Calling All Content Marketers: Sound Off in Our Content Marketing Planning Survey!

2018 Content Planning Survey

We’re all in this together.

Granted, it might not always feel that way. The current environment we operate in as marketers is a competitive one. But we do have the power to collectively drive our discipline forward, toward greater efficiency and productivity. This begins with sharing knowledge, and improving our understanding of the most prevalent challenges and obstacles being faced.

In this spirit, we’ve partnered with our clients and friends at DivvyHQ to whip up a new 2018 Content Planning Survey, and we’d love your input.

What’s Inside the Survey

The idea is to gather data from a wide range of marketers in efforts to form a clear and accurate picture of how today’s content teams operate and where the key opportunities lie.

“One thing marketers can do to improve their content planning is stop planning each piece of content. The key to an effective editorial plan is committing to a publishing cadence.” @brennermichael Click To Tweet

Topics covered in this quick, five-minute survey:

  • Content planning processes and tools
  • Content team structure and collaboration
  • Content marketing tactics and metrics

Insights Content Marketers Will Gain

The more responses added from pros in the trenches like yourself, the more useful the results will be. Among the enlightening findings from DivvyHQ’s 2017 Content Planning Report:

  • 64% of respondents cited “developing a comprehensive content strategy” as a top challenge
  • Only 10% identified “creating clear defined objectives” as a successful aspect of planning
  • 58% of respondents said they were “too busy” to collaborate with peers
  • The most utilized content marketing tactics were email (89%), blog articles (88%) and video (80%)
  • 28% of respondents said they do not conduct regular content planning meetings

“There is such a thing as a bad slow in marketing. But there is a critical need for a good slow, too.” @annhandley Click To Tweet

So please, add your voice by filling out the survey. The best part? While you aren’t required to provide an email address, if you do, you’ll receive exclusive early access to the report generated from the aggregated information.

A Fresh Look at Content Planning for 2018

What’s changed this year? Where will we be able to identify trends and prevalent changes in focus? By submitting your own survey, you can be among the first to find out.

Armed with these insights, you’ll be able to better assess how your team measures up against the content marketing world at large, helping to guide your strategy onward and upward.

Together, we can take content to new heights.

5 Reasons Why B2B Content Marketing Works & 5 Reasons It Doesn’t

Why Content Marketing Works & Why It Doesn't

It’s no secret that content marketing is a widely adopted tactic. In fact, over 90% of B2B Marketers say they’re using it to reach their larger business goals, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing Report. However, just 24% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing as extremely or very successful.

Why is content marketing working extremely well for some marketers, but not for others? What makes content marketing so effective, and what holds (your content marketing efforts) back?

Well, let’s talk all about it. Content is at the center of everything we do here at TopRank Marketing. And below we dive into some of the key reasons why content marketing efforts succeed or fall short. Hopefully, this insight can help you level up your own content marketing strategy in a way that amplifies your results.

5 Reasons Why Content Marketing Works

#1 – You’re solving a problem.

While this is a fundamental marketing concept, it needs mentioning. Simply put, content marketing works when you’re able to create and deliver content that solves a specific, relevant problem for your audience.

Buyers are increasingly self-directed in their research and purchasing decisions, taking their questions to search engines to find answers. That’s why it’s no surprise that many searches start with question words like how, what, where, when, and why. Your audience is looking for content that can provide them with the best answer, tutorial, guide, checklist, or another resource that can help solve their problems.

So, when your content delivers exactly what your audience is looking for and where they’re looking for it, you can gain traffic, foster engagement, and nurture them to action.

Simply put, #ContentMarketing works when you’re able to create and deliver content that solves a specific, relevant problem for your audience. – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

#2 – You’re targeting your ideal audience.

Successful marketing is rooted in being able to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time and on the right platform. The “spray and pray” method, where you’re blasting out content and hoping that your message sticks, can’t help you do this. But when done right, content marketing allows brands to target specific buyer personas and reach their ideal audience.

When content is personalized to address buyer pain points and common questions, you can capture more qualified traffic and leads, which increases the overall value of your content marketing efforts. In our experience, successful content marketers start by defining buyer personas, identifying their relevant pain points, and mapping them to content they might find helpful based on SEO opportunities and where they are in the sales funnel (e.g. checklists, definitions, infographics, etc.).

#3 – When you leverage customer data and insights.

We live in the age of big data. Every marketer has data. Every marketer knows data holds power. And the most forward-thinking marketers are leveraging data and their practical knowledge to draw insights that can be acted upon in their marketing strategy.

With data pouring into services like Google Analytics, you can see where your audience is dropping off, how they spend their time on your site, or what content has the best conversion rate. In addition, there are many public, third-party data providers that can be paired with your own data to gain more insight. Armed with this information, you can optimize your content marketing strategy based on your analysis to generate better results.

#4 – You’re climbing the rankings.

We all know that search engines help audiences find content. But without content, a brand has little SEO value.

As a result, successful content marketers don’t rely only on their brand’s main website pages to draw in organic traffic. Brands that are baking SEO in from the start are able to create strategic content in many forms across their owned digital channels to expand their footprint, greatly increasing their chance of attracting more organic traffic to drive results.

#5 – You’re showing credibility, not telling.

How do customers know that you’re an authority in your industry? Or that you’re a credible source of information?

When done well, content marketing allows you to become the best answer for your audience, showing them over and over again that you have the goods. This builds trust between you and your audience as they start to see you as an expert on the subjects you discuss. And because trust is strong, you can more effectively influence customers on their purchasing decisions.

Creating expert content that is seen as authoritative has other benefits as well. In fact, a study from inPowered found that expert content lifted awareness by 88% more than branded content, and increased purchase consideration by 38% more.

Building trust through credible content comes in many forms. Of course, capitalizing on SEO is an important piece of the puzzle. But successful marketers understand that tactical integration of a variety of content types is key. Among some of those different credibility-boosting tactics are influencer content, employee interviews, and original research and studies.

#ContentMarketing allows you to become the best answer for your audience, showing them over and over again that you have the goods. Click To Tweet

Read: 8 Ways to Build Credibility & Trust with Content Marketing

5 Reasons Why Content Marketing Doesn’t Work

#1 – You don’t have the resources.

Content marketing is not a “one and done” marketing tactic. Brands who start publishing and can’t stick to a schedule may find that their audience becomes disinterested, causing traffic to dip and search engines to notice the lack of publishing. 

But maintaining consistency is easier said than done for most marketers. Each piece of content can take hours to research, edit, beef up with keywords, and crosslink to other pieces of content. All of this time quickly adds up, consuming additional resources and adding on to your content marketing costs.

Whether you decide on a daily, weekly, or monthly posting cadence, the key is to stick with it.

#ContentMarketing is not a “one and done” marketing tactic. – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

#2 – You’re putting out quantity, not quality.

Another key to content marketing success is quality. Why? Your audience and search engines demand high-quality, authoritative content. Brands that don’t dedicate enough time or effort to their content, and making sure that it truly serves a purpose, likely find their audiences don’t want to listen to what they have to say.

With your audience tuned out, search engines could also see your content as less valuable, decreasing your rankings and impressions. And then you’re left asking:

via GIPHY

Read: The Content Marketing Juggling Act: How to Consistently Create Quality, Engaging Content

#3 – Your competition is growing.

Everywhere you look today, you’re confronted with content. Content lives in our social media news feeds, email inbox, text messages, and more. Brands and media outlets alike are all competing for an individual’s attention through content, creating a very saturated market that is ripe with competition. And if you’re executing content marketing, you could quickly start competing with yourself.

For example, brands who post too frequently could decrease their overall engagement with their audience. Or, they could start creating content that’s similar to things they’ve published in the past, cannibalizing from their own work. CoSchedule experienced this dip in engagement when increasing their blog posts from two to three each week. The increase in blog posts per week resulted in a decrease of 236 social shares per post, and a decrease in page views per blog post.

