This year’s Conex was packed with new ideas and insights, but “content activation” was the standout trend and one that every content marketer should have on their radar.
As one of Uberflip’s newest partners, DemandLab had an opportunity to attend (and be dazzled by) this year’s Conex event. Where else can you learn from and rub shoulders with Jay Baer, Ann Handley, Robert Rose, Neil Patel, Ardath Albee, and several dozen other marketing leaders and luminaries?
The event covered a staggering array of topics and perspectives, from new ABM strategies to product positioning to the importance of practicing “radical empathy” for your customers. But for me, the key takeaway was the increasing importance of content activation.
I’d never heard the term before last week’s event, but I predict it will become part of every content marketer’s vocabulary. In 2019, the Forrester Wave for B2B content marketing platforms identified activation as the most important evaluation criterion.
What is content activation?
Content activation involves finding multiple uses for content throughout the customer journey to ensure that it delivers optimal value and marketing impact. As Jason Oakley, Uberflip’s Sr. Product Marketing Manager describes it:
“Instead of having content sit idle in a single location or for a single purpose, it needs to be activated in multiple ways, through things like nurture campaigns, events, account-based marketing, sales outreach, and ongoing customer engagement. Without activation, marketers will fail to generate tangible ROI from their content assets.”
Activating content has become increasingly critical for two reasons:
Customer expectations are rising. This is the era of Netflix and Spotify, and consumers are bringing those expectations with them into the workplace. Today’s buyers are used to the convenience of the infinite scroll and recommendation engines that anticipate their needs and preferences. Dumping them into a resource center where they have to hunt and peck for what they need is a recipe for frustration, and content marketers need to recalibrate the content experience or risk losing out to savvier competitors.
The funnel is changing. According to Gartner, 83% of the B2B buying journey consists of independent research and a mere 17% involves vendor conversations. That means your content is doing more and more of the heavy lifting, and if it’s not up to the task, your funnel is leaking.
Christina Bottis, Head of Marketing at Coyote Logistics, reinforced this point during her presentation citing Gartner research showing that 83 percent of customers access digital channels throughout the funnel. The same research also indicated that 62 percent of customers develop selection criteria or finalize the vendor list based solely on digital content. In other words, in nearly two out of every three cases, the ability to connect the right prospect to the right content at the right time will mean the difference between winning and losing the sale.
“More content” isn’t the answer
The B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends 2019 Report revealed that 56% of B2B content marketers increased spending on content creation in the last 12 months. In fact, content creation was the #1 area where budgets increased. But is that sustainable? And is it the most effective use of resources?
According to Sirius Decisions, up to 70% of B2B marketing content goes unused, which suggests that putting more resources into content creation is not the silver bullet. Instead, it may be time to do more with the content you have.
The concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling content echoed across many of the conference presentations:
While Neil Patel shared a wealth of proven best practices, he advised his audience to update old content before they did anything else, insisting that it was the single most effective way to increase visibility and engagement.
Christina Bottis urged marketers to “build content like Mr. Potato Head.” In other words, adopt a modular approach where a single piece of content can be broken apart, re-assembled, adapted, and given a make-over by snapping on a new element.
Megan Golden, Head of Content for LinkedIn, talked about “the fallacy of newness,” where content marketers mistakenly believe that producing new content is the key to boosting engagement. She pointed out that the Walt Disney Company is basically recycling its back catalog while seeing its stock performance soar. Customers don’t want “new”– they want relevance and familiarity.
Build content like Mr. Potato Head.
Pivot from creation to activation
For content marketers who are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to churn out more and more marketing content in order to keep winning eyeballs and outpacing competitors, content activation is a good-news story.
This is an opportunity to slow down, take a beat, and re-familiarize yourself with your own back catalog. Put the brakes on the content-creation conveyor belt and refocus those energies on doing more with the content you already have.
That means examining content assets that can be dusted off, spruced up, and redeployed somewhere along your funnel. It also means taking a critical look at the content experience, not just the content itself. Are you making your content more accessible and consumable? Are you grouping content by persona, industry, funnel stage, and other meaningful segments? Are you using dynamic content to personalize the experience? Are you using AI to predict the content most likely to appeal to each prospect?
Put the brakes on the content-creation conveyor belt.
8 ways to activate content
Here are some things you can do to activate your existing content, generate more ROI, and enhance the content experience:
Know your personas. If you’re creating content regularly, but you aren’t creating it to support specific personas, much of that effort will be wasted. (Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating them.)
Update older content assets by adding new context or refreshing the facts, stats, and references.
Re-promote high-performing content assets on your trusted channels—or try a new channel. If the asset performed well in a nurture, try a LinkedIn sponsored ad or syndication to attract a new audience for it.
Adapt a popular content asset to make it relevant to a specific region, vertical, role, or other market segments.
Break up a “big rock” content asset (a white paper or definitive guide) to create a collection of shorter, snackable content pieces.
Roll up a collection of smaller content pieces (such as a blog post series) to create a substantial, gate-worthy asset.
Repurpose content in a new format. Pull data out of a white paper and create an infographic. Transcribe video content to create an article.
Customize the content journey. Find ways to group content assets thematically to encourage consumption. Cluster them according to the topics they cover, the challenges they address, the verticals they align with, or the personas they support.
2019 is the year of content activation
Content marketing needs to evolve to keep pace with customer expectations, and those expectations have never been higher. But creating more content isn’t a sustainable answer to the challenge. Instead, we need to do more with the content we have by repurposing, refreshing, re-aligning, reframing, and redeploying the assets that are already at our fingertips. Content activation has the potential to transform ROI and the content experience by unlocking the full value of the content we’ve worked so hard to create.
Ready to activate?
If you need help collecting, analyzing, aligning, and repurposing your content, let’s chat. DemandLab helps B2B businesses discover new strategies for optimizing the ROI on their investment in content.
About the AuthorFollow on Linkedin More Content by Hayden Jackson