To grow a B2B business in 2022, it’s essential to make content marketing part of your revenue generating operations.
But for many smaller businesses, it’s still an after-thought.
Given the critical role content marketing strategy plays, why is this so?
And, if this applies to your company, what can you do to set things straight?
In this post we’ll cover:
⭐ Why companies struggle to give content marketing the priority it deserves
⭐ The consequences of leaving content marketing on the margins
⭐ How to set targets and align incentives to prioritize content marketing
⭐ The importance of allocating resources for content marketing
⭐ A 12-pointchecklist to help you make content marketing part of your day-to-day business
Large corporations have dedicated marketing teams and set multidimensional marketing strategies that include content marketing. It’s just part of what they do.
At smaller, growing companies, however, the picture is mixed.
Some companies are clearly on their way to building the capabilities, processes, and practices that we observe in their grown-up cousins.
Others not so much.
Tom runs an early-stage business, and his team has plenty of fires to fight. Achieving proof of concept. Demonstrating product-market fit. Winning and retaining their first paying customers.
Like most startups, they’re doing very little marketing.
Tom has grown his team in response to immediate bottlenecks, to build and ship product, and in response to customer feedback.
When marketing enters the conversation—as it did when they raised their first real round of investment—there was no slack in the system. No one had ‘free’ time to take it on.
Tom recognized that content marketing would demand contributions from technical experts, writers, designers, editors, and approvers—people throughout his fledgling organization. It would be tough, if not impossible, to shoehorn it into their already packed schedules.
Savannah runs an established machining business that grew up without content marketing. Her team lacks the skills and experience needed to transition from legacy marketing to today’s digital approaches.
Uncertain whether it would work, her team chose to ‘borrow’ resources to experiment with content marketing—ironically, reducing the chances that it would work by not giving it enough horsepower to succeed.
This is nothing new. Companies frequently assign marketing to junior resources so that more experienced staff can focus on headline matters like product, operations, and finance.
Without clear ownership—or even anyone on staff with content marketing experience—it’s hard for either Tom’s startup or Savannah’s ‘old school’ business to make content marketing a priority.
If you find yourself in either situation, you must make a deliberate effort to carve out resources and set priorities that give content marketing initiatives a chance.
Piecemeal efforts that depend on borrowed, part-time resources won’t deliver the sort of results that get scaled up and adopted.
Most marketing initiatives don’t fail. They’re abandoned prematurely.
That bold assertion is impossible to substantiate—since we have no way of knowing how abandoned marketing initiatives might have played out—but experience suggests it’s fair.
Random acts of under-resourced marketing seldom deliver quick results and are summarily discontinued.
Random acts of content marketing are no exception. If anything, they’re even more vulnerable because content marketing always takes time to bear fruit.
As Tom and Savannah both discovered, companies that fail to give content marketing sufficient priority will struggle to grow.
Prospects early in their buying journey encounter other companies’ content and go on to purchase from them when they’re ready.
This is difficult for sales-centric companies to understand.
Savannah’s VP of Sales pointed to their high rate of success turning opportunities into sales, failing to recognize that 95-percent of their target customers aren’t ready to buy at any given time.
Nineteen out of twenty prospects are busy researching, evaluating, and selecting solutions online, without engaging a sales representative.
What they’re engaging with instead is content.
And if it’s not your content, it’s somebody else’s—probably your competitors’.
Treating content marketing as a marginal activity, of low priority, is like handing qualified prospects to your competitors instead of your sales team.
Straightening this out requires a change in paradigm—a new mindset.
A sales-driven business, like Savannah’s machining company, needs to expand its thinking to embrace revenue operations, where marketing, sales, and customer success work in sync to attract, engage, convert, delight, and retain customers.
Early-stage businesses, like Tom’s, must see attracting and engaging prospects as a critical bottleneck—even early in their growth journey.
With prospects remaining in stealth mode for longer than ever, finding answers via the internet rather than in conversation with salespeople, content marketing is as vital to growth as having product-market fit or a self-help portal for new users.
Revenue operations (“rev ops”) must take its cues directly from corporate objectives.
Top-level goals set for revenue and profitability growth should be translated into brand awareness, audience growth, lead generation and nurturing, and sales targets for the rev ops team.
Whether you use OKRs (objectives and key results) or some other structure, make sure content marketing items are given similar weighting to other business objectives.