#4 – The impact of your content is hard to see.

With metrics that don’t directly translate to revenue, proving the value of content marketing can be difficult. CMOs want to hear about the business you’ve been able to generate, not the page views you’ve garnered or your average session duration. While those things are valuable, they don’t prove that you’ve grown the business, supported your sales team, or produced new leads.

As an example, it’s challenging to prove that just because someone read your latest eBook that they felt motivated enough to purchase your software or use your services. Because the impact of content is so difficult to measure, brands struggle with determining if their content is working or not. In fact, this is likely what contributes to only 35% of B2B marketers reporting that they measure content marketing ROI.

#5 – You’re impatient.

Generally speaking, content marketing does not produce immediate, short-term results like a traditional promotion or sale would. Content marketing strategies are designed to reach your audience at multiple touch points during their journey.

Of course short-term wins are often achieved with a strategic content marketing plan, but at the end of the day, content marketing really is a long-term play. It’s about producing long-term value and strengthening your client relationships.

As a result, this means you need time to really grow their content ROI into something that’s worth raving about and produces a positive return. So, if you aren’t in it for the long-haul, success will elude you.

If you aren’t in it for the long-haul, #ContentMarketing success will elude you. – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

A Tailor-Made Content Strategy

From SEO value to thought leadership, there are a lot of reasons why B2B content marketing works for brands. But there are plenty of reasons it fails. Content is hard to tie into your pipeline and there are a lot of competitors vying for your audience’s attention.

But if you can create a content marketing strategy that overcomes those challenges and takes advantage of those benefits, you could see amazing results from your campaigns.

Not sure how you should start altering your strategy? Try starting by using these six questions you should use to guide your content marketing strategy.

32 B2B Content Marketing Case Studies for 2018

B2B Content Marketing Case Studies

One of the great honors of working in the marketing agency world is seeing your work recognized. For me, an even greater honor is seeing the work of our clients and my team recognized and that’s exactly what happened at the 2018 Killer Content Awards.

This year the award in question went to our client Cherwell Software. Thanks to amazing work by Alison Munn and the Cherwell Software team (pictured above), as well as our team at TopRank Marketing, their integrated influencer content program drove 22% of all new sales pipeline revenue in 2017.

But this post isn’t about just one B2B content marketing story. It’s about 32 stories from an impressive collection of B2B brands. These award winners are case studies for content marketing that we can all learn from. A BIG THANKS goes to the team at B2B Marketing Exchange for sharing raw case study data and both Anne Leuman and Lane Ellis from my team at TopRank Marketing for their collaboration on word-smithing the content and capturing the images of this post.

Check out the case studies below covering a range of categories including:

  • Measurable ROI, Nurture Campaign
  • Multi-Touch Campaign
  • Account-Based Marketing Campaign
  • Sales Enablement Campaign
  • Buyer-Focused Content, Bundled Content
  • Influencer Content
  • Interactive Content
  • Short-Form Content
  • Video Content
  • Research-Based Content
  • Agency Partnership
  • Social Amplification

32 B2B Marketing Case Studies Featuring Killer Content and Performance Results

Ciox Health
#1 – Ciox Health

Project: Ciox Health partnered with Content4Demand to uncover new growth opportunities with target audiences (e.g. law firms). After creating detailed personas, they developed highly tailored content messaging for all stages of the buyer’s journey. The final campaign featured an infographic, interactive quizzes, interactive listicles, checklists, Q&A sessions, and mixed media video.

Results:

  • Reached 1,884 potential prospects
  • 42.8% open rate
  • 14.5% CTR

Equifax
#2 – Equifax

Project: Equifax developed a multi-touch campaign consisting of more than seven touch points, including emails, social posts, blogs, webinars, and promotional emails. Quarterly webinars were the centerpiece of the campaign, allowing Equifax to capitalize on existing economic trends and CreditTrends reporting that were relevant to their target audience.

Results:

  • Increased webinar registrations by over 200%
  • Nearly doubled webinar attendees

The Kount
#3 – The Kount

Project: The Kount team, a provider of award-winning anti-fraud technology, created the Fraud360 worldwide tours, regular webinars, and video ads, which were designed to provide market-specific content and tailored insights that focused on specific trends and industries.

Results:

  • Average of 450 registered webinar attendees per session
  • Thousands of views on video ads
  • Reached thousands of professionals in target regions, including Asia, Australia, and EMEA

Xactly
#4 – Xactly

Project: In order to prove its knowledge of buyer pain points and the effectiveness of its solutions, Xactly rolled out the Power of X campaign. Using customer testimonials and product demos, Xactly strived to nurture existing relationships and drive demand through an integrated, buyer-focused campaign across all segments, featuring a landing page hub, social promotion, direct mail, customer videos, and webinars.

Results:  280 leads generated

SAP Ariba
#5 – SAP Ariba

Project: SAP Ariba wanted to create a complete lifecycle nurture program for each of its targeted personas: Procurement, Supply Chain, Finance, and IT. Working with DemandGen, SAP Ariba mapped all 80 emails appropriately and used non-promotional language to emphasize their “thought leadership” content.

Results:  454% higher open rate

ADP
#6 – ADP

Project: To identify potential buyers and convert readers into sales opportunities, ADP developed a flagship Research Nurture Program. The program leverages website analytics, marketing automation, and scoring to identify key buyer personas, customize content, and send nurture emails for longer-term engagement.

Results:

Generated thousands of influenced sales opportunities
Millions of dollars forecasted in total opportunity pipeline

Bottomline Technologies
#7 – Bottomline Technologies

Project: Bottomline Technologies breathed new life into its quarterly awareness email campaigns by introducing themes that aligned with pop culture events. By making subtle tweaks, the company was also able to create relevant messaging for different lines of business (e.g. strategic finance, controller, accounts payable), including infographics, white papers, and checklists.

Results:

  • 1,000 infographic downloads within 24 hours
  • 62% of downloads were net-new contacts

Veracode
#8 – Veracode

Project: Veracode created the Application Security Program Journey multi-touch campaign to drive awareness and generate demand for application security. The integrated, multi-touch campaign consisted of various content mapped against the buyer’s journey, as well as multiple inbound and outbound promotional tactics.

Results:

  • 4,000 inquiries
  • 479 opportunities
  • 241 wins

Optum
#9 – Optum

Project: To promote the launch of its new brand, OptumIQ, Optum created Data In Focus, an event to attract decision makers and influencers in person and via a livestream. Over a six-week period leading up to the event, the company unveiled key event details via an integrated campaign utilizing email, paid and organic social, digital advertising, retargeting ads, direct mail, and more.

Results:

  • 5,022 external registrations
  • Exceeded registration-to-attendee conversion rate goal by 33%
  • 13.6 million impressions
  • 886 marketing contacts

Broadridge
#10 – Broadridge

Project: With a sales cycle that can be quite lengthy, Broadridge sought to create a campaign that would steadily educate target buyers — finance executives and operations/IT leaders — on their value proposition. The full-funnel campaign included interactive infographics, eBooks, executive briefs, and Q&A’s that addressed buyer pain points. Broadridge paired this campaign with an internal guide to educate sales on the campaign goals, individual assets, and follow-up conversation starters to ensure quality interactions with buyers.

Results:

  • 2,133 MQLs
  • 6,995 content downloads

Grant Thornton
#11 – Grant Thornton

Project: The Growth and Future of Industry campaign from Grant Thornton was created to help business leaders understand ways to accelerate growth and manage disruption. With over 60 pieces of content and an extensive social media campaign, it is the single biggest research program and thought leadership campaign the company has ever undertaken. Grant Thornton also leveraged paid media — a first for the company — to improve campaign reach and visibility among clients and prospects.

