How to create a content factory and run it well

For brands, it is vital to engage customers in conversations early in the sales cycle and what drives this is content. Every company is focusing on content which will get them the necessary results, but how can marketers build a “content factory” within the organisation?

(For more discussions on how to ace your content marketing strategies, join our Content 360 Conference on 8-9 April this year.)

Rashish Pandey, director of marketing for APAC at Cisco Systems, shared some tips at Marketing magazine’s B2B conference. “As marketers in general, and in B2B in particular, we are an insecure lot. As long as our customers engage with us, we are happy,” he said.

Our biggest fear is indifference. It is when customers choose to ignore us – that’s our worst nightmare.

The indifference tells you that you’re creating content that is not resonating with your customers. Compelling content is a combination of relevance to your customers, the persona you’re talking to and the journey you’re engaging them on. A few questions marketers should have top-of-mind when coming up with content are:

  • Does this content help my customer do his job better?
  • Is this timely? Marketers get wedded to the idea of a content calendar, but does that calendar have scope for “breaking news” moments that happen every day? How quickly can they turn around and capitalise on those situations?
  • Is the content findable?
  • Is it inspiring in a way that makes the buyer stop and think?

1. Identify personas

Looking at a typical B2B buying landscape, you’ve got seniors, partners, technical decision makers, etc, who play a different role in the buying process. In the past, brands used to think in terms of segments – hospitality or retail or aviation and so on. The need now is to look at the personas behind those decisions.

Cisco has identified 17 of these different personas that are either championing a decision or influencing it or running a process. “We get really close to them to understand what keeps them awake. Somebody wants to become an AGM from being an IT manager, or go deep technically. Do we understand all that?” Pandey said.

2. Not all content is created equal

The type of content depends heavily on what stage of the sales cycle your product is in. It should be specific to that stage. If you are talking about thought leadership when the customer is actually looking for comparative information of vendors, it will not resonate. What will resonate is when you know you have compelling content and you’re connecting it with the persona and their belief systems and at the right stage.

Many agencies tend to separate search from content marketing. “That’s really not true,” Pandey said. Content marketing is one part of the puzzle when you look at the customer insights and whether you’re serving them with the right content.

“At Cisco, we look at deep analytics of our site visitors – what they are looking for, which pages they visit, how much time they spent on a page, what does it tell us about them and so on.”

3. What problem are you solving?

A marketer should constantly ask this question. “There are no boring brands, there is only boring content.” What’s your unique point of view on that problem, in that industry and that’s what you should be talking about.

The how’s of content marketing

The fundamental challenge with content marketing is the number of avenues where content needs to be deployed. From newsletters, websites, events, social media – the demand to push compelling content is high. There is also an increased need to feed this beast on a regular basis. Almost half of organisations posts something once a week. So, how do you get around to building such compelling content?

“It takes an army to create the compelling content,” Pandey said, adding it’s not that the content does not exist in the organisation, it exists in silos.

“As marketers, it is not our job only to create content, but to be an orchestrator of content that resides in the silos of the organisation.”

Content in Cisco is generated by multiple departments – R&D, analytics, the social media team, events and so on. On top of those, marketers need to also look outside the organisation.

At Cisco, there are tens of thousands of engineers who have spent a year getting certified. “How are we engaging them to amplify, create and share their stories with their community?”

Every time a B2B company does sales enablement, it generates content. “As a marketing manager, it’s your job to find the content, surface it up and package it in a way that resonates well with your buyer personas. It is therefore imperative to talk to other teams within the organisation.

“When you expand your lens, you can find that content that you need to surface, package and use it to engage customers. That shift in approach to content needs to take place.”

Can you help position the geekiest person in the company as a community hero? Those are the things you need to think about when looking for great content.

How do you create snappy content?

One of Cisco’s most popular reports is the annual security report which gets thousands of downloads and is a huge hit with customers. In the past that one report would be shared and circulated, but now it creates multiple smaller pieces of content from it.

It could be an assessment tool, videos, case studies, tips and tricks. This layered with sharing on social media got Cisco six times the increase on the consumption of that one report just by changing the form factor from a monolithic 30-page report to multiple different sorts of content.

“Your marginal cost of creating that content and reaching that out falls substantially down.”

Think smart with your existing content.

Get your agency to capture content

As marketers, when trying to get a blog from a senior decision-maker within the organisation, you often face the excuse of time crunch, but the same executive could be on stage for an event. That’s your time to maximise the content opportunity. Get an agency to capture all of that and churn content out in different formats – from short articles to tweets to LinkedIn posts.

In summary, how do you manage the whole content marketing process?

  • Follow a roadmap – it will take a while to get this right so be prepared. Companies should start moving away from product-based campaigns to persona-based campaigns.
  • Be frugal – don’t spend too much money advertising that content. Find out what your “hero content” is – a white paper, a special industry report and promote that.
  • Leverage free promotions – a typical company home page is very product heavy. Move away from that and make it a showcase of content and embed content in your promotions.
  • Keep your eyes open – broaden your vision. It is not just about the particular campaign. You need to start mapping what products are coming out, when your senior execs are in town and so on and create compelling content in a timely manner.
  • Be agile – all your customers are going through a transformation in their industries and, as marketers, you need to understand that and be there when a “breaking news” scenario happens for them.

“You need to turn around, get your voice heard, have a response, amplify it through your channels, and be agile in how you create that kind of quick-form newsroom-style content for your customers.”

For more perspectives on content marketing strategies from brands such as Kellogg’s, OCBC, Dell, Lenovo and more, look out for Marketing magazine’s Content 360 conference on 8-9 April 2015.

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