How to create B2B and B2C Personas and Map Content to the Buyer Journey

(I wrote this article a few months ago for NewsCred’s Insight blog. It resulted as one of the more popular of the last quarter, generating $300K of Marketing Influenced Opportunities. Here is an updated version)

To succeed at content marketing (and marketing, in general), you must understand your audience. Content starts and sustains conversations with customers. But in order to have a meaningful dialogue, you need to know to whom you’re speaking. “Developing buyer personas” is what marketers call the process of figuring that out. 

But I’d argue that developing buyer personas is just one part of the content marketing equation – you need to research how your audience consumes content, as well.

Let me put it this way: developing personas, understanding their buyer journeys, and mapping content to the different stages of the journeys all contribute to content marketing success. You can’t have one without the other.

Let’s analyze each step.

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The Ultimate Guide to Global Content Marketing for Large Enterprises

Global Content Marketing

I wrote this post less than one year ago. It was November 2016, exactly twelve months after launching a global content marketing program for the IT Business Unit of Schneider Electric.

The same month I presented my experience at NewsCred’s ThinkContent 2016 Conference in London. Today, less than one year later, I have revised and updated the original post, with examples and experiences coming from other companies where I contributed to implement global content marketing programs. I added three paragraphs too (“Definitions”, “Localisation” and “Metrics”), to touch relevant topics that in my view were not properly covered on the original post. The original post was mainly focused on B2B best practices – which is natural if you come, as I did, from 15 years of experience in B2B enterprises. This time it includes B2C examples and considerations. Also, this post partially reflects what I presented at CMWorld 2017, the largest global Content Marketing Conference.

Since last year, my passion for traveling has not changed. In fact, I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not travelling. In a way, it has been a constant whether I was on the road for business or pleasure. My travels have given me a better understanding of the world. But I never knew how much I had to learn until I was tasked to launch a brand new global content marketing program for Schneider Electric. In short: I thought I knew the world, but when you have to develop content for different geographies, well, it feels like you never stepped outside your front door.

My first global content marketing journey started in three years ago, when my team and I began defining Schneider Electric IT Division’s content strategy and the processes that would sustain it. Our goals were twofold: increase leads and marketing opportunities, which were flat and stagnating at that time (marketing opportunities had to count at least for 20% of overall opportunities), and increase brand awareness. After defining our strategy, we spent one full year preparing for the global launch through multiple pilots. We learned an incredible amount from our successes and mistakes. One year later I replicated the same model with global clients once I moved to NewsCred at the beginning of 2017.

What follows is a series of valuable considerations from all these experiences, which should prove helpful to other marketers who are establishing and launching their own global content marketing strategy.

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Why Mobike’s global content strategy will fail (if they won’t change model)

I was at the Linate airport in Milan, yesterday. Back to London. Getting prepared for Easyjet’s boarding process (Easyjet starts boarding two hours before the scheduled time; then they let you endlessly wait somewhere in a line between the gate and the airplane). I was looking at my Twitter timeline. A tweet promoted by Mobike caught my attention. The tweet was about the new public dockless bike service Mobile is launching in Italy, specifically in Milan and Florence. I believe they are running similar pilots in the UK. London and Manchester.

Cool idea, good business model. Green stuff. Approved by hipsters.

But something was wrong.

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Content Marketing, Big Rocks & the “Thanksgiving analogy”

Note – header image is from Jason Miller blog/book “Welcome to the Funnel”.

Fall is coming. Thanksgiving is approaching and marketers on the other side of the Atlantic (my side is the European) are ready to take a break, turn their brain off for a few days and stop thinking about marketing, content & ROI.

Well… ever heard about Content Marketing Thanksgiving analogy?

The concept is simple. The idea is to look for opportunities to repurpose the content that you already have – exactly as you’re repurposing Thanksgiving food for some time. The analogy comes from an interview to Rebecca Lieb. When asked about tips for companies struggling to produce enough content, she replied:

“I use a Thanksgiving analogy. You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end. If you are like most families you are going to be repurposing this bird as leftovers for quite some time creating everything from sandwiches, to soups, and more. Your content marketing strategy can be thought of in the same way.”

