Content matters because attention matters. There are only a few predictable ways to get attention in the digital age. Most are either viral-striving nonsense or require a celebrity-like following that laps up every lifestreaming detail of your existence.
In the B2B world, those tactics fail anyhow - because they cast too generic a net. Attracting the audience that matters is the B2B game. That means the battle of attention shifts from gimmicks to sustained relationships based on sharing industry content that evokes deep relevance and ultimately trust. While others are opting out and filtering their streams, your audience is opting in.
With that in mind – here's your 21 point B2B content strategy checklist for 2014, including a few that the content gurus overlook. I'm listing these not in order of importance – they all matter – but in order of the logical flow they should take.
Content strategy checklist
1. Have you established a customer advocacy program centered around disciplined case studies that drill into product benefits? Are you now ready to further amplify those customer stories via videos, press interviews, and informal blogs?
2. Does your corporate web site contain deep 'how to' content that is search engine friendly for those ready to kick tires or learn more?
3. Do you have employees and executives who are blogging about your expertise at the 'thought leader,' not the product/brand level? Example: are they able to write about retail or cloud trends without pushing product?
4. Have you compiled a range of 'free premium' content, from online events and webinars, to white papers and free consulting offers, that sit behind a form that your audience will gladly fill out in exchange for the caliber of content you offer?
5. Have you compiled industry data and surveys that can also serve as free premium content and blog fodder, while elevating your company's credibility?
6. Have you integrated your free premium content in #4 and #5 into calls to action that entice readers from your blog posts into deeper content, and eventually freely sharing their data with you in fair exchange for demonstrated value?
7. Have you developed a 'hub and spoke' model that treats your web site as the hub of content and engagement, but also includes sharing content and conversation on the spokes where your key demographics hang out? Are you considering social channels outside the obvious that might benefit from a visual/mobile approach to your company's story? (e.g. Flipboard, Pinterest).
8. Are you curating and sharing the best content in your industry mixed in with your own, to better establish yourself as part of a network rather than a brand broadcaster?
0. Do you have free tools, downloads, apps, APIs, and other ways to involve potential customers and add-on developers with your brand? Are your APIs freely available to allow developers to create add-ons for free or for sale at their discretion? Are the IP (intellectual property rules guiding those development tools painfully clear and developer friendly?
10. Do you have solutions and measurements in place to track the level of engagement and lead generation you achieve? Are you constantly working with sales to ensure that the content you are creating matches the needs of your prospects and that lead sharing transitions are not only measured, but tracked from the lens of long term business rather than a one-time sale?
11. Do you have an effective trade show that generates media buzz and includes unstructured opportunities for your customers to talk with their peers and set their own content agenda?
12. Are you able to maintain some of that trade show buzz throughout the year with impactful online events and customer interactions with both peers and influencers?
13. Is your online community starting to be a place for user-generated content and open conversations sparked by your own customers and partners?
14. Does your company culture welcome open challenges and criticism from informed experts and passionate customers? If not, you may want to hold off on your content strategy as it could be a bad fit with your culture and ultimately leave a sour taste (I call it faux engagement and it's worse than no engagement at all).
15. Do you have an influencer engagement program, and is it geared towards the influencers who are relevant to your customers rather than those who have huge bullhorns but questionable credibility in your industry? Do you create opportunities for your influencers and customers to freely interact, online and in-person?
16. Are you transitioning your educational and training resources from a profit center to a free community cloud offering? (Most education content should be a marketing expense designed to fuel engagement and build prospect trust in the knowledge ecosystem you've built around your product).
17. Have your marketing content embraced the transition from broadcaster to media producer and community facilitator? Does that transition include video storytelling? Are you hiring journalists to run your content strategy rather than marketeers?
18. Is the narrative around your your company compelling to you - and to your audience? A great narrative (underdog, brilliant inventors learning how to market in geeky ways, etc) helps people relate your brand. A storyline can provide a theme that holds your content together and you don't have to come off as perfect. Imperfect characters are highly rootable.
19. Are (some) of your executives and product leads engaging publicly without a script? (Note I didn't say without training, I said without a script). Have you succeeded in putting a human face on your company rather than a overly engineered image?
20. Are you frequently receiving invites for your 'thought leader' employees to speak at industry trade shows because they are recognized as experts who share valuable knowledge and don't push products excessively?
21. Has any of your customers tattooed your brand on their body?
OK, I'm kidding on that last one. Well, partially. Not all enterprises need their customers to be passionately aware of their brand. But there's nothing wrong with achieving the Harley Davidson level of brand affiliation either. While putting corporate ink on one's body is far more common than in the past, it's still a high benchmark for most brands to achieve.
And yes, t-shirts and caps are a notable sign post on that road as well. Especially when they take on a well-worn look that indicates more than wardrobe desperation. Wearable content ties into Hugh MacLeod's view on social objects. Content isn't just about apps and text. Imagination trumps imitation.
Conquering every point on this list takes years, not days. The point is not to get it all done now, but to have a content strategy and execute on it. I have already covered most of these points in my diginomica content marketing series; a few of the later items will be fleshed out in 2014. I'll gladly incorporate your feedback, so let's hear it.
Image credit: business man showing concept of excellence © Warakorn - Fotolia.com