Posts Tagged ‘content marketing’

How to turn on the voice of the customer in your B2B content marketing


A few years ago, one of my colleagues told me that he felt like a teenage boy who got a girl to say yes to his invitation for their first date, but not to the second.

He was discouraged because he couldn’t close his large case sales, in spite being invited to finalist presentations.  He admitted that there had to be something wrong with his sales pitch.  He needed his marketing colleagues to help him nurture business leads before making the sales pitch.

He was right about where he went wrong:  His interactions with potential customers were always about making a sale, not about explaining value propositions that addressed their needs and made them want to buy.

To state the obvious, marketing narratives and sales pitches must be relevant and resonate with potential customers.  With the pressure on marketers to produce content that generates business leads and converts prospects to sales, it is ironic that only 17% of content marketers reported that their organization’s content marketing strategy was more successful when compared with one year ago.

A possible reason for this weak outcome is that there is a lot of content marketing that is more focused on making a sales pitch, which can be a real turn-off.  Even if customers don’t quite know how to define their needs, I believe that it is necessary to incorporate the voice of the customer in marketing communication as a lead in to sales pitches and finalist presentations.

Henry Ford reportedly said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  

And even if they would have said they wanted faster horses, the insight was that there was a real need for speedier form of transportation.



Three turn-offs

Here are three common mistakes that turn potential customers off, and how to avoid them

1.Large amounts of data and information that don’t add  value.  

Target audiences usually have seen or read about various solutions to the problems and challenges they are facing.  The last thing potential customers need is a rehash of what they already know.  Repetition is boring and so is data-heavy text.

One way of getting around this is to integrate the voice of the customer and highlight insights gained from customers’ input, which could then serve as the starting point to present potential solutions.   By doing this, potential customers see that their needs are deeply understood and are being addressed.  Quotes from industry associations, stakeholder groups and market survey results are generally regarded as good sources that echo the customer’s voice.

2. Jumping quickly to speak about your branded solution in communication material. 

Potential customers don’t initially care about product features and brands.  They have a problem to be solved and they need to know about the pros, cons and impacts of the solution. Promoting a branded product or service up-front can be a real turn-off as it sends the message that the sales transaction is all that matters.

A better approach is to be brand agnostic, at first.  Explain the rationale for the solution options and clearly highlight how the needs identified by the customer are met.  The branded solution can be introduced in a case study and in the call to action for potential customers to make inquiries.

3.Describing features and benefits without validation from a credible source

Potential customers want to hear the voice of other customers who are facing similar challenges and have similar needs.  A call to action that does not ask for a sale, but makes a valuable offer (e.g. demo, time limited trial, consultation) is always appropriate.

The use of a real-world case study or customer testimonial in marketing communication, gives a voice to the customer in front of other customers and adds credibility to the marketing and sales plans.

Vendor or partner

From my own experience in the healthcare sector, the feedback from potential customers and other stakeholders always boiled down to the need for partnerships rather than vendor/buyer relationships.

Potential customers want to partner with providers who deeply understand their business needs

Access to C-suite decision-makers is gained when vendors are regarded as trusted, credible partners.  Credibility comes from using subject-matter expertise to help potential customers think differently about their problem and how the solution options create value for the customer.

Save the explicit sales pitch until after awareness, consideration and preference have been gained and trust has been earned.

Here are a few tips on how to create content marketing material that engages interest and builds trust –

  • Light use of data to validate key issues
  • Succinct summary of the challenges and issues
  • Engage readers by giving each stakeholder group a voice
  • Integrate stakeholder recommendations in the solution proposal
  • Case study and customer testimonial to validate the solution


Camille Isaacs-Morell loves social media and enjoys reading articles and blog posts on content marketing. She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of business-to-business enterprises and non-profit organizations in a leadership role with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.


See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.


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Align Marketing & Sales. Build Customer Communities.