Results:

  • Exceeded reach goal by 4x
  • Exceeded conversion rate goal by 7.5x
  • Industry-specific reach and conversion goals were also exceeded

Open Text
#12 – OpenText

Project: The OpenText Digital Disruption thought leadership campaign was launched to engage enterprise executives in a fun and engaging way as they strive to understand and embrace digital disruption. The campaign used a re-designed microsite to house a variety of assets with a fun superpower theme, allowing visitors to easily consume content — even binge it all in a single sitting.

Results:

  • 9:12 average session duration
  • Increased social traffic to the microsite by 1,062%

Cherwell Software
#13 – Cherwell Software 

Project: Cherwell Software partnered with TopRank Marketing to develop a comprehensive influencer program for the IT service management industry. A 24-page eBook called IT Service Management 2020, kicked off the campaign, featuring influencer opinions about the future of the ITSM industry. To generate pre-launch interest, Cherwell produced and promoted several blog posts, an infographic, and co-hosted a webinar with the influencers.

Results:

  • 100% share rate with influencers
  • 240% greater download rate than the average gated asset
  • 29% increase in web traffic to Cherwell.com from social
  • Leads from the campaign contributed to 22% of the revenue pipeline for 2017

Paycom
#14 – Paycom

Project: Paycom collaborated with best-selling author, keynote speaker and futurist Jacob Morgan on a series of content to give HR professionals a closer look into why employee engagement scores are at an all-time low despite increased employer investment. The campaign featured a two-part podcast, a webinar, and a series of thought leadership blog articles — all featuring Morgan.

Results:
255 live attendees, 30 of which signed up for a Paycom consultation
1,172 podcast downloads
494 podcast page views
1,410 blog post page views

Blackbaud
#15 – Blackbaud

Project: To differentiate the company’s two fundraising solutions, Blackbaud launched their Choose Your Solution campaign. The campaign featured an interactive quiz to help arts and cultural organizations identify the right fundraising solution based on their needs, and to help qualify leads faster and bypass repetitive introductory questions asked by sales reps.

Results:

  • 36 influenced opportunities that resulted in $34,000 in pipeline
  • 42% MQL-to-opportunity conversion rate

Uberflip
#16 – Uberflip

Project: Uberflip created an interactive marketing maturity assessment and companion eBook that asked marketers to take a hard look and identify where they stand in their marketing path. The assessment enabled Uberflip to provide their sales team with better MQLs and gain more information about existing accounts.

Results:

  • 907,843 impressions and 1,297 clicks on social media in just three months
  • 38% question completion rate
  • 64% average lead submission rate

Siemens PLM Software
#17 – Siemens PLM Software

Project: To educate customers and prospects on digital twins and digital threads, Siemens PLM Software created a thought leadership initiative. This initiative included creating a series of blog posts answering common buyer questions on digital twins and threads.

Results:

  • 3,800 page views across articles
  • Ranking No. 2 on google for “value of the digital twin” and No. 14 for “digital twin technology”

CAS
#18 – CAS

Project: In order to help scientists and research leaders at research and development organizations define important problems and highlight the opportunities additional time could give them, CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, developed the Where Does Your Time Go? infographic.

Results:

  • Generated 489 leads
  • 20,400 views

Oracle
#19 – Oracle

Project: Oracle developed The Modern Finance Leader blog series to establish itself as a leader in the world of finance. The blog targets finance executives across North America, EMEA, and APAC and provides content designed to educate and inform the audience on the latest trends and topics in finance.

Results:

  • 330 posts published
  • 90,000 unique visits
  • 500,000 page views
  • 63% increase in web traffic quarter over quarter

Bottomline Technolgies
#20 – Bottomline Technologies

Project: Bottomline Technologies partnered Content4Demand to develop an interactive eBook designed to showcase how three organizations — from manufacturing, healthcare, and property management industries — used their Paymode-X network to elevate efficiency and improve their bottom line.

Results:

  • 54.3% email open rate, 39.8% CTR, 73.4% click-to-open rate
  • 362 downloads through content syndication
  • 4 MQLs, 2 SAOs, and $3.2 million in associated pipeline

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
#21 – Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Project: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield collaborated with Skyword to revamp an existing piece of content, titled: The Benefits Guide. In response to new audience needs, Anthem pivoted the asset away from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) focus and replaced it with a newsroom that conveyed news and decisions relevant for plan holders.

Results:

  • 103% increase in page views and 102% increase in search views from Q2 to Q3 in 2017
  • 798,000 total page views from 2016 to 2017

SAP
#22 – SAP

Project: SAP launched its #LifeAt video campaign to highlight their many innovators, game-changers, and true entrepreneurs, but SAP also sought to humanize the brand for its target audience. The SAP team partnered with the video marketing agency Aftermarq to produce video stories of SAP SMB clients of varying lengths.

Results:

  • 4.5 million impressions
  • 31% view-through rate for 5:00 videos
  • 21% view-through rate for 1:00 videos

LinkedIn
#23 – LinkedIn

Project: LinkedIn’s Live with Marketers campaign is a live talk show by marketers for marketers, designed to resolve pain points around top-of-mind topics such as marketing attribution, ROI optimization, and driving business impact on social media.

Results:

  • 12,000 registrants
  • 5,000 live attendees
  • Increased projected revenue from deals closed through this series versus traditional webcasts

Matrixx Software
#24 – MATRIXX Software

Project: MATRIXX Software designed its 150 Points of Opportunity campaign to differentiate their content from that of their competitors, while also showcasing how their product delivers value to customers. The campaign featured a 44-page eBook and five standalone videos.

Results:

  • 77% return rate to the MATRIXX website
  • 43% increase in average session duration
  • 25% growth in C-suite interaction and target account engagement rate

Tempur Sealy
#25 – Tempur Sealy Hospitality

Project: Tempur Sealy Hospitality was looking for a way to present their high-quality mattresses to B2B buyers in the hospitality industry without having to lug around a physical sample. The company worked with The Mx Group to create an interactive mattress cutaway tool that allowed sales reps to digitally present and sell various mattresses to hospitality customers online and at industry trade shows.

Results: Achieved a 90% adoption rate with the sales force

LookBook HQ
#26 – LookBookHQ

Project: In an effort to re-engage lost opportunities and give the sales team more prospects that were more likely to convert, LookBookHQ created their Caveman campaign. The campaign consisted of an interactive digital experience built on the LookBookHQ platform, a direct mail component, and follow-up email outreach from sales.

Results:

  • Booked 300 meetings
  • Generated more than 50 new opportunities
  • Saw a 56% overall conversion rate, up 27% from the previous year

Channel Advisor
#27 – ChannelAdvisor

Project: ChannelAdvisor decided to create two unique ABM campaigns that targeted strategic accounts via direct mail. The two campaigns provided over 250 prospects with pre-loaded Amazon devices, featuring ChannelAdvisor skills and apps that educated prospects on e-commerce strategies that were relevant to them.

Results:

  • Achieved an ROI of 130%
  • 39% of generated opportunities were net-new

Trapeze Group
#28 – Trapeze Group

Project: Trapeze Group kicked off an ABM pilot with the objective to identify top accounts with which to deepen engagements and create personalized one-to-one messaging and campaigns — ultimately influencing closed-won opportunities. The ABM pilot has since been rolled out to 60 target accounts.

Results:

  • 111% increase in session duration
  • 100% response rate to the direct mail component

Harland Clarke
#29 – Harland Clarke

Project: To drive awareness for the company’s new product, GRC Spotlight, Harland Clarke created the “Keeping Up with Kevin” campaign. The star and subject matter expert for the campaign, Kevin Malicki, participated in video blogs that were shared over social media — primarily LinkedIn — to help deliver tips and real-world scenarios in the GRC space.

Results:

  • 33,000 LinkedIn impressions
  • Increased Malicki’s LinkedIn connections by 22%
  • Increased Malicki’s LinkedIn profile views by 110%

Ipswitch
#30 – Ipswitch

Project: Ipswitch created the “Defrag This” podcast and blog to help provide a trusted knowledge base for IT professionals that offers audience-centric content via social channels.