The idea here is basic, but straight forward: marketer have to look for opportunities to repurpose the content that they already have. For instance, eBooks can be repurposed into infographics, SlideShare presentations, blog posts, video and then disseminated via social media channels.

The idea is to look for opportunities to re-purpose the content that you already have,  exactly as you’re repurposing thanksgiving food for some time.

Jason Miller adds:

“This concept can be taken a step further and applied to “Big Rock” pieces of contents . The idea is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top of funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral to name a few.”

Rebecca Lieb, Jason Miller, Alex Barca (Curata) all mention the analogy, with small variations (the Thanksgiving analogy, the Content Pyramid, etc). Jason Miller put the analogy, together with the Big Rock concept, at the centre of his book “Welcome to the Funnel”.

All good readings, if you are a content marketer.

Resources:

Why Content Marketing is NOT a Campaign

If you are a content marketer you must be familiar with the following statement:

“Content Marketing is a long-time commitment, not a campaign”

The quote comes from Joe Pulizzi and is one of my favourite content marketing quotes, together with “Content doesn’t promote itself”, “Not more content, but more relevant content” (both from Jason Miller, LinkedIn). All easy to remember. Useful, when I need to express a concept in a few words, during my public speeches or in conversations with my peers in Schneider Electric.

Back to the opening quote, here is what Joe says: Content marketing is all about sharing information that is considered useful to customers and prospective customers via articles, blogs, videos, and other media. It’s not a focus on creating salesy or “buy now” messages. Content Marketing is an approach, a methodology, a discipline, rather than a Campaign. It’s a long-term play when building a brand relationship with customers and prospects. Becoming an expert and building an audience doesn’t happen overnight. My experience of the last years reflects the long-term commitment to build a working revenue stream with the content marketing approach.

And its not just a philosophical difference.

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Content Marketing Strategy: a Guide in 10 Easy Steps (the updated version)

This post was originally created as a script for the speech I gave at Content Marketing Fast Forward (Amsterdam, May 2016). Then updated with new concepts, samples and links to reflects the session I presented at Festival of Marketing  (London in October 2016).

***

Large enterprises, especially B2B firms, no longer tend to be concerned that their solutions aren’t attractive enough for Content Marketing. In fact, numbers show that Content Marketing discipline has been adopted by B2B firms at faster speed than their counterparts in B2C.

So, if you work in a large enterprise, how can you transform your marketing strategy from a traditional to a modern and successful content marketing model aligned with company growth and business goals? This can be done through proper content marketing strategy, integration of content, social media and PR and a deep transformation of the overall marketing model, facilitated by marketing technologies and tools. Technology’s influence spans all industries and continues to change and revolutionize everything it touches. The content marketing industry is no exception.

Traditional marketing has always been about pushing company products and services in front of the audience (outbound marketing). Content Marketing is about meeting the informational needs of potential customers so they become interested in you (inbound). Two years ago I led the implementation of a content marketing program for the IT Division of Schneider Electric, moving from an advanced but traditional approach to a new, modern, model based on content marketing strategy. The new model introduced elements of uniqueness, like the global editorial board and the editorial calendar – many boards and many calendars were in place before the transformation. It seamlessly integrated content, social media and PR, used to be disconnected and misaligned. It made advantage of the latest marketing technologies for content management, workflow, distribution and analytics. A summary of the full “story” can be found on the post published on Contently’s Content Strategist and on the podcast recently recorded by FIR and LinkedIn.

Based on a definition from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) “Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Continue reading “Content Marketing Strategy: a Guide in 10 Easy Steps (the updated version)”

How to integrate Public Relations into your B2B Content Strategy

PR and Content integration

As a marketer with an engineering and analytic background I have always been very critic about the capability of the Public Relation function to provide proper support to business operations and demonstrate its impact with relevant metrics.

I was clearly wrong with the first argument – PR does provide a huge push to businesses if properly run. Think at Influencer marketing, just to mention one basic example. On the other side, I still don’t think I was wrong with the second point: relevant measurement.

Until Content Marketing came.