Today’s savvy marketers know that consumers want to have access to information 24/7 to help them navigate the maze of purchase choices. Content marketing – the creation, curation and distribution of relevant information to attract and retain customers – has emerged as a key component in marketing strategies with the aim of building communities of engaged customers and contributing to the achievement of sales targets.

But how effective has content marketing been in generating quality sales leads? To what extent is content marketing contributing to business development goals and revenues?

Just over half — 51% — of marketers told Forrester Research their content marketing efforts are only somewhat effective in delivering business value; 27% rated the strategy as “neutral”; 6% said it was somewhat ineffective at delivering value; 1% said it was not effective at all.

Providing more engaging, relevant content could possibly lead to an improvement in these results.

However, I believe that for content marketing to be effective, Marketing and Sales have to be aligned on the definition of the customers they target, on how prospects will be engaged and converted to customers and on key performance indicators.

Aligning Marketing and Sales

  • Defining qualified leads

Generating a targeted number of sales leads from content marketing activities is not an indication that Marketing is effective or contributing to business success. What really counts is whether leads will generate sufficient revenues to achieve sales targets.  Effective content marketing strategies build engaged communities of prospective and loyal customers who have the potential to generate new business that meets or surpasses sales targets.  Therefore, Marketing and Sales must have a clear and common definition of a “qualified lead.”  A “qualified lead” ought to be defined in relation to current and anticipated customer needs and the short to long-term revenue potential of the lead in relation to Sales’ targets. It is the responsibility of Marketing to ensure that content material provides relevant information, engages interest and prompts responses from consumers who will be considered as qualified leads.

  • Managing the pipeline

The aim of pipeline management is to ensure that business development opportunities are optimized, target customer populations are reached and that qualified sales leads are generated and nurtured. This means that Marketing’s plans must be timed and managed in tandem with Sales’ capacity to follow-up on qualified leads to avoid clogging the pipeline.

Important planning activities should include agreement on data capture from engagement tactics, screening criteria to identify qualified leads and the content material that will be distributed at various stages of the customer journey.   Both Sales and Marketing must work with a common data base, marketing automation or CRM system and agree on how interactions with potential and current customers will be interpreted in relation to needs anticipation and their place on the customer journey.

  • Moving from content to conversion

Mapping appropriate content, its format and delivery to the various stages of the customer journey increases the likelihood of sales conversion.  To do this, there has to be an understanding of how the target customer populations access and use content resources.

More importantly, Marketing and Sales must agree on a clearly defined business process for lead capture and determine the points at which Marketing refers qualified leads to Sales.  Incentive compensation for referrals and conversions should also be integrated in the business process.

The table below presents high-level suggestions on the mapping of content to the stages of the customer journey.


Measuring content marketing effectiveness

Today’s marketing technology tools make it possible for marketers to identify and contact anyone who shows an interest in digitally delivered content.  Under pressure to prove ROI, marketers devise tactics that are intended to create and build engagement.  The download of an eBook, the posting of a favourable comment or interactions of any kind should not be interpreted as readiness to purchase and are not the best indicators of content marketing effectiveness.

Quantitative and qualitative engagement metrics and qualified lead ratios are better indicators of content marketing effectiveness. 

  1. Community engagement and advocacy metrics –

The ratio of visitor engagements to social media impressions and/or visits to web sites indicates if the content marketing material has been effective in creating awareness and purchase consideration. Engagements include the number of clicks on social media posts and click throughs to other web pages, retweets, shares, comments and direct inquiries.

Customers, who are brand advocates, are loyal, repeat buyers, influence others to purchase and are considered a trusted source by their peers.

Advocacy is a very important qualitative and quantitative metric.  Qualitative, because it involves observing what customers are saying about the product and the brand in on-line posts, discussions and various social media.  The number of shares, followers and discussions initiated provides quantitative data on brand advocacy.

  1. Lead generation metrics –

Key lead generation metrics should focus on qualified leads as defined by Sales and Marketing.

Leads should be qualified using the data captured through engagement tactics.  As explained earlier, leads should be qualified and categorized according to revenue potential and needs anticipation.