Results:

  • Nearly 200% growth in blog subscribers
  • 174% increase in monthly visitors to the blog
  • 133% increase in organic traffic to the blog

Radius
#31 – Radius

Project: Radius’ Revenue Ops campaign was designed to help educate prospects in marketing and sales operations on how their role in B2B business is evolving — from simple execution to providing data and insights to help drive revenue. The campaign was fueled by an eBook that Radius co-created with companies such as Heinz Marketing, Engagio, Forrester, and more.

Results:

  • 500 eBook downloads in the first two days
  • Engaged more than 300 top-tier accounts
  • Influenced more than $5 million in pipeline

Emma
#32 – Emma

Project: Emma wanted to learn what makes today’s marketers tick, as well as promote collaboration and learning within the community. The company surveyed roughly 200 marketers and interviewed more than 25 industry experts to gauge the goals, concerns, and pressures facing marketers, then compiled the data into its first Email Marketing Industry Report.

Results:

  • Over 41,000 unique views
  • Contributed to 37% of the company’s content downloads

Top Takeaways for B2B Content Marketers

Themes of success from this collection of B2B content marketing examples include: data informed personas, personalization, interactive content, integrated content, thought leadership and influence. Of particular note was the use of live video by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

As interactive content has become a more common feature in award-winning B2B content in 2018, I think video will take that spot in 2019.

There’s a lot to learn from with award winning content marketing programs and I congratulate all the B2B brands that brought him Finny’s this year. The awards give recognition to great work and they also give us a look inside what’s really working in the industry.

Have you noticed a B2B content marketing campaign this year that was remarkable? If so, please share in the comments why you thought it was special.

A Non-Agency Guy Reflects on His First Year at TopRank Marketing

TopRank Marketing Team

Liking where you work is not an optional luxury. At least it sure shouldn’t be.

Spending 40 hours of every week at a place you dread is a tough way to go through any stretch of life. I’ve been there and I’m sure many of you have as well — especially if you work in digital marketing, which can often be a fast-paced, demanding, and stressful field.

So last year, when I decided to pursue a new professional venture, finding the right culture fit was a huge priority for me. As I started exploring the possibility of joining the TopRank Marketing team, I had some reservations; not because of anything specific to the company, but because it’s an agency.

I hadn’t work at agencies much in the past. I was familiar with the stereotypes, the paradigms, the lamentations. While confident in my skill set being very applicable in this world, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the right world for me.

Would the constant reality of client demands stifle my creativity? Would the permeating structure of workflow management systems prove suffocating? Would I be intimidated as a newbie working alongside people who’ve been in such a setting forever?

Well, as you can tell, I took the plunge. And I’m very glad I did. I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary here at TopRank Marketing and can happily say that up to this point, it has been an extremely rewarding experience, unhindered by those negative agency archetypes mentioned above.

If you’re a talented writer, strategist, SEO or analyst considering a career move, I highly recommend checking out TopRank Marketing — even if you’ve never worked in an agency. Here are five reasons I’ve felt right at home.

#1 – Business Casual

I’m not just talking about dress code. The environment here here strikes the right balance between business and casual. In the years prior to coming aboard, I’d spent time working downtown at a big corporate bank as well as at an ultra-leisurely tech startup, so I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum and didn’t love either extreme.

I know from speaking to others that certain agencies can veer a little too far in the direction of informality, with flip-flops and Monday morning mimosas and lax attendance standards. From my view, these kinds of things can quickly become distractions, preventing people from being seriously focused on their work. At TopRank Marketing, the vibe is laid back enough that it’s always comfortable and easygoing, but not so much that anyone is apt to lose sight of their duties or commitments.

#2 – Cool Clients

Working with big-league clients also helps us keep our eyes on the prize. One thing that has become quite clear to me in my time at TopRank Marketing is that we are very deliberate about the businesses we engage as an agency. There’s a strong emphasis on finding the right fits and aiming high.

Partnering with recognizable and respected enterprise companies such as Dell, LinkedIn, and SAP keeps us on our toes and challenges us to raise the bar. I’m continually impressed by the innovation and big thinking on display in these organizations.

During client meetings, I get to interact with sharp people and I find there’s a high degree of mutual respect. I haven’t personally encountered exasperations with companies that just don’t “get it,” which I hear a lot about from friends and peers working at other agencies.

#3 – Awesome Team

Not only do our clients keep me on my toes — so do my coworkers. To me, this is probably the most invigorating aspect of working at TopRank Marketing. Each day I get the chance to absorb knowledge from tremendously adept and skilled pros in various disciplines. This is by design; attracting and retaining high-caliber talent is central to our operation.

The collaborative culture enables our team to collectively reach new heights. I’m fortunate to build out my own expertise by learning from our specialists in search, SEO, strategy, analytics, design, content and more. Hopefully I’m able to impart some of my own knowledge as well. 

#4 – Growth Opportunities

Just a few months after starting here at TopRank Marketing, I was able to attend Digital Summit Minneapolis and rub shoulders with some of the industry’s biggest names as a representative of our agency. It was a cool opportunity right out of the gates, and speaks to the windows that are opened for anyone with such aspirations. I’ve also gotten to write several times for the renowned TopRank blog, providing me with a platform for visibility and brand-building in the marketing community.  

As employees we are adamantly encouraged to branch out, gain new competencies, take on speaking engagements, and become public faces for the agency if they show that initiative. There’s a very legitimate and earnest focus on personal development that I believe to be rare.

#5 – Taking Pride

It’s honestly cool to tell people where I work.

I’ve quickly learned that TopRank Marketing has a stellar rep, fueled in large part by our CEO Lee Odden, who regularly appears as a keynote speaker all around the world promoting our brand and extolling our talent. Being able to work with prestigious international clients gives me a daily feeling of impact and accomplishment. There’s also a certain thrill inherent to being on the cutting edge with so many tactics and frontiers — most notably B2B influencer marketing at the moment.

I Guess I’m an Agency Guy Now

I’m not going to say it’s easy, nor that every day is free of stress or struggle. But I’m not sure I would even want that. I will say that on those more difficult days, I always have the support and structure necessary to overcome.

I had no idea what to expect with my first real venture into the agency world, but what I’ve found at TopRank Marketing is an accommodating environment, meaningful work, amazing colleagues, clear avenues for growth, and a real sense of pride.

That pretty much covers the checklist I had coming in. If yours looks similar, and you think you’ve got a professional skill set befitting one of our openings, you should get in touch and see if TopRank Marketing might be a match for you. Even if the word “agency” makes you bristle a little bit.

I might be biased, but not without good reason.

What Content Marketers Can Learn From an Adept Dungeon Master

Content Marketing Lessons from Dungeons & Dragons

It’s probably not news to you that 91% of B2B brands use content marketing to attract, engage, nurture, and convert their audience. However, it might be surprising to learn that only 9% of those brands rate their content marketing as “sophisticated.” Sophisticated meaning that their content marketing is successful, scales across the organization, and provides accurate measurement to the business. This puts a lot of pressure on content marketers to elevate their game and provide more worthwhile and valuable content experiences.

Patrick PinedaAs an adept Dungeon Master (DM) of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games, TopRank Marketing’s Motion Graphic Designer, Patrick Pineda, can relate.

It might sound a little odd at first, but Dungeon Masters and content marketers are more alike than you think. Responsible for creating meaningful and memorable experiences through content that takes people on a journey, you can see the similarities arise. Just like content marketers need to help guide people through the buyer journey, the Dungeon Master needs to guide players through a journey of their own.

After serving his friends as the go-to Dungeon Master, Patrick has learned a thing or two from creating lengthy campaigns—some successful, some not—that are both engaging and challenging. Discover Patrick’s lessons from the dungeon and how you can apply them to your content marketing campaigns and programs down below.

What Is a Dungeon Master?

