An Interview with a Content Marketing Strategist
I recently interviewed the CMO of Vengreso, Bernie Borges, to find out why he is so passionate about Content Marketing Strategy. He explained how the ecosystem of content, marketing and sales integrate to elevate a person or company’s digital presence. Following is my interview with Bernie.
Viveka: What is Content Marketing?
Bernie: For any organization to be effective in their digital channels, they must engage with their audience in a relevant way. To do that, they need to touch their audience with content that is meaningful to them. If you can deliver content that answers the most common questions that your customers have, that’s a great place to start.
Viveka: What kind of questions might they be?
Bernie: They are usually the top 10 or 20 questions your business already receives. You can always ask your sales and customer service people the common questions they hear from customers and prospects. The questions usually range around: “What do you do? How do you do it differently? What’s the cost? What are the features and benefits? What are the risks? How long does it take to install/implement/train/get ROI, etc.? You might write all the questions down and consolidate them – often the same question can be listed five different ways.
[clickToTweet tweet=”#ContentMarketing best practices tip by @bernieborges: get content inspiration from customer queries” quote=”#ContentMarketing best practices tip by @bernieborges: get content inspiration from customer queries”]
Viveka: Can you give us an example?
Bernie: We had a call with a client recently that sells medical supplies into the veterinary marketplace. We had a one-hour conversation with a subject matter expert who has been in the veterinary market for a couple of decades. Because of his deep experience, he has some insightful information:
- Did you know that 60% of the veterinarians in the United States are women?
- Did you know that over 80% of the veterinary medical students are women?
- Did you know that the vast majority of veterinary clinics are being gobbled up by large corporations because veterinarians don’t enjoy running a business?
That’s some pretty interesting information that could easily be turned into content by answer questions pertaining to these insights. For example, you could write a blog post about the top 5 challenges of running a veterinary business.
Whatever your business is, whatever industry you’re in, write down the basic questions that your target customer has. And if you don’t know what they are, interview them.
Viveka: What are some different forms of content that we should be publishing?
Bernie: Content really comes in several categories.
There’s narrative content, things like blog posts, LinkedIn Publisher articles, white papers, reports, case studies, interviews with thought leaders, etc.
Viveka: You mean, like what we are doing right now in this interview?
Bernie: Exactly. It’s narrative, long-form content that can range from 500 to 15,000 words depending on the format.
Then there’s visual content. It can be video (like LinkedIn’s new native video feature.
There’s also produced video uploaded to your website or a video channel such as YouTube or Vide. There are SlideShare presentations. There’s also animation visuals to communicate a story or specific concept. One of my favorites visual content formats is infographics. I like to communicate a story or complex concept in an infographic such as the four pillars of digital sales transformation.
Audio is yet another content format that often gets overlooked. Audio can be radio or a recording that gets uploaded to a YouTube channel that sits behind a still image. Although the most common form of audio today is the podcast. Those brands who produce their own podcast show with relevant information for their buyers can create a loyal audience that buys more from them.
In summary, the general content categories are audio, visual, and narrative. But you also have to consider the “size of the content.” Most content can be sliced up into smaller, snackable, bite-sized elements. Jason Miller from LinkedIn has coined the Thanksgiving Turkey concept where you create a really sizable piece of content and slice it up into smaller pieces. You repurpose the big piece of content instead of creating small snackable pieces of content from scratch.
[clickToTweet tweet=”#ContentMarketingStrategy w/ @bernieborges @linkedinexpert: Slice your content to snackable sizes.” quote=”#ContentMarketingStrategy w/ @bernieborges @linkedinexpert: Slice your content to snackable sizes.”]
Those smaller “pieces” (updates, images, quotes) can then be shared and amplified using social media. And of course, with digital, you can create hybrids of visual, narrative, and audio!
Viveka: So you mean like when I shoot a video, upload it to YouTube, transcribe it and make the whole thing a Post on my blog or on LinkedIn Publisher? And once it’s created I can socially share the whole thing, or share elements within.