Cost per qualified lead and cost per sales appointment are two metrics that indicate the return on the investment in content marketing.  They are calculated by dividing the number of qualified leads or sales appointments by the content marketing budget for lead generation or engagement tactics.

 See the BIG picture. 

The consistent measurement and analysis of results over an extended period of time provide benchmarks and trends that indicate the effectiveness of content marketing and the value it contributes to the business.  Content marketing effectiveness should ultimately be determined by the positive correlation between the number of leads generated and the number of new customers acquired.

Focus on what’s important.

It is important to carefully assess the results obtained.  For example, declining ratios may indicate that marketing activities are ineffective for all or some segments in the qualified lead population.  This calls for corrective action, adjustments or changes in strategy and tactics.

Finally, the on-going investment of time and budgets required to profitably sustain engagement and loyalty of new customers must be assessed in order to justify repeat investment in content marketing.


Related posts:

3 Mistakes e-mail marketers make and how to avoid them

These 3 KPIs may get your marketing budget approved

3 Ways to measure engagement ROI


Camille Isaacs-Morell develops performance-driven marketing strategies that produce measurable results in the areas of brand awareness, new business leads and sales. 

She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of business-to-business enterprises and non-profit organizations in a senior leadership role with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.


See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.


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A few months ago, I got the worst speeding ticket ever.  I’m still too embarrassed to say how fast I was driving, the number of demerit points I got and the fine I had to pay.  I can’t tell anyone, not even myself, exactly how it all happened.

What I can safely say is that I have learned important lessons in mindfulness and marketing.  Meditation,   regular mental check-ins and driving no faster than the speed limit are now the marks of mindfulness in my daily life.

Interestingly, I have found some valuable take aways that are applicable to my professional work as a marketer.

#1:  Know what your readers already know.  Reframe the way they think about what they know.

I was driving on a highway and a service road I know very well.  Until that day, I had never seen a speed trap and never assumed that there could be.  Familiarity and boredom led my mind to think of other things – the presentation I had to deliver in 40 minutes, although I was only 15 minutes away from my destination.

I recently read that the average attention span is now only 8 seconds.  People get bored with what they already know.  But reframing the way they think about what they already know changes the way they think about their problem.  And reframing the way people think makes them willing to consider alternative solutions.

As an example, Martin Grosskopf challenges investors to think differently about divesting fossil fuel assets from their portfolios.  In a recent article, he recommends that instead of being too concerned about where a company falls within a particular Global Industry Classification Standard sector, institutional investors should focus on whether the company provides products or services that have a positive environmental or social impact and offers a financial return on investment.

  • Content marketing that challenges conventional thinking and presents realistic solutions, will likely prolong readers’ attention, build engagement and create purchase consideration.

#2: Details can become distractions.  Be clear about what you want readers to know and to take away.

When I was preparing the cheque to pay the fine, I noticed that the police officer had entered the wrong date in one of the many spaces on the ticket.  Although I was tempted, I could have contested the validity of the ticket, but I chose not to.  Why?  Win or lose, either way, the key lesson of mindfulness would have been lost in an arduous legal process requiring significant investment of time, effort and money.

If you have been able to extend your readers’ attention span beyond 8 seconds, do avoid the temptation to overload the reader with too much information.  Showcasing expertise and knowledge does reinforce credibility, but it can also alienate potential clients.  The key take aways can be lost in the mother lode of information and details.

  • Clearly understand potential clients’ pain points and offer solutions:
    • As a rule of thumb – offer no more than 3 to 5 valuable take aways.
    • There are exceptions – for example, if you are describing a series of steps that leads to a desired outcome, a longer list of take aways may work very well. As an example, check out Neil Patel’s post 17 Hacks for Writing Killer Articles in Half the Time

#3:  Interruptions are meaningless unless there is value or consequence. Agree on what engagement looks like.

On reflection, I had three opportunities to slow down before I was stopped.  I overtook three cars whose drivers were respecting the speed limit.  They, in my view, were interrupting the rhythm of my driving on a familiar route on which I gave no thought to the possible consequence of speeding or the value of going with the traffic flow.

