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Content Marketing Services: A Prime Opportunity

*Originally published in eMedia Vitals on 07/02/12*

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B2B marketers understand that engaging customers in today’s environment requires a depth of high-quality content designed to attract prospects that seed their websites, feed their marketing programs and fuel their marketing automation systems.  That’s an opportunity for publishers.

Typical quarterly goals for today’s B2B marketer: Generate 25,000 leads, host 26 events, create and manage thousands of web pages and enable hundreds of sales calls.  These mammoth goals and the expanded requirements that come with them are creating a great opportunity for savvy, nimble publishers that can evolve their culture and skills to navigate beyond traditional advertising into marketing services.

Over the last few years, B2B marketers’ roles have aggressively expanded from building awareness and supporting sales to increasing engagement and driving revenue.  At the same time, B2B professionals are using the web and social networks to do their job and research purchases – without ever contacting companies directly. 

This is a far cry from when customers had to call their salesperson to get information beyond brochure-ware.  If marketers aren’t there with valuable information when professionals are doing their research – online or at events – they are simply not in the consideration set.  To compound the issue, the content that vendors are providing today is often seen as “marketing fluff,” with little to no value to potential buyers.

  

To adapt to this changing landscape, marketers are shifting their budgets away from banners and ad pages to digital content marketing and lead generation.  Outsell estimates that over the last six years $72 billion in marketing spend has shifted from B2B media and advertising to marketers’ own digital initiatives.  Many marketers have built dynamic websites and intricate digital programs to generate prospects and build databases. 

However, they are now facing a new challenge: great-looking websites and marketer-created content does not always generate leads, or positively amplify their brand via customer experience.  That requires a depth of not only engaging information, but high-quality content designed to attract prospects that seed their websites, feed their marketing programs and fuel their marketing automation systems. 

Publishers have the DNA and passion to serve B2B professionals with all forms of information, insight and commentary – professionally packaged, delivered and aligned with clients’ solutions.

 

 With a deep understanding of market and audience intelligence, content expertise and proven publishing processes, media companies can play an integral role in helping B2B marketers develop highly valued content across all formats. My company, UBM TechWeb, defined and developed a distinct methodology and approach around full content marketing services, and created a multimillion-dollar business around it.  Some of the content services we’ve developed at UBM TechWeb include:

  • Content Mapping to develop a comprehensive plan, framework and calendar to serve a client’s prospects and customers information needs over time
  • Content Inventory and Auditing of a client’s existing content portfolio to assess its health and relevance to target markets and prospects
  • Content Optimization of a client’s existing content assets to better engage its target markets and prospects
  • Content Development to create new content where gaps exist in information required by prospects during their decision-making process

As you contemplate the content marketing services opportunity, there are several keys to success and pitfalls to avoid.  Here are some things to think about:

  • Publishers not only have to immediately change their mindset, they must alter the language used to be relevant to marketers.  For example, “audience” and “reach” are media terms, whereas “prospects” and “engagement” are what marketers use when talking about their goals.
  • Content marketing is not always about great journalism. It is about creating useful content that engages and nurtures B2B professionals as they gather information.  You will likely have to add and/or sharpen your performance content marketing skills to complement your editorial prowess, going beyond quality journalism to meet clients’ goals (conversion into registrants and, ultimately, qualified leads).   It is important to note that some marketing organizations have hired ex-journalists directly to blog and “create content.”  This is fine for thought leadership, but it does not give clients the scale they need to produce the arsenal of content required in today’s more complex, integrated sales and marketing process.
  • The content management systems you’ve been using in publishing will have to be altered to address the marketing and sales cycles, and content libraries required by marketing and sales organizations.  Setting up content templates and content calendars that map to the client’s sale and marketing processes, and providing scalable delivery systems for content, are critical.
  • Those skills your custom media teams have mastered over the last few years in managing freelance networks of writers and copy editors will be tested.  To meet clients’ diverse content and content format needs, you will need to become adept at managing an expansive network of content pros.  This way you can pick the best talent by topic and format (video, webcast, live events, papers, research, etc.) and scale without adding tens or hundreds of content pros to your staff. 
  • As you scale, you’ll need to put processes in place to manage programs and clients as well as the content creation and delivery process.  You are now in the client services business!
  • Margins for content marketing services are not always as high as traditional media.  In aggregate, you can expect margins to fall more to the mid-to-high teens, depending on the scale of services you are delivering, the markets you serve and the levels of content offerings you provide.  This is general guidance; performance can vary.

The good news is that – very often – once you have created strong, engaging content, clients will often want to put that content to work with your media organization.  Content services are a good source for new business in advertising, lead generation, and live and online events.  In other words, content services can fuel other parts of your media business.

Savvy publishers that can integrate content services into their offerings and increase their relevancy to their client base will be able to capitalize on a growing market opportunity – and capture a new revenue stream. 

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*Originally published in eMedia Vitals on 07/02/12*


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