Content marketing continues to grow in popularity among B2B companies, but content marketers face a number of serious challenges. As a content marketer, an advocate marketing program (which harnesses customer and employee communities to support your marketing objectives) can help you solve some of these challenges; but not all. Let’s not pretend that an advocate marketing program is a silver bullet solution. So let’s look at the challenges that content marketers face, and how customer advocacy and employee advocacy can help…
Challenge #1 – Consistently creating engaging content
Prospects trust the opinions of your customers more than they trust you, so creating content that wholly or partly involves customer opinions increases the quality of your content. And we all know that quality is the key in a highly competitive “content market”. The bar is getting higher, and authentic customer-generated will help you reach and exceed that bar. By motivating customers to work with you to create compelling case studies, guest blog posts, customer videos, event presentations, and other forms of content you can satisfy your prospects’ desire for insightful content that reflects the reality of the value you deliver. The key question to ask is this: “How can we add the customer voice to make this content better?”
There are three ways in which content marketers can use an advocate marketing program to help create engaging customer-driven content:
- Co-creation: Working directly with hand-picked or self-selecting customers to create rich, authentic content.
- Integration: Integrating customer quotes and opinions into marketing collateral to make thought-leadership content real and to “evidence” product-oriented content.
- Facilitation: Making it easy for customers to tell stories about the customer experience online (e.g. review sites, which are growing in popularity as a research tool for prospective buyers).
Challenge #2 – Lack of budget
Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 78% of firms are either maintaining or increasing what they spend on content marketing, yet the challenge of an increasingly crowded and competitive content market means that marketers can’t scrimp on quality. If we consider that most of a firm’s content marketing budget is spent on three things: staff, content commissioning and promotion, any opportunity to pull in resources to help produce and promote content will get you more bang for your buck.
When it comes to producing content, most firms have plenty of knowledgeable people, but these subject matter experts rarely have time to get involved in producing content; they have day jobs to attend to as their first priority. Commissioning content from third parties is a way of getting around this bottleneck, but it can be very expensive – particularly when you’re bringing in top-tier industry analysts and industry luminaries. The big names grab attention, but you get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.
By engaging with customers and employees at scale, you can easily identify happy customers that are keen to get involved, and unearth hidden subject matter experts within your organization. Customers or employees who want to raise their profile in the industry are intrinsically motivated to co-produce content. It might be a guest blog post, a presentation at an industry even, a video monolog, or just about any other type of content. And most of the time, the direct costs will be nominal.
When it comes to promoting content, customers and employees can help you in ways that eclipse the ROI of paid advertising. By asking advocates to share your content to their social networks, you can reach the prospects that you wouldn’t have been able to touch through advertising campaigns or your own corporate social networks. But not only that, when a customer shares a piece of content, they are effectively recommending that content. People in their networks are more likely to click-through to your content – because the quality has been validated by somebody they already know and trust. Firms are finding that with an effective advocate marketing program, they no longer need to blow a large chunk of their budget on advertising, leaving more funding in the pot for producing quality content.
Challenge #3 – Producing a wider variety of content
Prospective customers come in so many different shapes and sizes and hang out in so many different places that the variety of content formats and vehicles you need to engage with them has exploded. Social content platforms like YouTube, Slideshare, Pinterest and Instagram have put a number of different media vehicles firmly on the content marketer’s radar; and if you don’t have a presence, you’ll be conspicuous in your absence.
It’s tough to keep tabs on all of these platforms, but being able to tap your customer community for intelligence and content ideas will help you to keep your finger on the pulse of demand (what your customers want, not what you think they want). Most firms don’t have a mechanism by which they can readily ask their customers what content they would like to see. An advocate marketing program will give you this capability, so the content marketing team can direct activity in data-driven manner. As a result, fewer experiments miss the mark and less of the content budget will be wasted.
Challenge #4 – Targeting content to the right audience
Creating high quality buyer personas isn’t easy. It takes time to crowd-source the data you need to really pin down the types of customers you want to sell to. Often, buyer personas are nothing but a collection of anecdotes cobbled together from the sales team. And even if they were accurate, they’re quickly out of date. So how can you get a clear picture of who your customers are, and keep that picture up-to-date in the context of rapidly changing market conditions? You need proper data.
An advocate marketing program will help you build accurate buyer personas that are based on real data. And they will help you keep them up to date. Advocate marketing is centered on building customer communities. Part of building an advocate marketing program is getting to know your customers so that you can target mutually beneficial challenges to the right segments. The same data is the perfect feed for building out a set of accurate buyer personas – and if any data is missing you can simply ask them.
Challenge #5 – Extending your reach
Content quality and marketing reach are two sides of the same coin. There’s no point in producing great content if you fail to get it in front of the right audience. As we mentioned earlier, customer and employee communities are often an untapped resource for extending your marketing reach. By asking happy customers and engaged employees to share your content, you extend reach beyond your corporate network and into theirs – scaling up the number of eyes you’re putting your content in front of by an exponential factor.
As always, the critical factor is producing great content. Neither your happy customers nor your engaged employees will share content unless it’s up to a high standard. In essence, they’re staking their reputation on it; recommending it to their peers as content they have personally validated as worthy. So, we see that reach and content quality are inextricably linked.
Integrating advocate marketing and content marketing
To make it work, you’ll need to integrate your advocate and content marketing processes. These two marketing functions will need to work hand-in-hand to make it happen. The content marketing team needs access to your customer and employee communities to crowd-source ideas, create compelling content and extend market reach. Advocate marketing needs content to fuel lasting engagement and demonstrate ROI of the advocate marketing program. Consequently, when building an advocate marketing program, it’s critical to involve your content marketing team from day one – in order to cater for the challenges that content marketers face.
To find out more about how content marketing and advocate marketing can work together to drive results, contact us and speak to one of our experts.