Sometimes writing content for brands can feel like the most under-appreciated job. Which is kind of funny because most people say they suck at writing.
Whether they are good at writing or not, there are a lot of people in companies who feel they know as much, or more, than a content marketer about how to write for their customers. So what’s a marketer to do?
The challenges content marketers face daily
I came across Barriers to Great B2B Content 2020, a report from Radix Communications, on LinkedIn. And along with sharing the challenges content marketers face, it also provides some good ideas on how to overcome these challenges. According to the study, 75 percent of the content marketers surveyed agreed on the following six frustrations:
- Conflicting and changing priorities or an unclear brief
- Interference from managers and stakeholders
- Insufficient budget and resources
- Too much work, and not enough time
- Lack of input and co-operation from other departments
- Limited customer contact
A few highlights from the study:
- 59% believe that it doesn’t help that someone needs to sign off on their content. Approvers are constantly editing messaging, trying to mix in more product content, or trying to rework the text to support a selling message.
- There is often no agreement across the organization on what constitutes good content.
- There’s an ongoing battle between quality and quantity, and budget challenges to go along with that balance.
- The demands on content teams, which are typically not large, is great, with a lot of small jobs getting in the way of producing more important content.
- 86% pointed out issues with departmental collaboration.
- 78% indicated access to the customer is a problem even though they believe understanding the customer viewpoint is essential.
Stakeholder alignment is critical, and it’s a marketer’s job
Doug Kessler, Creative Director and co-founder of Velocity Partners, a marketing consultancy, provided insights on the survey results as part of the report. He made a very good point related to working with stakeholders:
Stakeholders should make stuff better. A product expert should be able to keep us more accurate. Salespeople should be able to help us find things that resonate with prospects. So the fact that we don't feel that's true, is, I think, a fundamental symptom of misalignment.
It can be very frustrating when we write something, and someone comes in and re-writes or asks us to rewrite the content. But Kessler suggests that maybe we are misusing our stakeholders. They should help make the content better; they have expert knowledge.
Instead of simply looking to them to read and approve (or rewrite) your content, get that alignment upfront before you start writing anything, he said. The report offers a few suggestions on how to do this (these suggestions also help with some of the other challenges mentioned):
- Build bridges to stakeholder departments and develop relationships so that you aren’t perceived simply as a tool to them, but an invested partner.
- Develop an objective standard that everyone agrees on, like a quality checklist that will make reviews and approvals faster.
- Prove a point of view with data, not your opinion. If you believe your approach is better, show the data to prove it. Make the case.
Maureen Blandford, VP of Marketing, Community Brands, also interviewed for the report, suggests that you treat stakeholders like customers and prospects. By framing projects to stakeholder business objectives, you should be able to get the information you need to create content that will more easily get their approval.
Issues with stakeholders are often more prominent in mid-sized and SaaS companies, according to the report. I suspect that’s because, in smaller companies, people tend to wear more than one hat. With SaaS companies, the focus on product-led growth influences the content created and the role of marketing can get pushed to a less important position as product management and customer success shift to the forefront.
Marketers aren’t always proud of their content
Hmmm, been there. And the reason is often the same - there’s little to no consistency in messaging and storytelling, so we’re constantly writing things that don’t work and rewriting things. Blandford:
The worst thing you could do is try to decide within a tactic what you're trying to say. Otherwise, they're trying to figure out who they are, what they believe and what they're doing, as you go along. Which is why web pages, ebooks and videos get changed and changed.
Also, because content teams are small, there tends to be less opportunity to work on innovative content or experimentation. It’s important “to build a controlled space for creativity.”
Which means, yes, you should be trying new things, but you shouldn’t have carte blanche. Develop a hypothesis, collect results, and show your ideas are worth pursuing.
The other point Kessler made is that “great content is different from effective content.” We may want to create these cool, new pieces of content, and they would be “great,” but we work for a brand to ultimately help them generate revenue and make/keep customers happy, so it’s effective content we need to create. Define what that means to your brand and focus on that.
I can’t argue with any of the challenges; I’ve had them. But the advice on how to move forward is also right. We need stakeholders; we need to prove our content is effective, not just great, and we need better insights into the customer to create that effective content.
Share your ideas to improve your content marketing efforts - and align your organization.