WHY CONTENT MARKETING FAILS IN IT (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FIX IT)
As the world moves toward an increasingly digital existence, the IT industry has been growing more than ever. With that growth comes a need for IT companies to stand out from the pack and establish themselves as leaders in their field.
Content marketing — which is a form of self-promotion that uses web content such as blog posts, emails, white papers to help companies build relationships with potential customers — has long been celebrated as one of the best ways for a company to establish authority in their field.
Content marketing isn’t a one-size-fits all solution, though. Sometimes you may find that, despite your best efforts, you’re just not achieving your goals. People aren’t sharing your posts (or even reading them). No one has liked any of your Facebook posts, and your email open rate is just embarrassing.
It’s OK. This happens all the time. IT can be a tricky field from a content marketing perspective. Even though IT spending is on the rise, finding a way to engage with your customers (past, present, and future) can be tough.
If you’re an IT marketing manager who’s been trying to figure out why your content marketing efforts haven’t been doing what you’d hoped, you’re in luck. We’ve put together a helpful list of common mistakes that people make when putting a content marketing strategy in place for the IT world.
As an added bonus, we’ve included a few helpful tips to break the cycle.
IT is one of those fields where everything is technical. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking server capacity, redundancy, or uptime; you’re going to be describing something where details matter — but you have to choose the right details, or you will inspire a non-optimal reader behavior. This is, they’ll stop reading.
That’s because no one wants to read something that isn’t interesting. Not you, not your boss, and definitely not your potential customers. If you’re spending time creating content that isn’t exciting, your content marketing efforts aren’t going to achieve your goals.
Engaging content does several things:
- It tells a story. And when it’s appropriate, it tells your story.
- It helps people connect with your brand. The more people understand you, the more likely people are to spend their money with you.
- It’s sharable. The more interesting your content, the more people are going to want their friends, family, and — most importantly — their business contacts to see it.
The thing is, just because you’re in what many people would consider a boring market, doesn’t mean your content has to be boring.
A lot of industries fall victim to this trend, but you don’t have to.
Paddy Padmanabhan is the CEO of Damo Consulting, a B2B health care technology firm that specializes in thought leadership. “Most people don’t realize that being good at what you do, doesn’t mean you can write about it,” he says.
Take the time to learn about storytelling. Being able to tell the kind of story that people want to read can turn any topic into something interesting.
A great example of this is the TV show, How It’s Made. Working in a factory is about as boring as it gets. You do one task, like putting empty boxes on a conveyor belt. All. Day. Long. The job itself is pretty uninspiring.
What is interesting, though, is the process of manufacturing. How It’s Made nails this with well-produced, highly engaging segments on everything from light bulbs to fishing rods. It’s been so successful in telling the story of manufacturing that it’s been running since 2001. If a TV show can do that with something like manufacturing light bulbs, you can tell the fascinating behind-the-scenes story of your IT solutions.
Quantity Over Quality
Some people think that if they start a blog and load it with as much content as possible, they’re running a successful content marketing campaign.
What they are doing is filling up space — space that could be used to publish high-quality content that readers and potential customers will love — with fluff.
Fluff isn’t a good thing. No one likes fluff, not even people who produce cotton balls.
Liz Bedor is a content strategy manager who works in the health care technology sector. “It’s all test and learn,” she says about trying to figure out how often to post content. “Start with one a week and go from there.”
It helps to set goals with your content marketing efforts, Bedor says. They could be something like generating leads and building your email list.
Whatever your goals may be, your content needs to drive people towards those goals. If your one post a week isn’t quite doing what you’d hoped it would do, try two posts a week. Keeping tinkering with the frequency of your posts until you find the spot that is hitting all your goals. Stick with it.
Not only do people appreciate well-crafted content, the more time you spend publishing and producing that content, the more likely you are to become one of those places that people go to for information (like Slashdot or Ars Tehcnica).
Attaining this level of readership is a gold mine for any industry, but in the IT world, people love thought leaders. It’s not always easy to attain thought leadership status, but the value that comes from being a thought leader is undeniable.
You Don’t Promote it
This is a big one.
You could have the best, most engaging content in the world … but if you’re not sharing it, telling your friends to share it, or talking about it on your email list (we’ll talk about these next), no one is ever going to see it.
Love it or hate it, social media is undeniably a great tool for getting your content out there, especially in the IT world. If you don’t have a social media presence, now is the time to get one. Social media might not lead to more sales, per se, but it’s a great way to let people know you’re there and showcase your content.
Interestingly enough, for IT professionals, LinkedIn is the place to be. Up to 80 percent of IT professionals consume content on LinkedIn at least once a week. So if you’re not on LinkedIn, get your company a profile and start posting your content up there ASAP.
“Tech professionals are all about LinkedIn,” says Padmanabhan. “They are looking at LinkedIn all the time, checking it out at least once a day. It’s where they gather to exchange ideas and share articles.”
Not only is the platform a good one for helping educate yourself, he adds, but it’s a great medium for promoting your content. LinkedIn helps you target very specific audiences, and regularly posting there increases your chances of other tech professionals reading your content.
We’ve already talked about how IT professionals love to follow influencers and thought leaders, but they’re also big on social media sharing. If you haven’t managed to establish yourself as a thought leader, see what you can to do to get one to share your content.
The more shares you get, the more people see your content. The more people see your content, the more people think of you. The more people think of you, the more likely they are to visit your site when they have an IT need.