For the unfamiliar, a Dungeon Master is the organizer for the wildly popular, 40-year-old tabletop role-playing game, “Dungeons & Dragons.” Not only do DMs organize the game, but they are also responsible for the game rules, details, and challenges. According to Patrick, the player experience hinges on a DM’s ability to create meaningful content that’s fun to explore.

One thing Dungeon Masters are not responsible for, however, are the players’ actions.

Like the self-directed buyers of today, D&D players are able to choose their own paths. As a result, DMs are challenged to make sure players finish the game. And just like your audience won’t read every piece of content you put in front of them, the same happens in a D&D game. Certain story elements DMs put together will never see the light of day because every player has a different play style, completes tasks in different orders, and takes different actions.

“The best Dungeon Master doesn’t just create a good story, but they also help players reach their goals,” Patrick claims.

Does any of this sound familiar? It certainly resonated for me.

5 Content Marketing Lessons From the Dungeon

Having created D&D campaigns that ruled and bombed, here are Patricks top five tips for developing content that resonate with your audience.

#1 – Your audience values originality.

If Patrick creates a campaign that plays to common tropes like a damsel in distress or small town disappearances, the story becomes predictable. But worse than that, the players feel condescended to as the game starts to feel dumbed down.

“Cliches and stereotypes will make players groan. It’s important when creating a campaign that I shake it up and play against common conventions,” Patrick says.

When examining your content and the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original and play with your audience’s expectations. For example, listicles with social media tips are a dime a dozen. Your audience might be more interested if you flip the idea on its head with social media mistakes. In changing it up, you’re giving your audience something new that they haven’t read before, capturing their interest.

When examining your content & the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original & play with your audience’s expectations. – @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Appeal to curiosity.

When it comes to creating an adventure for players to navigate, the DM has a seemingly impossible job. They need to create a unique and compelling world that is able to hold players’ attention—something not easily done. In fact, campaigns have taken Patrick days to put together. But that doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

“I’ve spent hours upon hours creating content for a campaign. But 80% of what I create may never see any playtime. It’s ultimately the players’ choice as to what tasks they want to complete and what quests they want to go on,” Patrick points out.

While the D&D world needs to have a unique and compelling narrative, it also needs to appeal to a player’s curiosity to ensure they keep playing the game and play the parts of the game that you want them to.

How does this apply to content marketing? Well, as you know, just because you’re producing content, doesn’t mean that your audience will find it. To find the answers they’re looking for, they might scour the internet, social media, and trusted experts for more information. Having an integrated content strategy that has multiple touch points throughout the buyer journey and an omni-channel approach, helps ensure you’re reaching your target audience whenever and wherever they may be searching.

Weaving SEO, social media, and influencer marketing into your content marketing strategy helps improve the reach and engagement of the content you’re producing. Through SEO, your organic rankings and click-through-rates will start to rise, improving your organic traffic. Social media messages that are well written and value-based help attract larger audiences from their social feeds. And, finally, tapping into industry influencers exposes your content to a wider network of like-minded individuals, as well as adding authority and credibility.

#3 – Avoid corraling your audience.

Nobody likes to be told what to do, including D&D players. While the DM writes the game and serves as a referee, they cannot influence a player’s actions. And if a DM attempts to, they could quickly lose a player’s interest.

“As a DM, it can be tempting to intervene and make sure that your players are playing the game the way you intended. But this is the one thing you cannot do.” Patrick emphasizes.

This is true in content marketing, too, as making calls to action (CTAs) with zero context can be a turn-off for your audience. If you insert a CTA before your audience can learn what’s in it for them, whether it’s downloading an eBook, listening to a podcast, or subscribing to your blog, they’re less likely to do it. In fact, QuickSprout found that placing a CTA above the fold on a page decreased their conversion rate by 17% and attributed it to their audience not fully understanding why they should complete the action.

Instead, make sure that your CTAs have plenty of context and explain what the audience will gain by filling out your form, reading another blog post, etc. This helps ensure that your content satisfies your audience’s quest for knowledge.

#4 – Customize content for your audience, not the other way around.

As we mentioned previously, the players are in charge of their actions and how they choose to play the game, making it impossible for DMs to have control over the game experience. This makes it important for DMs to know their audience ahead of time, so they can include important sought-after details into different game components.

“I’ll ask players before we start what they hope to get out of the game, whether it’s take down an enemy or just to have fun. Knowing this ahead of time, I can tailor the game to what each player wants to have happen,” Patrick says.

For content marketers, this lesson should hit close to home. You need to know your audience well in advance in order to deliver personalized content. If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people.

After taking a look at your own audience’s characteristics and interests in Google Analytics, create unique personas for each of your audience members. This allows you to create content that is tailored for each person you hope to attract and engage. For example, if one of your target personas is a Director of Business Development, creating custom content that addresses a unique pain points like identifying new business opportunities or tips from the experts on how to strengthen their existing client relationships.

If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people. – @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

#5 – Chart your course.

There is a lot going on in a D&D game. And for the DM, that number is amplified as you have to remember every detail about your players, what’s been completed, and what could come next.

“To make sure I’m on top of the game and can portray characters well, I chart the game’s relationships instead of story elements. If I focus on the story, it could quickly become useless as players might do things out of order or in a non-linear fashion. By focusing on the relationships and where they fit in the narrative, the game becomes more fluid and flexible for the players and I can keep track of their journey,” Patrick says.

Tracking the journey isn’t the only thing Patrick notes, however. He also documents player strengths, weaknesses, and stats as the game progresses.

“I keep a character sheet that details each player’s play style. For example, if a player is investing their skill points in intelligence, I can tailor future encounters in the game to focus on problem-solving instead of combat. The opposite is true for a player who invests in raw strength,” Patrick notes.

Through detailed charts, maps, and grids, Patrick is able to make sure that his players have a personalized, seamless experience for every campaign they play, regardless of how they play it.

Customer Journey & Dungeons and Dragons Journey

By taking the same approach with your content marketing, you can identify opportunities for customization and develop a strategy for weaving your content into the buyer’s journey. For example, by knowing which pieces of content attract a larger audience or drive more conversions, you can use that information to inform your content development and map your content to different stages of the funnel (see below).

Grid Assigning Content to Buyer Stages

To collect this data on your content and audience, review your Google Analytics behavior and conversion dashboards to find our which pieces of content excel at attracting, engaging, or converting your audience. Metrics like page views and entrances are good indicators for attraction, whereas time on page or number of pages per session can help you understand engagement. And, finally, the number of conversions through conversion tracking is the best way to find your top converting content. Armed with this knowledge you can create content plans that are tailored for your audience’s unique buyer journey.

Your Audience Is the Hero

A good Dungeon Master enables players to become the hero of the story through a personalized game with a compelling, original narrative. As a content marketer, it’s your responsibility to create content that transforms your audience into heroes as well, helping them solve seemingly impossible problems with your expert, best-answer advice.

Through an integrated content strategy with originality, personalization, and “best answer” content that’s mapped to the buyer journey, you can become the perfect Content Master for your audience.

For more ideas on how to become a masterful content marketer, check out these 25 content marketing tips, including how to tackle writer’s block, repurpose content, utilize storytelling, and more.

6 Top Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Whether you’re a new Marketing leader at a company in need of establishing wins quickly or part of a growing organization with ambitious revenue goals, the challenges within marketing today are greater than ever.

To help make sense out of these challenges, I’ve listed 6 of the top obstacles to brands achieving effectiveness out of their marketing and how collaborating with influencers on content help solve each problem.

1. Challenge: Ad Blocking. 600 million devices using ad blocking, leading to a loss of $22 billion in ad revenue (PageFair). If buyers don’t ever see your ads, what chance do you have?

Challenge solved: Contrary to ads, influencers are liked and because people pay attention to the influencers they follow, shared brand messages are far more likely to attract and engage buyers.

When you subscribe to the idea that everyone is influential about something, especially with their friends, co-workers and social connections, this statistic from Nielsen (83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising) becomes very powerful.

