I recently wrote about the two “natures of marketing”, brand awareness and short-term sales activation (or lead gen, as we B2B marketers are used to call), and the role of content within the overall marketing strategy.
The latest seminal research of Les Binet and Peter Field, Effectiveness in Context, analyses hundreds of campaigns of the IPA Databank, with a focus on marketing effectiveness, and well clarify the dual model.
Here, I want to focus on the role of content strategy within an overarching marketing strategy, and how content will contribute to a common alignment across the different marketing natures.
The last few years have seen short-term sales activation becoming enterprises’ first priority, especially in the B2B domain.
Enterprises invested most of the money in the short-term, bottom of the funnel, campaigns driven mostly by online paid media programs and related content, hoping to lift sales for the next few quarters.
I had a similar priority when I led marketing for a large enterprise division in the field of energy. The brand was a minor focus.
I keep seeing this as a practice in many of the enterprises I consult. Short-term activation campaigns and sales programs were successful in most of the cases. At least, this is what I (and most marketers) thought.
According to Binet and Field, marketing effectiveness is in decline, and “short-termism” is, in many ways, the mother of all marketing problems.
What exactly happened?
As I have mentioned, marketers are increasingly short-term in their focus. They spend money on immediate sales activation rather than longer-term brand building.
They opt for bottom-of-the-funnel tactics because they will pay better in most cases in a one-year time period. But in one of the most important sections of their research, the two authors demonstrate that this short-termism will rapidly deteriorate the overall impact of marketing over the longer term.
Too much time spent picking the low-hanging fruit means less time watering the tree. Eventually, the tree stops growing.
Consequently, content creation has focused mainly on the bottom of the funnel and product (or service)-focused content to support short-term paid media and sales activation programs.
In most cases, a solid and documented content strategy was even not requested and not in place. You don’t need a content strategy for executing short-term sales activation campaigns.
I have seen this happening with the clients I consult and work with, mostly large enterprises in the sectors of tech, finance, and energy.
While in the past, my strategy workshops were mostly attended by brand and content leaders, now a vastly eclectic crowd of marketers belonging to different domains shows up.
People from performance marketing, but also paid media, social media, and PR teams are a common audience of my strategy exercises.
The main challenge all of them have is alignment across a common audience and buyer journey.
In fact, they share:
Common business and marketing goals
Marketers might have different micro-goals (e.g., brand lift or number of leads), but the marketing function always shares common macro-goals.
They are targeting the same audience, but their approach targets different phases of the buyer journey: brand and content focus mostly on awareness, performance marketing on consideration, decision, and buying.
Common buyer journey
Again, marketers target different stages, and they clearly have different needs.
Marketers focusing on brand/content need to design a centralized audience-centric content strategy.
Performance marketers need to understand what resonates with the audience in the decision/purchase phases of the journey and use good content for their activation campaigns.
Field marketers need sales enablement content that spans across different stages.
Social media & comms marketers need to secure alignment with the previous functions to support solid content distribution.
Built around audience and buyer journey; top of the funnel content and storytelling will fuel brand awareness and its need to build enduring memories.
Medium and bottom of the funnel content will feed the immediate need for sales activation programs.
Marketers belonging to different functions within the same organization share the same need: alignment across a common audience and buyer journey.
The role of content marketing is evolving. From an individual and isolated rebel approach at the times of the first books of Joe Pulizzi ( early 2010s?) to a consolidated mainstream role within the overarching marketing strategy.