The "Long Game" of content marketing: What your association leaders need to hear
Selling your members or association partners on the value of content marketing can be a challenge, especially when they're stuck in a traditional marketing mindset. I hear from many members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) (an AMPED association partner) that much of their business is word-of-mouth and repeat business. Some even tell me they aren’t currently looking for new business; they have all they can handle at the moment!
Even if you have plenty of new business now in your industry, take heed. Many B2B and B2C clients do research without consulting a salesperson.
This isn’t new or groundbreaking news. This shift has been happening for years, and it’s not relegated to this “new generation,” known as Millennials. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by CFE Media on buyer behavior, it’s generally difficult to pin this responsibility on Millennials, Generation X or Baby Boomers.
Content marketing is playing “the long game.” One won’t see immediate results, business, or leads. So why do it? Why spend time and resources to post content like case studies, social media and buyer’s guides like the CSIA’s Industrial Automation Exchange in addition to managing your website?
Frankly, if you play the long game of content marketing, you will win. You will get noticed. Your site traffic will increase and your brand will be associated with knowledge and expertise in the industry. But, you need to create and post content in different sources other than your corporate website.
You might be thinking, “Why on earth would I want my prospective customers on any place other than my own website?” Read on; I think you might be surprised on how people, (technical minded or not) make buying decisions.
In February 2015 CFE Media conducted a market research/scientific study titled “Identifying Content Needs along the Engineers’ Buyers Journey.”
Following are three of the questions asked in the survey pertaining to the value of content. For each question, I have also stated CFE Media’s interpretation of the data collected. I added an insight and takeaway from the data, plus why it’s important to the future revenue of your business.
Special note: While this survey was geared toward engineers, it should not be discounted as insight into B2C or less technical industries. In general, engineers are more methodical process driven and less emotional about purchasing decisions. In other words, the statistics reported her are generally a smaller “muted” representation of the general population. This is demonstrated in the first question below.
1. What percentage of your buy/specify evaluation process is complete when you typically contact a supplier/vendor?
On average, buyers are nearly 40% through their decision making process before connecting with a vendor directly (CFE Media.) View the data here, Slide 10.
According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth Study, buyers will consult more than 11 sources before they make a purchasing decision.
Did you know when researching new vendors or products for solutions in automation technology, clients build trust with your company without direct input from your staff?
While one could argue that clients aren’t always engineers, (the focus of the study) content marketing is a ubiquitous to every industry. Statistics will vary by industry, but the importance of creating and sharing content is still relevant. For instance, in the consumer market, buyers are as much as 90% through their decision making process before contacting a vendor (Google, 2012.)
Whatever the generation, profession or industry, people use online sources to make key decisions about purchases. Assuming you want your company a part of that decision, it’s imperative that your marketing strategy includes posting content in places where your prospects will find it. And the more places they see your brand, the more they see you are not a fly-by-night organization. One of the principles of successful marketing communications is repetition.
Key Insight: A corporate website should only be one part of the journey for a prospective client. The buying process is no longer linear, therefore a website is not the final destination. (Harvard Business Review, 2014.)
Key Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to show them around your marketing collateral hosted and linked elsewhere. Don’t be reluctant to post your marketing collateral on multiple sites. The marketing and sales funnel no longer look like this, instead the new marketing funnel looks like this.
2. In your opinion, how valuable are the following content sources when seeking information on the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products?
In other words, what do clients click on and read? What influences them to narrow down a field of players to three bidders?
“Sixty percent or more of respondents cited supplier/vendor websites, trade publications, trade publication websites, and industry association websites among the most valuable content sources when seeking the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products” (CFE Media, 2015.)
Note that search engines were reported as the most valuable source, followed by supplier websites, trade publications, industry association websites, and newsletters. Social media appears “valuable” by “only” 20% of respondents.
Use caution in interpreting this data. Much of the aforementioned content is also shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. View the data here, Slide 9.
Key Insight: Buyers will use several different sources online and offline, digital and in print to research and learn about automation technology.
Key Takeaway: You must be seen in several different places to get noticed and earn their trust.
3. How valuable are the following types of content when researching the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products/services?
According to the study, “Seven in 10 respondents value product information, white papers, trade publication articles (print and online), and case studies when researching the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products or services. Additionally, two-thirds of respondents also value webcasts or webinars for the same purpose” (CFE Media.) View the data here, Slide 10.
Pay close attention to the entry on the bottom of slide 10, “Value of content types.” Again, use caution in interpreting this data. Even though blogging has a relatively low ranking (21% of respondents found value as a content type) as a valued source of information, consider that most of the aforementioned datasheets, brochures, case studies and white papers are delivered via contextual links in blog articles or social media.
Key Insight: As your clients try to solve their automation issues, they will do Google searches, ask LinkedIn Groups for referrals, and consult industry knowledge in many forms. You won’t be able to pin one source as “the one” that convinced the customer your company is the right fit. That takes time and incremental marketing touches.
Key Takeaway: Your company must adopt a diverse approach to content marketing. While you should put content only where your customers are to avoid spreading your marketing team too thin, it should be found in several places to give credence and validity to your message.
As mentioned previously, marketing through content is a long haul, but it does pay off. You can’t ignore how buyers make important decisions. They will look for you on Google. And if you are diligent and pervasive, you will get noticed.
Your site traffic will increase and your brand will be associated with knowledge and expertise in the industry. You need to create and post content on different sources other than your corporate website.
What do you think? How does the data differ in other industries? Post links and references if you can.
Sources Consulted and Cited
2015 Marketing to Engineers Research Study, CFE Media
Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel, Harvard Business Review
The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott
Three Flaws with the Funnel, Forrester Research, Pardot
Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
Zero Moment of Truth 2012 Study, Google
Why Marketing Has Changed Forever, Digital Tonto