Collaborating with influencers on content that the influencers then promote to their subscribing community can become a powerful differentiator for any marketing program.

Of course not all customers use ad blocking and there are incredible opportunities to be realized with sophisticated ad targeting. That’s why when properly executed, influencer content can be leveraged for both organic and paid promotions.

2. Challenge: Information Overload. Consider this: 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. That’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day (IBM). In fact, 74gb of media are sent to the average consumer on an average day (USC/ICTM).

The sheer number of choices faced by consumers and general distrust has turned brand marketing into noise for many customers.

Challenge solved: Influencers are Focused. One of the most compelling reasons a person is influential is because of the specificity in the topics they cover. Because of that specialization, buyers anticipate rather than ignore or feel overwhelmed by what their trusted influencers share.

While some influencers distribute their content on multiple channels, their personal brand focus plus consistency and trust equals a signal that buyers pay attention to.

3. Challenge: Google Hates SEO. Search Engine Optimization bloggers have been positing this question for 10+ years. With Google algorithm and platform updates including Florida, Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, RankBrain, Mobile, Possum, Fred and the thousands of launches, live traffic experiments, side-by-side experiments and over 130,000 search quality tests, it makes you wonder: is this all for improving the customer experience or is some of it to thwart SEO?

Challenge solved: Google actually likes influencer content. Another key ingredient to why someone is influential is their credibility and authority. An influencer’s specific expertise and their ability to provide insights, answers and even research based perspectives all deliver on the Google’s expectation that content be useful.

Beyond influencer content being useful, there’s the practice of making content worth linking to. Influencers typically have a subscribed audience, many of which publish themselves. When influencers publish and promote content, it naturally attracts links.

By optimizing content for search and activating influencers, brands can create opportunities to help customers find trusted content and everybody wins.

4. Challenge: Buyers don’t trust brands. Or ads. This is a hard pill to swallow: 42% of consumers distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising according to a study by (Ipsos Connect).

Challenge solved: Influencers are trusted.  A recent study by Fullscreen and Shareblee via MarketingCharts found that nearly 40% of 18-34-year-olds are more likely to trust what an influencer says about a brand than what the brand says about itself. Additionally, Twitter reports that users trust influencers nearly as much as their friends.

Collaborating with influencers on content can bring authenticity, credibility and trust to that content. When influencers share that content, the effect of their audiences’s trust goes even further.

5. Challenge: Content Doesn’t Scale. According to the annual study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, some of the top content challenges marketers included: 60% producing engaging content, 57% producing content consistently.

Challenge solved: Creator Influencers are experts at creating content. Influencer content creation and storytelling skills come in many forms: blogging, podcasting, video, images, and sometimes interactive.

Brands can extend the media creation skills of their marketing departments by partnering with creators with specialized skills. In addition to skill, creator influencers have an audience to promote the content to.

6. Challenge: Organic Social is Dead. Not only is Facebook organic reach down 52% (MarketingLand) but declarations that organic reach on Facebook is outright dead for brands are being stated by many credible industry publications, including Digiday.

Challenge (partly) solved: Influencers have optimized social popularity. Influencers create the kinds of signals that social network algorithms reward with higher visibility. Influencers understand what resonates with their audience in terms of topic, content type and promotion. Those same influencers also have an active audience that engages with their shared content. This is a powerful combination for triggering social network algorithms to prioritize influencer content in the feed.

Influencer Marketing is no silver bullet. Neither is content marketing or any kind of marketing approach.

But when influencers are intelligently researched, qualified and engaged during the planning phases of a content marketing program, the benefits of the collaboration can include improved content in a variety of ways:

  • Authenticity – Choose influencers that represent your customers and the resulting message will be a lot more genuine to what buyers actually care about.
  • Variety – Including experts beyond your marketing department can generate a greater span of content ideas.
  • Quality – Tapping expertise can boost the quality beyond what marketing department copywriters might be able to produce.
  • Quantity – Engaging a group of influencers on an ongoing basis can boost the volume of content. Factor in repurposing and you’ll create even more content options without increasing spend.
  • Reach – Trusted, credible experts promoting content can reach audiences that are very difficult to connect with through any other way.
  • Trust – The credibility, expertise and authority of influencers that collaborate with a brand over time can grow trust for the brand.

On top of that, there are efficiency benefits. We have implemented influencer content campaigns where influencers have contributed anywhere from 20% to 80% of the content for the entire campaign.

Then there are the effectiveness benefits. For an organic influencer content campaign, achieving a 50% share rate amongst influencers is impressive. We’ve had many programs with over 100% share rate. Why? By communicating effectively, setting expectations and making content that contributors are proud to be a part of.

The reality is that influencer content programs can deliver value across the entire customer lifecycle, not just awareness. That means improved engagement and conversions.

There are many more challenges for marketing than the six above. I didn’t get into martech shock (too much tech), difficulty in finding qualified marketing candidates, measurement challenges or the implications of the lockdown on data represented by GDPR in the EU and recent attention being given Facebook by lawmakers. But addressing the six above should give the vast majority of marketers reading this an advantage.

Establishing relationships with qualified, capable influencers can bring a tremendous amount of value to a company’s content marketing effectiveness. When influencer marketing is thoughtful, ongoing and properly managed, it becomes a force multiplier that is difficult to duplicate.

Are you planning a content marketing program right now? Who are your best influencers? Who are your best employee advocates? Which industry media do you have the attention of? Which of your customers are most likely to advocate for your brand? Do you know if they are influential? Do you know which of your prospective customers are influential?

Answering these questions can open the door to content marketing success for your brand and mutually valuable relationships with the people that actually influence your customers.

3 Reasons B2B Marketers Need Optimized & Influencer Activated Content

B2B content optimized influencer activated

We’ve all read the headlines about the death of organic social media and BuzzSumo’s recent report on the huge drop in social sharing reinforces the news that the free for all days of social media are coming to a close. Add to that the distrust of branded content and advertising and it’s easy to see that marketers need to rethink their approach.

If buyers are not engaging with brand social media and content, then where is their attention?

This is not a new question and the way we’ve been finding the answer is through insights about buyer preferences for solutions content: discovery, consumption and action.

The Customer Information Journey. Buyers pulling themselves through the majority of the research process for finding solutions do so with content. But where do they discover that content? What are their preferences for content types, topics and platforms for consumption? What sources do they trust? Of equal importance is what signals of credibility produce the confidence to inspire action within that content?

Customer Empathy. As B2B marketers are faced with an ever growing list of demands for content and channels, empathy with the customer experience is more important now than ever. What’s also important are the solutions for attracting, engaging and inspiring action that actually work.

Optimized And Influencer Activated Content. At TopRank Marketing we are fortunate to work with an innovative team and brave clients that trust our advice on how to optimize B2B buyer experiences. By leveraging integrated SEO, Content and Influencer programs, we’ve been able to achieve marketing performance results like 550% more leads and generating 22% of all new revenue for the year from a single integrated content program.

To help marketers make the shift from dead end social media and brand-centric content that buyers don’t turst, here are 3 reasons why now is the time for B2B brands to capitalize on content optimized for search and influence:

1. Keywords are King:

Ignoring social and brand content means paying attention to something else. It comes down to trust and credibility. At every stage of the buying cycle from awareness to consideration to purchase, buyers use search engines to find solution content.

WIth everyone on the content marketing bandwagon, many B2B marketers are so focused on creating content they’re not allocating much more than an afterthought of paid social and ads to content promotion.

With content optimized for the solutions information and keywords that buyers are looking for, B2B brands can be useful at the very moment of need. That kind of credibility is what drives confidence, engagement and action.

The challenge: Is your content optimized for specific solutions keywords? Have you done the homework to find out if those are the keywords buyers are using? That are in demand? Are you creating topical hub and spoke content for focused internal linking that drives organic search visibility?

