Analysts and marketers stressed the core importance of content marketing at BtoB's Digital Edge Live conference last month in San Francisco.
Tony Jaros, senior VP-research at SiriusDecisions, highlighted the role of content throughout the customer life cycle during a keynote presentation in which he explained a “rearchitected demand waterfall.” SiriusDecisions created the concept of a “demand waterfall” to show the alignment of marketing and sales throughout the buyer's journey.
The first stage is the inquiry, whether from in- or outbound marketing efforts.
“This is someone raising their hand—it is the raw fuel that goes into the demand waterfall,” Jaros said. “Inbound is becoming the dominant method of lead generation in today's digital space.”
According to a recent SiriusDecisions survey of CMOs, the top forms of content used to drive inbound marketing are: social media (84%), SEO (84%), keyword advertising (81%), display advertising (67%), online demos (63%) and content syndication (61%).
“We have to market at the persona level with content,” Jaros said.
The second stage of the demand waterfall is marketing qualification, which Jaros described as “the first line of defense leads go through in a marketing automation platform.” This stage includes teleprospecting and lead scoring, before leads are qualified and turned over to sales.
“You not only have to get leads, you have to nurture leads,” Jaros said. At this stage, marketers can use such content as marketing intelligence, press releases, white papers and sales-enablement tools to help drive demand.
The third stage is sales qualification, during which the sales organization accepts and qualifies the leads. The final stage is the close.
“The tactic itself, the media or the approach means absolutely nothing unless these things are all woven together,” Jaros said.
During a panel on content marketing, b-to-b marketers discussed how they're using content to engage with customers at different stages of the buying cycle.
George Stenitzer, VP-marketing and communications at telecommunications equipment manufacturer Tellabs, said about 95% of the company's revenue comes from roughly 60 companies in the telecom service provider space.
“We're seeing consolidation, with fewer and fewer large customers,” Stenitzer said. “This is driving us to an account-based approach, and we need content marketing.”
He said Tellabs is taking a thought-leadership approach to content marketing, writing about long-term trends that will influence buyers of telecom equipment, which typically has a 12-to-18-month purchase decision cycle. “We are talking about technology two to three years out—trends that will hit them if they invest now,” he said.
Tellabs partners with industry trade magazines on research and hires journalists to write about industry trends, using social media, press releases, a quarterly magazine, videos, blogs and infographics in its content marketing approach.
Pam Didner, global integrated marketing manager at Intel Corp., said Intel uses two primary types of content in its marketing efforts: original content generated by the company and curated content from third-party sources.
“Original content for the corporation can come from multiple sources,” she said. “In the past, marketing created the content; now, with the rise of social media, marketing does not own the content anymore.”
She said one way to create original content is through employees; another source is customers. “You can proactively reach out to customers so they can tell their story on your behalf, or they can come to you and want to tell their story. So there are really two types of customer content—push and pull.”
Didner said another way to get third-party content is to pay for it, such as with research studies.
Toni Adams, VP-global partner and alliances marketing at software company VMware, said the type of content depends upon the audience.
“For us, our go-to-market strategy is segment-based,” he said. “The audience defines the content and the content relevance, depending on whether it is a C-level executive or a practitioner setting up a data center.”
Adams said blogs are proving to be a successful form of thought-leadership content.
“We are seeing around 20% to 30% of traffic to our website driven by our blog,” he said. “There is a lot of interest that keeps our content fresh and keeps the search engines [driving traffic] to us. We want to increase the frequency of our blog from once a week to twice a week.”