Sales and Marketing Software

The True Meaning of Content Relevance

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst

There is such noise about content marketing these days, but beyond the buzz is the question “ok, what do we do?”. This point is partially made clear by a recent IMN study that shows while content marketing is a priority, it is challenged in budget allocation. It’s no wonder that as marketers become more sensitive to content importance they struggle with what specifically to do about it. That is because it’s complicated.  Imagine for a moment that you are with a company with 500 digital content assets. What do you do? Throw them all away and start anew? Stop all campaigns until you get a handle on your content portfolio and how it plays with your inbound and outbound efforts? Of course not. But there is one thing above all else you can do and that is focus on relevance.

Buyers complain that what vendors and agencies provide lacks relevance and misses the mark over fifty percent of the time. IDG Connect research also points out that salespeople see only a third of the assets provided by marketing are relevant to their selling needs. Campaign managers struggle to find a set of assets that offers a path of engagement to work towards a nurture-to-harvest approach to lead programs. Nobody is happy, nobody is getting the budget they need, and few are clear on what to do. Sounds like the state of customer experience I encountered some seven years ago while heading that practice at IDC.

Whatever you do, focus first and foremost on relevance to the buyer. But how do you plan to do that? By sticking your thumb in the air or going based upon opinion and conjecture or a sense that we know what is what? If that is the case, no wonder you’re not getting the budget you need. Relevance intends to do one thing above all else: improve the alignment your content assets have with buyer preferences. If you improve alignment, you improve relevance. To do this, keep it simple.

  1. Know Your Buying Team: I spoke with a company who continues to only focus on IT professionals despite the fact that business function and executive leadership play such a pivotal role in making purchase decisions. They will be outmaneuvered time after time if they don’t understand and better address the buying team. Do you know who is involved and has influence at different points in the decision process? Get research done that tells you both the involvement and influence of key buying constituents during the buy cycle.
  2. Map Your Content Types and Formats to Preferences: The content mix is as rich as it has ever been with interactive assets and the use of rich media. But first, you need to know what buyers prefer and desired formats. Do you understand the top content types buyers prefer overall, by buying stage? There is no way to significantly improve relevance without this understanding.
  3. Confirm Your Value Propositions: With the thousands of assets IDG Connect assesses it is startling how often value propositions go unstated within assets. Beyond that, work is often undone to understand the relative importance of different value propositions to buyers with a focus on technical, business or financial perspective. Do you know the relative importance of your value propositions to the CFO vs. the CIO vs. the head of a business function?  Take a step back, list out your value propositions and ask buying team members with different roles which are most important and why. It will lead you not only to having more relevant content but the ability to target it at different areas of buyer focus with more or less emphasis that aligns with their particular needs and issues.

Know the buying team, map your content and confirm your value propositions. Just by getting a foundational perspective of these key elements, your path will become much more clear and you can set priorities that get budget dollars because the action areas they spell out are clear, bordering on simple common sense. The goal of content marketing is measurable results and revenue but don’t guess and don’t cajole. When the alignment gaps become clear it is not a report card on previous work or performance but a window on how to maximize the return on content.


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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