Capturing the attention of potential customers (and keeping it) is an ongoing challenge for B2B marketers. With 88% of B2B marketers using content marketing these days, we see more content than ever. Which means, it is exponentially becoming harder and harder to beat that kind of competition. To stay competitive and win the eyes of your potentials, you should know what you are doing.
This fact was reinforced by the global head of content strategy for Google Apps for Work, Veronique Lafargue at her 2016 NewsCred #ThinkContent Summit session. B2B marketers should take note because it is How Google Approaches Content Marketing, and it resonates with our approach to creating great content for our clients by gaining trust, building long lasting relationships and forming real partnerships.
Google’s three principles of engagement
One of Lafargue’s responsibilities with Google Apps for Work is to continually build a loyal audience that highlights Google Apps’ capabilities. She does this through innovative content marketing, armed with these three principles:
- Know the user
- Think 10x
- Create a (content) prototype
However, how can B2B marketers harness Google Apps for Work’s strategy and apply it to their client base or products and services? We have translated it, making Lafargue’s insights easy to use.
Know your customer
The key to any sales and marketing effort is to know your customer. From Lafargue’s standpoint, this is more than just a general overview of who can be served by your products and services. It requires further drilling down past the fast-growing concept of buyer personas to tap into real-time feedback from customers. She advocates for businesses to meet face-to-face with clients, holding focus groups, to help their employees connect with their customers’ pain points. This connection breeds understanding and more importantly, empathy, which Lafargue says, “. . . cannot be delegated.”
Think 10x – what does that mean? In short, it means time for thought, reflection, play, creation and brainstorming. However, most of all, it requires sharing information and ideas to serve the buyer better. Lafargue’s position is that creativity does not live in a silo, it cannot be hemmed in – and neither should your content marketing team. In order to generate the very best ideas, content, and solutions, there needs to be space for your team’s creativity to flourish, collaborate, share and flow freely with one another and throughout your organization. Also, team members should work together with employees in other departments to promote individual problem-solving for your customers’ needs and desires.
It also means allowing your creative team time to explore the areas that interest them most. Permitting what some might see as flights of fancy, Larfargue argues that you should schedule time for creativity because she believes it is the key ingredient to producing strong work and greater lead innovation.
Something as seemingly disconnected as taking time off from morning meetings (as Lafargue herself did) to develop her photography resulted in a team effort to photograph thousands of Google Apps customers worldwide. As a result, employees shared stories for a B2B campaign which yielded 25 percent higher engagement than other forms of B2B content created in the past.
After you have connected and engaged with your customer, LaFargue says, “A content prototype is necessary, even if it means taking a risk.” That does not mean you will have perfected your marketing strategy, in fact, just the opposite – you have only just begun.
That is because the content you will be creating is just a starting point. It will help you gauge if you are on the right track. Once you have created your prototype, you will need to analyze any feedback, going back to the focus groups for valuable market research, and letting the data guide you to a more refined solution. Working in this way enables you to gain actionable insights you can bring to your content marketing strategy – insights that, even if the campaign fails, will serve as valuable learning for the team. As Lafargue notes, there is a saying in Silicon Valley, “Nobody likes to fail, but everyone likes to learn.”
Innovate or stagnate
The lesson here – innovate or stagnate. If you want to stay top-of-mind with your B2B customers and prospects, keep learning about them, growing creative ideas, sharing resources and information, and constantly innovating the customer content experience. This approach is no different from the one you take with the product or service solutions you offer. It is important to know your audience and build a rapport that allows you to test out new ideas and deliver content to users in new ways. The more near-the-target shots you take, the better chance you have of scoring high in your content creation success.
Watch Veronique Lafargue’s session at NewsCred’s 2016 #Think Content Summit.