The Cultivation Game

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People have developed an ability to overlook the daily barrage of marketing and sales messages. It’s the ‘information hum’ that’s always there, but that people have got so used to hearing and seeing – and ignoring.

That’s why content designed to engage with people who are looking for information that helps guide their buying decision is proving to be such an effective tool for B2B marketing – but only when done in the right way.

Generate and cultivate
A lot of content marketing is concerned with producing lead generation for short- to mid-term returns, pushing out traditional marketing messages focused solely on the latest product or the freshest offers.

A B2B content marketing approach is about communicating useful or engaging customer-centric information to lure these prospects to you. It uses thought leadership content to position your company as a expert leader in the industry; an authoritative, trusted resource and the go-to brand.

Thought leadership however is a cumulative process, with a longer-term objective. It’s about cultivating leads and being an informative industry presence across the entire length of the sales funnel.

Four Pro Tips
Creating and placing insightful content that answers the key questions your prospects are asking, or introducing new industry themes and topics that are relevant and helpful to your target audience, ensures that when the time comes to make the purchasing decision, your company is front of mind.

While there are many different ways of reaching your target audience, there’s a few things you absolutely must include if you are to see any return on your content investment.

#1 Understand your audience
Thought leadership is about becoming the trusted advisor and well-known industry expert – not just pitching a product! Who are you engaging with? What challenges are they facing? What stage of the buying process are they at? What stage of adoption is the market at? Only by understanding their requirements and challenges can you start to design a content strategy that targets those issues and addresses your prospect’s needs.

#2 Find out where they hang out
Now we know who they are, we need to find out where they are and how to reach them. There are a multitude of social platforms, publications, blogs, news sites and industry analysts to consider – so get researching!

It’s surprising how much time and effort some organisations spend pushing their content to platforms that may well be trendy, but hold little value for reaching B2B decision makers. Is a CTO going to be persuaded by a 15 second Vine video? Probably not. But can you get them engaged in a discussion on LinkedIn? Absolutely!

Put some time into finding out where your targets actually consume information and make these platforms a priority target for your communications strategy.

#3 The message and format – build the narrative
Create ‘bite-sized’ pieces addressing specific issues, across all the appropriate platforms, and that work together to form a wider ‘corporate narrative’ of your company.

One of easiest ways to achieve consistency across different content types is simply to re-purpose original content to fit various platforms. Got an in-depth white paper digging into the fine detail? Why not take that information and turn it into a bylined article for some valuable 3rd party endorsement, start a conversation on LinkedIn? You can always reference the white paper – you may even get away with a hyperlink.

The key is to make that content visible and ensure it touches all the platforms you identified in the previous step. LinkedIn posts work if they are short, argumentative and ask for a response, blogs can be more chatty and opinionated, and tweets are really powerful if you follow the triangulation rule.

#4 The matrix
An often over-looked idea is that your thought leadership activities are just a part of a complete campaign. It needs to align and support all your other corporate messages as part of a messaging ‘matrix’.

This enables you to maintain consistency when adapting content across multiple formats and retain the same themes for LinkedIn posts, blogs and Twitter. At IBA we create a ‘communications ecosystem’, a place where we can curate all content together. This means that we can quickly create, re-purpose, re-use and re-format material to fit any platform and reach all our key ‘publics’.

The key is to ensure that you are always ‘on’ corporate message, effectively managing all of your content.

James Rose is Head of Content Strategy at IBA International

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