2. Influence is Queen:

B2B marketing industry research shows buyers trust peers and experts more than advertising. Whether it’s a question to an expert in a forum or reading expert advice in an industry publication, B2B buyers seek useful information from credible sources.

B2B brands are still behind when it comes to engaging influencers to add expertise and credibility to content. Our research with Traackr and Altimeter found that only 11% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer programs vs. 48% of B2C companies. B2B content without influencer contributions is like eating a baked potato plain. Boring! Including influencer contributions to B2B content is like adding your favorite toppings (salt, butter or sour cream) to that potato.

The challenge: Who are your brand’s influencers? Who is actively evangelizing your products or services? Which influencers could really make a difference for your marketing if they were associated with your brand? What are you doing to build quality, ongoing relationships with industry experts?

3. Activate Influencers & Optimize for Search:

When content programs leverage keyword research to optimize content and use those same keywords to help identify credible industry experts to contribute to that optimized content, it creates information that is both trusted and credible.

Many B2B brands do optimize their content for customer focused keywords. Others are moving from experiments to ongoing influencer programs. B2B brands that integrate both SEO and influence create a compelling opportunity to be found when it matters and to be trusted when it matters more.

The challenge: Are you leveraging your keyword research for SEO to also find influencers that are relevant for the same topics? Are you engaging those influencers to co-create content on those topics? Are you inspiring the influencers to publish keyword rich content on their websites linking back to your brand? Are those influencers also engaged for earned media in industry publications and blogs on target topics with links back to your brand?

With an understanding of keyword demand, B2B marketers can tap into the opportunity to be the best answer for buyers with content at the very moment of need. Even better is that influencer contributions to that optimized content will give it the credibility and engagement needed to inspire action.

Here are a few steps to get started:

  1. Identify top, relevant search keywords
  2. Create hub and spoke content architecture (big topic & derivatives)
  3. Map keywords to to content
  4. Keyword optimize content + links
  5. Leverage keywords to identify & recruit relevant influencers
  6. Ask influencers keyword rich questions
  7. Incorporate influencer contributions in mapped content
  8. Encourage influencer promotion and linking to content
  9. Implement media and blogger relations using influencer content
  10. Repurpose content according to best performing keywords/influencers

You can go a lot deeper than this and there are a number of sub-steps, but this list should provide a good overview. Of course we specialize in B2B programs that integrate SEO, content and influencers, so feel free to check out our influencer content marketing case studies for inspiration.

B2B Podcasting: What, Why and How

The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting

Okay, B2B marketers, time for a pop quiz:

  1. Which content marketing tactic can hold an audience’s attention for a half hour or more at a time?
  2. Which tactic inspires an audience to subscribe to your content and make a regular appointment to consume it?
  3. Which tactic can help boost thought leadership, raise awareness and engage influencers in your industry?
  4. Which tactic is in the title of this blog post?

The answer, of course, is podcasting. These long-form audio programs first emerged in the early 2000s. Back then, they were a niche format for hobbyists and tech nerds (like me). But the rise of the smartphone brought podcasts to the masses. Now, there are hundreds of hours of programming available on every conceivable subject, in every genre from true crime to horror to musical.  But we haven’t hit content shock for podcasts it’s still a growing market.

If your brand is looking to boost thought leadership and reach a new audience, now is the perfect time to add a podcast to your content marketing mix. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What Is a Podcast, Anyway?

There’s a wide variety of types of podcast out there, so it can seem tricky to find a definition that covers everything. Some are live interviews or panel discussions; some are fully scripted and produced audio plays; some are cryptic monologues about a bizarre southwestern town.  But they all share two attributes:

  1. There are multiple recordings for each title, and
  2. They’re organized in an RSS feed you can subscribe to.

Whatever genre the audio is, whatever platforms it’s available on, as long as you have multiple recordings brought together by an RSS feed, you have a podcast.

Why Should B2B Content Marketers Care about Podcasts?

The way that people consume podcasts make them an ideal channel for your high-quality content. People tend to listen while working out, driving, cooking dinner — in other words, podcasts fill sizable chunks of otherwise idle time. You wouldn’t expect someone to read your white paper or eBook during their morning commute, but they might settle in with your latest episode.

The demographics for podcast listeners are attractive for B2B marketers, too. Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer 2017 report found that:

  • 24% of people ages 18-54 listen to podcasts monthly
  • Podcast listeners are almost evenly split between men and women
  • Podcast listeners tend to be affluent, educated consumers
  • In the 25-54 demographic, monthly listening has grown year over year for the past four years

In other words, your target audience is likely spending a significant amount of time listening to podcasts already. And those who already listen to at least one podcast are likely to be on the lookout for more.

What Marketing Goals Can a B2B Podcast Serve?

Podcasts work best for the attract and engage phases of the customer journey. You can use your podcast to build brand awareness and establish thought leadership in your industry. Thoughtful, valuable content can help your brand stand out from the competition, and encourage listeners to build a relationship with the brand.

The most successful B2B podcasts tend to be in the Q&A or panel discussion style. Hosts can welcome new guests each week to share their insight. This type of format is perfect for influencer marketing: You can boost your internal subject matter experts, form relationships with influencers in the industry, even feature your potential prospects.

The Dell Luminaries* podcast is a great example of thought leadership B2B podcasting. Each episode features a guest with useful and often fascinating — thoughts to share with the audience. Some guests are internal experts at Dell, while others are influential entrepreneurs and executives from across the tech industry.

Dell Luminaries Podcast

Since podcasts have a low barrier of entry, they’re a good way to reach a niche audience, too. SAP’s recently-launched Customer Support Podcast * is a worthy example. Each episode features quotes from a wide array of influencers, internal and external.

SAP Customer Support Podcast

These podcasts succeed because they do what all great content does: deliver valuable information to a specific audience in an entertaining format.

How Do I Get Started?

It’s never been easier to launch a podcast. There are dozens of free and low-priced tools available to streamline every part of production, from recording to amplification. Here’s a quick rundown.

#1: Recording

To start recording, all you really need is a laptop and a decent-quality USB microphone. We get professional-sounding results with a Blue Yeti. For my personal podcast, I use an MXL 770. Either are more than adequate to get you started. Later you can invest in a whole sound studio’s worth of mixing boards, microphones, and accessories if you like, but start simple.

If you plan to interview guests on the show, likely you will be recording remotely over Skype, Google Hangout, or another VOIP. Don’t try to record your guest’s audio through your computer speakers or phone; have them create their own recording on their end, then edit the conversation together. We’ve been experimenting with Zencastr, which handles recording and VOIP coordination automatically, and have been pleased with the results.

For recording software, Audacity is still the best entry-level program. It’s free, has a host of useful features, and you don’t have to be a sound engineer to get great audio.

#2: Syndication

Once your audio is recorded and edited, you need a place to host the file, and an RSS feed to submit to podcast directories.  You can host the files locally and create your own RSS feed in raw html, but there are plenty of free-to-cheap platforms that can handle the grunt work. Most use an uploading interface similar to publishing on WordPress. So if you know how to upload a blog, you can create a podcast feed.

We have had good results with both Libsyn and Podbean. Both have free options and inexpensive paid plans with a few added features, and both provide stats that can help you track listenership.

Most importantly, they both will walk you through the process of listing your podcast on various directories: Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and more. That’s a crucial step in making sure your podcast is available on your audience’s preferred listening platform.

#3: Amplification

Once your podcast is published, there are a few easy ways to get the word out and start building your audience. First, activate your existing blog audience: Post a blog post for each episode with the audio embedded (Libsyn and Podbean both enable live-streaming embedded audio). Include an optimized title and meta description and a transcript or SEO-optimized introduction. And, of course, make sure to include a call to action to subscribe!

If your podcast includes influencers, create social media assets for them to share, including messaging and custom images. Share the podcast on your social channels as well, making sure to tag your influencers.