This step is key. Once you bake content marketing into the corporate plan as part of the greater rev ops function, it can compete for resources and attention alongside product, operations, customer support, and all the other hair-on-fire things you call day-to-day business.
However, setting targets is only half the battle. Your team must still strive to achieve them.
Savannah quickly realized that setting content marketing goals for her deeply entrenched team wasn’t enough. They put maximum effort into the things they were used to and comfortable with and gave short shrift to their new content-related responsibilities.
No one enjoys missing targets, but nor are they comfortable struggling with unfamiliar tasks when there’s plenty of familiar work to be done and bonuses to be won for doing it.
The second key step is to incentivize the change you want to see.
Tom hired a mid-level marketing professional and tasked him with making content marketing part of the company’s day-to-day business. Tom also made supporting that initiative a key part of other team members’ performance metrics.
Rather than dividing the same incentive pie into smaller slices, Tom created a separate bonus pool dedicated exclusively to content marketing. This meant his team could earn the same bonuses as before for doing their existing work but then pick up additional incentives for ensuring the company’s content marketing goals were met.
Now, when Tom’s VP of Product faces a resource conflict between completing some bug fixes and meeting a content deadline, he asks for external help rather than telling his team to deprioritize the content work as he would have done before.
Savannah placed greater emphasis on upskilling her team and helping them establish new ways of working. She enlisted the help of a content marketing expert to guide the team on developing processes and setting a content production cadence that the team could sustain. They also hired a freelance editor to turn their rough, unpracticed efforts into high-quality content that would properly reflect the company’s experience and expertise.
Let’s briefly return to the idea of allocating resources rather than borrowing them.
Temporarily adding something to a team member’s list of responsibilities works the first time because we are all accustomed to making room for ad hoc requests. The second time feels more like an imposition. The third time it creates resentment.
The unasked question becomes “do you think I’m just sitting around, waiting for stuff to do?”
The hard truth is that borrowed time is never returned.
You’re asking people to give up their discretionary time—something they would otherwise get to choose what to do with—in support of your content marketing ambitions.
A better approach requires more up-front effort on your part to create the conditions for accessing the resources you need.
Savannah spent time with each team and group leader in her organization, explaining how a robust content library and content marketing strategy would benefit not just the organization but also their team.
She pointed to times when team members had to create their own material or ended up recreating existing material that they couldn’t find or didn’t know existed. The investment of time to create centralized, high-quality content would be paid back by not having to create—or recreate—it later.
Savannah also addressed the importance of content marketing in context with each team's existing priorities, helping to justify spending time on one versus the other, and offered to fund external support when it was clear that in-house resources were over-stretched.
By incorporating content marketing into the wider revenue operations and corporate strategy, Tom could ensure that resources were pre-committed to the cause, alongside other mission-critical activities.
This increased their monthly burn rate (i.e., how quickly they were consuming investor capital) but Tom was prepared to defend that outcome at board level because he understood the importance of attracting and engaging potential customers using content marketing.
If you have a robust content marketing strategy in place and it’s playing nicely with your other operational priorities, congratulations!
For everyone else, here’s a 12-step checklist to help you make content marketing an integral part of your day-to-day.
✅ Define corporate revenue and profitability targets
✅ Define revenue operations targets—for marketing, sales, and customer success—that will contribute to meeting corporate revenue and profitability goals
✅ Identify rev ops targets that can be impacted by an effective content marketing strategy
✅ Define content marketing goals to support meeting rev ops targets
✅ Identify the roles and responsibilities needed to deliver against content marketing goals, and who within the organization can fill them
✅ Allocate resources (time and budget) to the roles you have identified
✅ Identify bottlenecks and conflicting priorities that could prevent team members from fulfilling their content marketing responsibilities
✅ Allocate additional in-house resources, if possible, or provide resources for engaging third-party support to alleviate bottlenecks
✅ Assign responsibility for delivering the overall content marketing strategy (usually to the Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, or similar)
✅ Agree how progress against content marketing targets will be measured and how frequently progress will be reported and reviewed (recommend quarterly or more frequently, especially during the first1-2 years)
✅ Create an incentive program to reward meeting and exceeding content marketing targets (and wider rev ops targets, if those are also a new concept)
✅ Measure content performance and review against content marketing goals and success criteria. Actively adjust and optimize, while recognizing that content marketing is a marathon not a sprint.
Photo by JessBailey on Unsplash