Bernie: Exactly. You’ve got these three buckets of the content, and you can repurpose and amplify them which really helps to increase the lifespan of each content asset. The expected lifespan of any piece of content should be a good three months or more. That’s a generalization of course. It could be 12 months if it’s evergreen content.
Viveka: I think that’s the issue with LinkedIn Publisher. People post once and then never share or amplify their post again.
Bernie: Yes. And often, marketers make the mistake of thinking that a piece of content they produced three or six months ago is no longer current, when in fact it often is. They are so used to looking at it, seeing it, reading it, tweeting it, et cetera, they become jaded with it. But for the person seeing it for the first time, it can be perfectly relevant and useful.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Publish content that creates a relevant experience. @bernieborges #ContentMarketingStrategy ” quote=”Publish content that creates a relevant experience for your buyer. @bernieborges #ContentMarketingStrategy “]
Viveka: So one mistake content marketers make is rushing on to the next piece of content instead of recirculating evergreen and relevant existing content. What is another common mistake you see?
Bernie: Content marketing is not something that should be solely campaign-focused and driven. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t do campaigns within a content marketing strategy. You can, and in fact, you should. But content marketing as a practice is just an element of your marketing strategy whereby you are producing useful and relevant content on a consistent basis that gets delivered to your audience on a consistent basis. This way your audience becomes familiar with your brand and your value proposition and develops awareness, loyalty, and affinity to your brand because, at least in part, your content is valuable. Consistently delivered, relevant content has great potential to contribute to lead generation. That’s generally what we want to accomplish with content marketing.
Viveka: Okay, you’ve given us some good content marketing strategies to consider, but what about sales? How does content marketing affect a company’s bottom line?
Bernie: Well let’s talk about the next step. We want to align marketing with sales because salespeople need to be able to insert themselves into their buyer’s journey. What I mean by this is that, as you know, the buyer’s journey has changed. We have informed buyers – who take most of the journey on their own – educating themselves online. They want to remain invisible as they do their research. They don’t want to engage in sales conversations or be sold to.
In fact, 75% of B2B buyers are doing research in social channels. As sales professionals, we want to be discoverable when the buyer is conducting their research. And one of the most compelling ways to be discoverable to the buyer is to insert ourselves into their research by sharing content that is useful to that buyer.
Add to that, in complex sales cycles, 6.8 people are involved in the B2B buying process. They all play a different role. You have the financial persona, you have an executive persona, you have a business analyst persona, you have technical persona, and so on. Clearly, content cannot be one size fits all.
Viveka: So how do you address all those different personas?
Bernie: You shouldn’t take a piece of content and just splash it out there and expect that it’s going to meet the needs of every individual involved in a buying decision. You’ve got to create a content marketing strategy that not only answers the questions of the buyer but also takes into account the needs of each member of the buying committee.
You also must think about where they are on the journey. Are they at the beginning stage where they’re just beginning to do research? Or, are they a little further along in their research? Or, are they close to making a decision? The seller must understand where their buyer is in their journey. Once they know that, they can create or share the content that speaks to the different stages of the buying journey.
Viveka: And how do they do that?
Bernie: Now we come full circle. Start with the 10 or 20 most common questions that need to be answered. If you start with a basic fundamental approach and then you tackle it with consistency, it will evolve.
Viveka: Whew! Any last thoughts as we wrap this baby up?
Bernie: Thank you for asking. We want the salesperson to be a conscious competent when it comes to being an effective digital sales professional. We want them to know what kind of content they need in a certain sales scenario. The marketing and the sales team must align and collaborate. Marketing needs to know what the sales team’s clients and customers need. And sales needs marketing to provide the content to help answer those questions. Sales may not be able to articulate, “Oh, we need a white paper on XYZ topic,” but the salesperson can articulate – “We need content that answers these specific questions for this buyer persona.”
Viveka: Well, you have given us a lot to think about. Any last words?
Bernie: Content marketing strategy is like peanut butter and sales process is like jelly. One without the other is okay, but they’re much better when they’re together.