Monday, March 01, 2010

Getting out of the B2B Marketing Manager's Muddle

A year ago, I was a B2B marketing manager in a muddle. I had, at my fingertips, some powerful tools to share my company's message with the world. But I had nothing new to say.

My title as "Manager" gave me authority to drive content down a number of channels: an attractive web site, automated email campaigns, and webinars with full in-house tech support. It was my job to maintain quarterly plans using these channels within my budget.

What I lacked was the authority to devise a content marketing strategy. So I had the tools (hammer, saw), but no new raw materials (wood, nails). To borrow another metaphor, I was shooting blanks.

My job became a case study in marketing repurposing. I pushed out the same old client case studies in articles, white papers, web copy, and sales presentations. The edict "Do More With Less" applied to content, as well as to marketing spend.

The root of the problem? Content is gravely undervalued. (Validation: Kristina Halvorson's presentation, Content Strategy: The Future of Marketing, slides #37-40, "Lies We Tell Ourselves.") Content is expected to spring forth from the ether--or the marketing manager's weekends. But the company's best ideas are trapped in the minds of a few executive subject-matter experts. The effort required to move those ideas out to the market is not reflected in the marketing budget.

I suspect that many marketing managers, especially in B2B, are in the same muddle. What is the way out? After pondering this muddle from both inside and outside the corporation, I have these suggestions:
  • Give your subject matter expert the opportunity to blog regularly, preferably with a regular guest post on a trade magazine's blog. B2B executives love the exposure. As bloggers, they learn quickly that blogs are hungry for compelling content. So they feel the pain and often get on board for the need for content. Even if you, as marketing manager, end up ghost-writing and editing the posts, the blog will be a vehicle to pull the latest thoughts and ideas out of the mind of your executive expert.

  • Outside writers and editors can do wonders--but what if there's no budget for them? Squeeze an experienced content professional into one high-profile project, preferably one that gives them exposure to an executive.

  • Reorganize the "marketing plan" into a "content strategy." Just using the words "content strategy" will help reset priorities. It's a document or spreadsheet listing your new content ideas, how they are being produced, which marketing channels they feed, with # leads ganerated and $ spent. The content strategy can be simple, even if it consists of relatively few line-items from the overall plan. Just having one is a start.

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I completely agree with the point you're making about content being gravely undervalued. And the worst part of all this is that most companies just don't want to spend enough on good content, they just want company to grow using traditional media where the ROI is extremely low. But on the brighter side, at least they're starting to realise that content is, after all, the true King. It's only a matter of time before content and custom media beats traditional media, give or take a few years. Your post is an insightful one, and one that should hit the trendsetting path soon.
They are the variables that marketing managers can control in order to satisfy customers in the target market.
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