Cast Your Pods to the Wind

Podcasts are a rare type of content marketing: Interest in them is steadily growing, people go out of their way to seek out new content, and they’re relatively cheap and easy to produce. B2B marketers are constantly challenged to deliver the right content to people in the right format to earn their attention. If your target audience has a morning commute, a workout schedule, or other quiet time to fill, your podcast may be just what they’re waiting for.

Try these 10 marketing podcasts to make your own free time more productive.

*Dell and SAP are TopRank Marketing clients.

How to Succeed at B2B Content Marketing with More Credible Content

Creating Credible B2B Content

Ask any B2B marketer about their top digital marketing challenges and one of the first answers you’ll likely receive is: Getting in front of the right audience at the right time. In fact, Ytel’s 2018 State of B2B Marketing Communications survey revealed that 55% of respondents agreed that they have a hard time getting their message and content in front of their target audience.

Why is that? Well, there’s more content at buyers’ fingertips than ever before, search engines are getting in touch with their human sides, and organic visibility on social media is effectively extinct. But, let’s real talk for a minute, marketers—this is all old news. In today’s digital marketing landscape, creating meaningful connections with your audience on any channel really comes down to trust and credibility.

Consumers are increasingly numb to advertising and marketing messages—and they’re actively trying to avoid it all. Last year, PageFair reported that adblocking usage had grown by 30% globally. In addition, Facebook’s recent decision to de-emphasize brand content was in response to users saying that posts from businesses, brands and media were crowding their News Feeds.

However, buyers are increasingly looking to those they know and those they think they know for insights, answers and recommendations. Multiple reports have shown that somewhere around 90% of consumers trust influencers or individuals over straight branded content. In addition, according to a recent report from CMI and SmartBrief, 40% of B2B decision-makers say that credibility trumps the source of the information.

This means B2B brands and marketers need to double-down on creating quality, credible content to drive marketing objectives and wins. But how? By infusing credible voices, perspectives and insights from influential sources—namely industry experts and thought leaders—into the content marketing game plan.

#B2B brands & marketers need to double-down on creating quality, #crediblecontent to drive #marketing objectives & wins. Click To Tweet

To highlight how creating more credible content with influencers can help your B2B brand get in front of interested buyers, create an engaging experience, and inspire action, take a look at these three examples from the TopRank Marketing playbook of successful client influencer content marketing programs.

Case Study #1 – Introhive: Reaching, engaging and inspiring a niche audience.

Introhive is a leading customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider. Working across a variety of industries, Introhive aims to help their clients gain and effectively leverage customer intelligence in a way that can grow their business.

The Situation: The legal sector is one of Introhive’s focus industries. However, it’s an industry that’s been reluctant to adopt CRM technologies. Why? Oftentimes business development isn’t an established department within law practices, making it hard to justify investments in a “sales” technology. But law firms large and small have growth aspirations—and Introhive wanted to empower them to realize those opportunities.

Another challenge with attorneys and other legal professionals is that they often build their careers on evidence and witness testimony. Essentially, this industry is by nature hard to reach without offering credibility, authority and proof.

The Solution: With two unique challenges to overcome, our team knew that engaging other legal professionals to share their expertise and insights on business development, we could not only showcase the Introhive brand, but also needed to provide their audience with unique, relevant and trustworthy insights.

TopRank Marketing worked with the team at Introhive to develop an integrated influencer content program that began with a survey of legal community members. Conducting the survey helped facilitate building influencer relationships, while also collecting valuable data that could be used to further bolster campaign content. Other pieces of the integrated content marketing mix included an eBook—our anchor asset—blog posts, organic social amplification, paid social, and email.

Introhive Credible Content Case Study

The Results: For starters, we saw 15% more eBook downloads in the first month than the benchmark asset had in its lifetime. During the same time period, the accompanying blog content garnered over 600% more views compared to benchmarks for average blog content. Finally and without specifics available, the Introhive team reports that the program has delivered “medium to huge” marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Suffice it to say, this program leveraged credible content within influencers and research to generate substantial results. 

Read the full Introhive integrated influencer campaign case study.

Case Study #2 – Cherwell: Increasing brand visibility and thought leadership in a competitive space.

Cherwell Software is a leading IT service management (ITSM) company with a mission to help their customers leverage intuitive technology to enable better, faster and more affordable innovation.

The Situation: Since its inception a little over a decade ago, Cherwell has been rapidly gaining traction in the competitive ITSM space—but they’re still one of the newer kids on the block with other new competitors emerging rapidly. To continue their growth and fend off competition, Cherwell wanted to expand its marketing channels, increase brand awareness, engage industry thought leaders and—of course—eventually drive leads.

The Solution: Given Cherwell’s position in the competitive ITSM space, the team at TopRank Marketing worked to design an influencer content campaign that was highly-targeted to key the decision-makers they wanted to reach. How? We knew in order to stand out in news feeds and build near-instant credibility with our content, we needed to understand what influences the target audience the most.

To uncover the people, publications, and content topics and types that “moved” our audience the most, as well as where they spent time on social media, we designed a new research tool—the RITHM report. 

Using insights from the RITHM report to inform the content marketing approach, the resulting campaign included an eBook anchor asset, blog posts, an SEO-driven landing page, paid and organic social media.

Cherwell Credible Content Case Study

The Results: According to Alison Munn, Social Media and Digital Marketing Lead at Cherwell: “Not only did this program meet the defined goals and objectives, but the results and process exceeded my expectations!”

With this campaign responsible for 22% of new revenue for Cherwell in 2017, it was a recent winner of the B2B Marketing Exchange “Killer Content Award”.

You can learn more about this program in the case study video below:

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Case Study #3 – SAP SuccessFactors: Driving awareness and action by connecting to a specific audience pain point.

SAP SuccessFactors is a leading human capital management (HCM) suite that helps human resources (HR) professionals unleash the full potential of their workforce through transformation and engagement, and ultimately drive results across the business.

The Situation: For this niche human resources audience, employee wellness programs are part of the strategy to unleash the potential of their employees. However, the pain point for many organizations is finding a holistic solution in one place that also provides understanding of the true impact their efforts can have on the workplace. SAP wanted to drive awareness around their holistic solution, while also educating and engaging their audience.

The Solution: TopRank Marketing partnered with SAP SuccessFactors to craft an multi-pronged, influencer-driven content campaign that would not only raise awareness around their solution, but also provide their audience with credible, relevant, and actionable insights.

This campaign was anchored with an influencer eBook that featured insights from 10 top workplace culture, wellness, and technology experts, as well as internal experts from SAP SuccessFactors. In addition, other tactics such as a well-optimized landing page, social media promotion, and customized motion graphics were part of the mix.

SAP Credible Content Case Study Example

The Results: For downloads, we saw a  272% increase over SAP’s established benchmark. In addition, the accompanying landing page boasted a 68% conversion rate. Lastly, organic social promotion of the content—from the brand and influencers—drove 86% of overall views and 69% of overall conversions.

Read the full SAP SuccessFactors influencer-driven content campaign case study.

The Big B2B Takeaway for Credible Content

We’re in an era of a distrust and indifference to B2B marketing messages—which means if buyers don’t find your content credible and trustworthy, they’ll move on.

From skepticism to standing out in a crowded and more seasoned field, each of the aforementioned brands were living the trends and looking for a way to capture the attention of their audiences.

By cleverly leveraging influencers to create more credible and authoritative content and more trusted amplification, these brands were able to deliver their audiences with thoughtful opinions and diverse insights, bolster brand authority and make more meaningful connections with their audiences. But perhaps the most exciting campaign result was that building credibility led to audience activation—or conversions in other words.

To put it simply, with the right strategy, insights and influencer infusion, credible content can help brands win over your audience at every stage of the buyer journey.

With the right strategy, insights & influencer infusion, #crediblecontent can absolutely help brands win over your audience at every stage of the buyer journey. @CaitlinMBurgess Click To Tweet

Want to learn more creating more credible content? Check out our post on building credibility and authority with content marketing.