Evaluating and Evolving—Getting the Most Bang for Your B2B Content Marketing Buck

April 17, 2024

We’ve spilled a lot of ink on this blog talking about how to get started with content marketing.

This makes sense, because many B2B companies are stuck in the metaphorical “square one".

Many of them grew up—in scale and sophistication—when B2B businesses were universally sales-led. Marketing was the art department that produced pretty graphics, brochures, and chotchkes to keep the sales team happy.

Other ventures are still growing up, evolving from startup to scaleup—ready to invest in strategic marketing for the first time.

But, faced with declining sales effectiveness and a wave of digital-first customers and competitors, an increasing number of B2B companies have embarked on the content marketing journey.

So, what’s our guidance for them?

There are two key elements in the MessageUp Content Marketing Framework that cater to businesses with active content marketing programs: Evaluation & Evolution and Following Through.

Today we’re going to discuss the importance of the former—Evaluation and Evolution—using a close-to-home example: MessageUp itself.


Getting Off the Ground

We use the word “launching” to describe the first steps when implementing a content marketing strategy.

It conjures up the idea of taking flight. Being catapulted into the air, engines roaring (or wings flapping), anxiously trying to gain and sustain altitude.

If you’ve done your homework and designed the strategy well, things should settle into a stable routine. You’ve reached a safe cruising altitude and can unfasten your seatbelt.

If things aren’t designed well, you’ll face the ignominy shared by hundreds of flight pioneers: the crash. Hopefully it isn’t fatal to your marketing aspirations, leaving you to dust yourself off, regroup, and try again.

At this point, the flight metaphor begins to break down.

Simply pointing the thing in the right direction doesn’t guarantee we’ll reach our desired destination.

In fact, we aren’t always clear where that destination lies.

Even worse, the target location is continually moving in response to customer behavior, market dynamics, and competitor actions.


Sailing Across Shifting Seas

A better metaphor for the next stage might be sailing a ship.

Fickle winds, ocean currents, and questionable visibility make it hard to know where you’re going—and whether you’re on course to reach a desired destination.

Adding to the complexity, you’re regularly receiving radio messages with new target coordinates.

What to do?

A few sensible steps might be:

·      Figure out where you are (take stock)

·      Figure out which direction you’re heading and how quickly (measure performance)

·      Chart a course to your target location and compare it with your current direction (evaluate)

·      Assess the external environment (measure trends, currents, competing forces)

·      Weigh your options and resources to determine a preferred approach for getting from here to there (adjust strategy)

·      Adjust your ship to change its course (implement tactical changes)

These are the basic steps that any evaluation and evolution process should follow:

·      Evaluate the status quo.

·      Assess the forces in play.

·      Evolve your strategy to suit the latest conditions.

·      Implement incremental changes.

·      Repeat on a regular basis.

Since the factors affecting your performance (progress toward your objective) are constantly changing, you must measure, monitor, and react to them on an ongoing basis.

This is made easier today by real-time data, automated analytical tools, and AI-enabled recommendation engines.

Nevertheless, care must be taken not to implement too many drastic changes, too frequently.

Whether you liken it to sailing a ship or flying a plane, making gradual adjustments to the controls of your business results in a much smoother ride than over-reacting to each data point that comes in.


Our Own Experience

Rather than disclosing the inner workings of our clients’ marketing programs (which quickly encroaches on confidential boundaries), let’s talk about MessageUp itself.

We launched the brand in 2021, targeting B2B businesses that need help formulating and implementing a content marketing strategy.

Our initial outreach involved a lot of personal connections and networking; like most consultancy-style businesses, we welcome many new clients through referrals.

We leaned-in heavily on content creation and marketing—which will come as no surprise given the nature of our business! We are our own best client 😉

Our magnum opuses (or magna opera, if you prefer) are the books Content Marketing: Mission Critical and Content Marketing: Making the Magic Happen, published in April 2023, which capture our philosophy and approach to B2B content marketing. Writing them helped to crystallize our thinking and provides a tangible reference point for future clients to assess our expertise and suitability.

We chose LinkedIn as our primary social media channel, based on widely published statistics about where B2B leaders seek information online.

In 2022, we launched a weekly newsletter on the Substack platform, widely acclaimed as the most effective channel for publishing newsletter-style content.

Later, we added YouTube and Instagram channels to host and more widely distribute our video content.

Each of these channels has contributed to growing our audience, driving traffic to our website—which we’ve refreshed a couple of times along the way—and producing inbound leads.

However, the workload associated with producing a weekly blog, a weekly newsletter, twice-weekly LinkedIn posts, and a weekly short video series is considerable.

Approaching the company’s third anniversary, it’s time for a major Evaluation and Evolution check-in.

Based on interactions with newsletter subscribers, LinkedIn followers, customers, prospects, and other members of our network, we have concluded that the weekly blog and newsletter aren’t delivering enough value—to us or our audience—for the level of resources they consume.

In parallel, we’ve launched a major new initiative—somewhere between a new product and an entirely new business—called the B2B Builders™ community. It’s a private, online community where B2B growth leaders (primarily Founders and CEOs, but also CMOs and others) can ask questions, exchange ideas, develop best practices, and build relationships with similarly qualified people.

Needless to say, that too has placed considerable demands on our resources.

Importantly, our initial outreach suggests the idea really resonates with its target audience. We have 600+ prospective members on our radar, of whom 200+ are actively considering joining the community when it launches.

Reprioritization is no longer optional for us; it’s become a requirement.

So is the ability to let go of some things to which we’ve grown accustomed and attached.

We’ve decided to dial-back the frequency of our blog posts and newsletters, redirecting some of that effort into increasing our activity on LinkedIn, while freeing up the rest to support the growing demands of our new community platform.

Will this get us to where we want to be?

That’s a question we will monitor over the coming weeks and revisit in detail on a quarterly basis.


The Bottom Line

We will be posting less frequently on the Framework blog.  Our goal is to publish something at least once each month—more frequently when resources permit or there’s something burning about which we feel compelled to write.

Our newsletter will be published monthly instead of weekly.  This will allow us to produce quality content and report more fully on what’s been happening.

We will post more frequently on LinkedIn, including moving some of the most popular content from our newsletter onto the LinkedIn channel.

We will not dwell on what feels like a backwards step!  

When you’ve spent two years building up a newsletter or committing to the task of producing weekly, high-quality blog content, it’s tough to let go. But let go you must.

Instead, we’re laser-focused on investing our scarce resources in the things that will bring greatest value to our target audience.

So, how is your content marketing strategy performing?

Are any of the tactics you’ve chosen delivering more, or less, value than others?

Is now the right time to reprioritize some of those efforts to deliver even greater value?

It can be hard to find the right balance between persistence and intentional evolution. However, don’t wait too long to begin regular evaluation and evolution cycles, otherwise your ship might drift so far off course that it’s difficult to navigate back to your destination.


Image credits: Adobe Stock

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