Without generalizing too much Public Relations faces three main issues today in large B2B enterprises: 1) a content-related issue, 2) a functional integration issue and 3) a measurement issue. First, B2B companies still keep pushing products and features-focused news releases, in a continuous effort that is totally isolated and detached from the company’s content model and plans (assuming that a content plan is in place). The problem is that many PR firms and companies still haven’t adapted their approach to modern times and still rely on the same format and distribution techniques used years ago, which are far less effective today. Secondly, the PR function is typically separated from other marketing domains and definitely detached from the content marketing function and doesn’t benefit from the synergies that a combined PR, content and social media approach could generate. Finally, PR has gotten a bad reputation at times because PR professionals have historically relied on soft metrics (or not relied on metrics at all) such as placements and impressions to create the perception of value. They have failed to connect actions to outcomes, and demonstrate how PR activities impact key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to the business.

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Why Blogs are still at the Core of your Content Marketing Strategy

Remember the Blogosphere?

I started blogging in the first years of 2000. Remember vintage terms as “the blogosphere”? Well, I was part of the Italian blogosphere, that small Italian elite. Yes, exactly, the “Italian blogosphere”. I started with personal blogs, moving time to time to new blogging platforms to gain publishing and design flexibility and autonomy. I met other bloggers in Milan, which is the town where most of those innovators were based, to exchange ideas and experiences. After a few years, and with a deeper knowledge of blog technology and dynamics, I created an internal blog at the business where I was leading marketing operations for European countries. I always promoted internal blogs as a vehicle of (employee) freedom and as one of the best way to humanise companies and C-level teams. I turned soon to using external blogs as one of the main distribution channel of my marketing content strategies. Today, after more than 15 years, I am still a blogger and I still believe that bogs are positioned at the core of our content marketing strategy.

In term of technology, after a few years using pre-built blogging platforms (Splinder, Blogger) I moved to the code-heavy Movable Type platform. I finally ‘met’ WordPresswhen I switched to my current blog host, a few years ago. About 25% of websites today are powered by WordPress. This is the technology/ platform I suggest even to large enterprises because of its simplicity and social integration. But let’s go back to a formal definition, for a moment.

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Big Rock content in a nutshell

It happens, more and more. When I write or talk about content marketing strategy, I am used to get the following question – among others: OK, but what exactly is “Big Rock’ content? And what is the difference between Big Rocks and eBooks?

Let me try to answer here, publicly. Big Rock is nothing more than highly valuable content.

The Big Rock content concept was popularized by Jason Miller when he ran social media strategy for Marketo. Jason defines a big rock content asset as a substantial piece of content such as “the definitive guide to a problem you solve”. Jason is quoted as saying, “A big rock content asset can be 20, 30 or more pages long. It should be visually compelling of course. It can be gated for lead capture. Then, you “slice” up the big rock content asset into blog posts, infographics, Slideshare decks, webinars, etc.”

In a nutshell: Big Rock is a substantial piece of content based on the idea of becoming the definitive guide to a conversation that you want to own.

The current trend in content marketing is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever our keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top of funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral to name a few.

Big Rocks should be launched with the same emphasis of new products.

A great example of Big Rock content is Marketo’s definitive guide series. Guys at Marketo have created a series of eBooks clocking in at close to 100 pages each. This Big Rock piece of content is something that was repurposed using the turkey analogy mentioned in a previous post. Out of this one Big Rock piece of content Marketo had carved out 15 blogs, two infographics, two webinars, two videos, two SlideShare presentations, a number of cheat sheets and much more. Imagine the pieces and parts you can pull out of a Big Rock piece of content and remember that this is the foundation that is going to fuel your campaigns for quite some time.

A good example of Big Rock in the Data Center/Cloud space – which is where my company leads the way – is VMWare’s Virtualization 2.0 for Dummies. Same concept, same approach (not sure about VMWare’s launching capabilities, but the book/Big Rock is superb).

Before closing, let’s go with the second piece of the question: what’s the difference between Big Rocks and eBooks?

An eBook can be a Big Rock if it matches the definition given above: an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. Also, eBooks can be considered a Big Rock if sliced up into “turkey slices” and not just considered as a single piece of content. EBooks of course could also be just an individual repurposed pieces of a Big Rock.

Some super-useful resources: