Talking Content Marketing – With Ardath Albee
Frequently sharing best practice and the need to adopt a reshaped mindset, we welcome Ardath Albee.
Ardath is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO for Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales, turn prospects into buyers with digital marketing strategies and content platforms that show them what’s possible and how to gain value that drives business. Ardath also shares a lot from her perspectives on her blog. She is a writer, a speaker and a consultant, but mostly, a storyteller.
As a believer in storytelling. Is the key to doing this well the ability to relate to your audience and understanding their pain points?
You’re on the right track. The key is to understand your audience well enough to make them the hero of the story. Most marketers think that “stories” are the equivalent of case studies or a company executive sharing an anecdote during a conference session. But stories are so much more than that and are actually the key to continuous engagement across the buying process and customer lifecycle.
If you can think about stories in this way, then you can create content that’s compelling and highly relevant:
- Your customer (hero) has an objective (goal) to achieve
- But there’s a problem (conflict) keeping him from getting there
- He needs to learn more from someone with expertise in solving the problem (YOU)
- So that he can answer questions from stakeholders with differing perspectives (more conflict) to achieve consensus to buy (achieve the goal)
Arguably, this keeps going all the way through the customer lifecycle with expertise provided by the company to help him keep meeting incremental goals that bring the initial goal to life and evolve it into the future.
In your stance against Shiny Object Syndrome, do many businesses jump head first into the latest technology and use as many platforms because THEY CAN?
I’m not so sure it’s because “they can.” I think it’s more of a quest for trying to find simplicity in an increasingly complex buying environment and also a wish to believe that technology and automation will make their lives easier. What marketers fail to think about is that technology doesn’t necessarily make things easier. You get out what you put in. In other words, automating processes for distributing crappy content is just going to produce crappy marketing that doesn’t perform.
But the other factor is the speed of change. We don’t want to be left out if a new tool becomes the rage. So marketers create accounts on new technology platforms and jump in without knowing enough to use the tools or platforms well. There’s a dearth of training for marketers—even though things have changed tremendously.
Most of them learn on the job without any formal education or course work. This can work fine, but marketers already have a full plate, so proficiency and skills evolution tends to fall by the wayside. Instead, marketers try to force old models into new tools. This results in the type of broadcasting that’s rampant with Twitter, when what should be happening is the establishment of meaningful dialogue that makes a difference. The outcome is that marketers determine social media may be great for brand awareness but doesn’t help to drive revenue. Which, in my opinion, is a bunch of bull puckey (a technical term).
Joe Pulizzi highlights the importance of strategy (click here to read the Q&A). Do we need to become more focused on understanding who we are, what we stand for and the audience persona, rather than becoming the same as the majority of the competition?
I agree wholeheartedly with Joe! The majority of marketers don’t have a documented strategy. This is why campaign mindset still reigns supreme. It’s hard to look beyond “3 touches and a sales call” without a strategy.
But here’s the problem. Buyers are waiting longer to engage with sellers. This means the weight has moved onto marketing’s shoulders to create engagement for a longer period of time. And it also means we, as marketers, need to enable sales to get into conversations earlier. Without a strategy, once again, this isn’t going to happen – not consistently in a way that turns forecasts into reality.
Additionally, positioning is critical in a world increasing filled with crappy content. To rise above the noise, companies need to identify their distinct value and weave that into their communications. Distinct value is the intersection of company strengths with customer needs. It’s a pivotal point of distinction that helps increase the relevance of digital marketing strategies – actually all marketing strategies. I did a webinar on positioning recently in which I talk about why marketers need it, how to find it and how to apply it to marketing stories.
Your ‘who sends B2B nurturing email matters‘ article highlights the importance of being ‘in the room’ and not a faceless corporate message. Do businesses need to take a more personal stance and show that they understand (and care)?
Yes. The only way we’ll get our company’s ideas and expertise in the room when we’re not there is if they are so compelling and relevant that our personas/buyers can’t help but share them when in conversations with the people involved in making the decision about how to solve a problem or achieve an objective.
How does a company keep momentum with content as an evolving process ie. buying persona is understood, understand audience needs and content creation is working?
Keeping up is becoming a heck of an issue. Marketers need to establish a process for continuous learning and for incorporating closed-loop feedback. Marketers have never been big on the underlying processes, but they need to be. Marketing is now about managing change in the context of building buyer and customer relationships. It’s really about creating a capability to always be relevant. As more pressure mounts for communications to be more personalized and executed in real-time, we desperately need a way to manage it all. As we incorporate more data into our workflows, this is the perfect time to establish processes that we’ve never had before.
As the science informs the art, marketers have a chance to really elevate the impact of our programs on business growth. The science will help us prove that the “art” is working. Or it will help us identify and fix what’s not. Eventually, it will help us predict what’s coming so that we can move beyond the chaos that comes from being reactive. The insights available from data science fascinate me.
HubSpot’s Joe Chernov highlights that the B2B world needs to mimic B2C (storytelling, empathy and creativity as highlighted here). Do you agree?
I do. But here’s the tricky part for B2B – it’s about establishing personal value, and that also means professional value. We need to address concerns, such as:
- Will I lose my job or gain the possibility of a promotion if I make this decision?
- What will my peers think if I choose this vendor?
- How credible will I be if I present this to my boss? Will I look good?
The disconnect for B2B marketers when they look at B2C is that they think they need to get more personal or use the “married with two kids in the suburbs with a dog” garbage that a lot of their personas include. We need better relevance filters. But we also need ultra-fine product filters. If we could learn to talk peer to peer, about what matters and what’s possible—without all the products, inside-out focus and buzzwords—we could do amazing things.
Many thanks to Ardath for her time and contributing to the session. If you’d like to find out more about her approach:
Ardath on Twitter: click here
eMarketing Strategies For The Complex Sell: click here
Marketing Interactions Blog: click here