You’re Using the Wrong Kind of Content
Every bit as much as you need your content to be interesting, you need to make sure you’re using the right kind of content.
This is an easy one to overlook because every industry is different. If you’re not paying attention to current trends, you’re going to end up publishing the wrong kind of content for your audience.
First of all, despite what you’ve heard, email isn’t dead. Not by a long shot. If you’re not using email, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to engage with your customer base.
Well-written emails can point people in the direction you want them to go and help them make critical decisions for their company (like choosing your solution over a competitor).
Secondly, IT professionals love content that is:
- Relevant to their company
- Helpful with skill development
- Interesting to others in their network
- Engaging (this is one of those things that comes up time and time again)
If you want to reach IT professionals, your content needs to be some combination of these things (like an engaging series of blog posts that other IT professionals could use to stay current, for example).
Finally, it helps to understand what kind of content IT professionals consume. If there’s one thing IT pros love, it’s white papers. They consume almost 30 percent more white papers than non-IT professionals. When you think about it, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Padmanabahn says that C-level executives, like CEOs and CIOs, love white papers because they allow them to quickly cruise through the content and gather up the relevant pieces of information about the topic, product, or trend they’re reading about.
IT professionals also have a pretty healthy appetite for webcasts and podcasts, so don’t overlook these content platforms when you’re planning out your strategy.
Ultimately, the kind of content you use depends on who you’re targeting.
You’re Winging It
Very, very few things work out the way you’d want them to if you don’t have at least some kind of plan. Content marketing is no different.
Not having a documented strategy in place could be the thing that kills you, even if your content is killer.
It’s easy to just sit down and start producing content. There’s always something to write about, no matter what your industry is. The problem is, if you’re just posting random blogs or sending out emails that don’t have a purpose, your efforts will inevitably fall short.
Taking the time to thoughtfully plan out your content makes all the difference in the world. The key thing is to write down what you hope to achieve with your content marketing efforts. If your goal is to attract potential new customers to your site, producing high-level content aimed at people who are already customers isn’t going to help.
Here’s a great example of a company that did things right. Logicalis, an IT company based out of the UK, came up with a plan that revolved around putting out an ebook that their prospects would find interesting.
Instead of just throwing together an ebook and posting it on their website, they put together a plan that combined the use of a microsite (a series of eight web pages that existed separately from their main web page), the ebook, and a series of emails.
The end result was $8 million in new sales for their HP products.
Of course it wasn’t just a matter of putting together an some emails and a microsite, either. Each phase of the plan was carefully thought out using a brand storytelling agency.
First of all, they had a goal, which was to increase sales of a certain product using a non-sales approach. The ebook topic was determined by sitting down with the sales team and figuring out what pain points potential customers were experiencing — they did this by following conversations people were having.
The end result of talking to their potential customers was an ebook called Elements of Design: How the Data Center of Today Can Be The Data Center for Tomorrow.
Once they had a topic, the next step was figuring out how to reach potential customers. A series of six emails was put together to help drive traffic to the microsite. Each of the emails addressed a particular need that potential customers may have had and directed them to a microsite where they could download the ebook.
The emails were sent out to a segmented list of 2,000 prospects based on what they had either previously purchased or expressed an interest in.
The microsite was designed to capture leads by offering a just enough of a taste of what the ebook contained that they would want to enter their information and download the ebook. From there, Logicalis followed up with leads via the phone and, eventually, moved further them down the sales cycle.
Compare that approach to going to the grocery store without a shopping list. Sure, you can do a successful grocery shop without a grocery list, but odds are, you’re going to discover that you left out a main ingredient for dinner because you were distracted by the cookie aisle. It happens to the best of us.
Having the proper plan in place will keep you focused. You might still get distracted by cookies, but you’ll have a constant reminder of why you went to the store in the first place.
You Don’t Understand what Your Customers’ Needs
Sometimes, no matter how successful your company is, you can be disconnected from your customers. This is something that can easily happen if you’re been in the business for a while, especially if things are going well. It’s easy to think that, because your business is successful, you’ve got your customers figured out.
And you know what? You probably do. At least to a certain degree. The thing is, though, while you might be dominating in one area of your customer’s desire, you could be underservicing another.
The easiest way to solve this problem is to simply talk to your customers. A quick survey could show you that, while your customers are happy with what you do, a lot of them might wish you offered a related service. In fact, you might discover that you do offer that service, but they don’t know about it.
Interviewing past customers is another great way to find out if you’re meeting all the needs of your client base. “If you are struggling to understand the topics you should be using,” says Bedor, “then talking to the customer helps.”
Reaching out to customer success teams — whose job is to help develop customer relationships that promote retention and loyalty — can be another great way to figure out the kind of content that your customers want, according to Bedor.
Finding out what questions these teams deal with most often can be a useful first step to determining the kinds of content customers want.
Once you figure out those needs, you can start talking directly to those points in your content marketing. After all, there’s no sense in talking someone’s ear off about email servers when all they want to do is set up virtual workstations for their remote employees.
Creating content based on customer questions helps take some of the burden off the customer success team, too. No one wants to answer the same question 10 times day.
Moving Towards Better Content
Hopefully, by now, you have a sense of what might be going wrong with your content marketing efforts. It usually doesn’t take much to set things down the right path (reading this is a great step toward correcting the problem).
As with a lot of things, there’s bound to be a little bit of trial and error involved with figuring out your ideal content marketing strategy. But with everything from light bulbs to dishwashers being connected to the internet, there’s never been a better time to be in the IT field.