Today’s marketing technology tools allow us to identify and contact anyone who shows an interest in our digitally delivered content.  Under pressure to prove ROI, marketers devise tactics that are intended to create and build engagement.

Tactics ranging from retargeting site visitors to capturing contact information in return for a downloaded white paper or eBook.  What usually follows may be regarded as interruption – calling with a sales pitch, a series of e-mails and follow-up calls every four to six weeks.  From my own experience, this approach is fairly commonplace particularly among IT vendors and it can be a real turn-off.  The download of an eBook, the posting of a favourable comment or an interaction of any kind, should not be interpreted as readiness to purchase.

Kudos to Lunametrics for offering readers a downloadable one-sheeter Comparing Google Analytics Premium and Google Analytics. Although an e-mail address is required, downloaders are asked to indicate if they want to be contacted within the next business day to discuss Google Analytics Premium.

There is a big difference between interruption and engagement.  Interruption is about getting into people’s faces.  Engagement is all about getting into people’s hearts, showing that you care and want to help.

  • Engagement is a sustained series of valuable interactions in which the needs of the potential client are carefully understood and addressed, eventually leading to a business relationship.

Three rules of engagement

Like driving, content marketing requires a clear line of sight that leads to a destination.  Along the way, there are rules of engagement.

  1. To avoid boredom, challenge your readers to think differently.
  2. Be clear on what you want your readers to know and to take away.
  3. To add real value, agree on how you will engage with potential clients.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.



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With social media gaining momentum as important channels for marketing communication, and with technology tools now being used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, we are in a new era of marketing.  Much is being said and written about modern marketing,  which by many definitions, boils down to creating and sustaining an engaged clientele and being able to demonstrate a positive, healthy return on marketing dollars invested.

The more things change, the more they remain the same

What’s not new or modern in marketing is that consumers have always wanted, and will always want, information that helps them make the purchase decision that’s right for them.  With social media, the internet and other digital communication channels brimming with information, it is estimated that 57% of the buying decision is made before the customer contacts the supplier.  What this means is that to be successful, marketers must provide easily accessible information that presents a recommended course of action that is relevant and valued by customers.

Cost and time constrained traditional marketing campaigns that rely on catchy slogans, tag lines and ad copy, have generally been difficult to measure in terms of purchase pre-disposition and customer loyalty. So welcome to the era of “content marketing,” which, as marketing guru Seth Godin said, ” is the only marketing left.”

The BIG picture

The proliferation of content marketing and the widespread use of social media to distribute content has impacted the way buyers buy and how customers stay connected and loyal to suppliers.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, access to information in various formats and through diverse channels offers the opportunity to influence and create engagement and new business opportunities among potential and existing clients.  Consumers and businesses want more than product information.  Marketers and salespeople need to do more than create nicely crafted value propositions and describe the benefits of  products on web sites, brochures and in multi-media communications.  The “more” is all about building relationships based on authenticity and trust. This, in my view is the BIG picture.

Content marketing, can and should be the engine that drives engagement, loyalty, trust and advocacy at all stages of the customer journey – from building awareness  and consideration, to the point of purchase and throughout the all-important post-sale relationship.  

What’s important

Content marketing is not about providing expert information that suppliers believe is relevant and what the customer ought to know or be educated about.  Even if this seems obvious, in my view, there is way too much information classified as content marketing that floods the in-boxes, social media accounts and mail boxes of  consumers.  What’s really important is that content marketing should be focused on the things that people really care about.  Content marketing should be kept simple as ABC…

  • Applicable and relevant to the target customer’s needs, based on insights from customer feedback;
  • Breakthrough commonly held ideas so that customers and potential customers can think differently about  their needs and pain points, leaving them open to the solution options advocated in the vendor’s content marketing; and
  • Credible, with testimonials and other proof points that demonstrate that the vendor’s solution or product really meets the needs of the customer and creates a trusting relationship with the supplier.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.



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