual medium like an infographic. Whereas a topic like “creating a culture of open communication within your organization” is much more abstract and it’s a very broad topic that has a lot of meat to it.
So, a longer, more text-based format like an ebook would be a better fit for this topic. Even if you have a compelling topic, if the format doesn’t jive with your audience or complement the subject matter of the topic, your content can still fall flat.
Taking the time to make sure that the audience, themes, topics and formats of your content assets targeted correctly to your audience(s) will each incrementally increase the value of the content asset. But, when you have ALL of these elements dialed-in and properly targeted, you’ll have a much, much stronger asset that’ll prove to be more valuable to both you and your audience.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll talk about the substance of a content asset. The meat of it. The nitty gritty.