It’s safe to say that no one had a bigger January than Marie Kondo.
After the success of her show on Netflix, the decluttering queen, and author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is all over the place.
There’s nonstop chatter about her KonMari method on Twitter … there’s a new Marie Kondo GIF sticker for Instagram Stories … there are Marie Kondo memes flooding everyone’s Facebook timelines … and she’s being invited on every damn show out there (including Ellen, of course).
Here we are a month after the show’s release, and the buzz hasn’t died down.
Wow … that’s massive, isn’t it?
Now, I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’ve binge-watched her series at least a dozen times in the past month. Not only have I realized that I am in need of tons of tiny boxes, but I’ve also realized that Marie Kondo’s techniques (aka the KonMari method, if you want to get technical) can easily be applied to B2B content creation too.
First, let’s talk about the problems that B2B businesses face when developing content, and then we’ll see how you can use the KonMari method to create content that sparks joy!
Let’s take a look at the primary reasons that B2B content marketing strategies fail:
If you’ve watched the Marie Kondo series, you know that every episode begins with the clients explaining their situation—the kitchen’s overflowing, the guest room is full of stuff, no one puts anything away, too many shoes, etc. But while these people are always well aware of the problem, they seem to be at a loss for how to solve it.
The B2B content marketing landscape is no different. B2B businesses face tons of challenges generating leads. Turning out high-quality leads tops the chart:
None of these challenges are surprising to marketers. We’re good at recognizing a lack of leads, lack of engagement and content that doesn’t convert.
But when it comes to implementing solutions, we are often clueless.
Why do you think this happens? A stat from CMI’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing report gives us the answer: When marketers were asked why they weren’t measuring the ROI of their content marketing efforts, 27 percent said they didn’t know how to do achieve this.
Because they don’t know how to measure ROI, they are essentially shooting in the dark. They launch content marketing campaigns with a lot of enthusiasm but are unable to measure its efficiency… they are unable to improve their existing content and create new content that actually attracts and converts customers.
Why do people call Marie Kondo? Because they’ve tried to declutter on their own, and it never works. They know that they have a problem, but don’t fully grasp their own needs. When Kondo comes in, she helps clients understand their real needs—and only then are they able to get organized.
The problem is that most B2B marketers do not know their audience well.
When asked for whom they are creating specific content and how it will help their audience solve a problem they are often clueless. That’s why their content marketing strategies falter and doesn’t work the way it should.
From webinars to podcasts to case studies, there are loads of content marketing opportunities for B2B businesses to explore; however, none of it will result in leads if businesses don’t invest enough time in understanding their audience and their needs.
“I’ve never worn that dress but I really like it…”
“Those shoes are old but I paid so much for them…”
“I might need that stuff one day…”
These are the kinds of objections that Kondo deals with when helping her clients declutter. Resistance to decluttering is a major problem with B2B companies too, especially when it comes to their content marketing—they are scared of experimentation and often stick with age-old formats and content styles which impacts their visibility and brand recall.
Content assets that do not make sense and are irrelevant to the audience should, therefore, be either deleted or updated.
A decision-maker is more likely to engage with a brand that serves them content that’s “relevant” than do so with a brand that’s way behind in its content and delivery.
Now that we’ve looked at three common content creation problems, let’s find solutions that will help B2B businesses consistently generate leads.
Think about the show for a minute. What would happen if people refused to start decluttering? You know the answer: They wouldn’t hit their goal. They wouldn’t have enough space. They wouldn’t have time for other activities, and so on.
To make B2B content marketing work, you need a similar approach: You need to acknowledge the problem (that your content marketing isn’t generating enough leads) and then you need to start decluttering, aka determining which content isn’t working—and why—so you can fix it or get rid of it.
Why aren’t people signing up for your webinars? Why aren’t people downloading that extensive ebook? Why aren’t people clicking on the website CTAs? Why aren’t your ads performing?
You get the drift…
Tackling all these questions may seem daunting, but like Kondo’s clients, you have to get started, or you’ll never get anywhere.
Analyze your web traffic, check heat map results, use SEO tools to see what keywords are being searched, and keep tabs on conversations happening on social media. These are all great first steps to identify patterns and show you where you are going.
Then you can create a plan based on your analysis and research, whether that means implementing a better project management system, writing more quality content or creating personas. But you have to start.
If my grandma knew that people are hiring consultants just to show them how to declutter, she’d turn over in her grave. For her, keeping a clean house was a natural process. It was a given.
But things have changed. We lead busy lives, so we need new efficient methods (that appeal to our logic) to get us moving forward. And if folding clothes in a certain way helps, then why not?
Now, that same thought process is required for B2B content marketing—but it’s often missing. Marketers need to acknowledge that the B2B landscape has changed drastically over the years. It’s safe to say that we need a fresh and workable approach to close leads.
Because B2B businesses today are dealing with well-informed, social-savvy customers who spend hours researching before they make a purchase.
So how can you sell your products and services to today’s audiences?
To begin with, you need to shun your confirmation bias. Most marketers ignore concepts, formats, theories, and research that contradict their worldview or their way of doing things. And they also ignore the flaws in their own strategies. This mindset—aka confirmation bias—is ruining content marketing strategies for most businesses.
However, a few companies take the road less traveled and achieve success by testing hypotheses.
Hubspot is a good example. The company chose to retire the age-old marketing funnel as a method of acquiring leads because it didn’t produce a consistent ROI.
Brian Halligan, CEO, and co-founder of Hubspot, instead proposed the “flywheel” to replace the funnel while addressing marketers at INBOUND 18.
Instead of moving potential buyers through the funnel, Hubspot focuses on three core stages: attract, delight and engage.
Attract: “Attracting is about using your expertise to create content and conversations that start meaningful relationships with the right people.” Because the company aims to “provide value before extracting value” at this stage, they heavily invest in content that’s free to access: blog posts, webinars, social media, and HubSpot Academy lessons and certifications.
Engage: “Engaging is about building lasting relationships with people by providing insights and solutions that align with their roadblocks and goals.” Instead of rolling out an expensive product, Hubspot offers free versions of their software so users can try it before they buy it.
Delight: “Delighting is about providing an outstanding experience that adds real value, empowers people to reach their goals and become promoters of your company.”
And how does Hubspot delight its customers?
John Dick, Hubspot’s VP of Marketing, explains:
“We help our customers succeed through a mix of guided and self-service education. Paying customers have access to a core implementation and strategy team, free users are offered light-touch free support, and both groups are given access to extensive user guides and knowledge base documentation.”
What do we learn here? That change is the only constant, and that marketers need to keep their minds open to experimentation.
When helping families declutter, Marie Kondo is all ears. She doesn’t just hear what they say—she actively listens to their problems. There’s a difference between the two. By listening, she’s able to offer unique solutions to her clients, and win their hearts.
B2B businesses who follow this approach see consistent success. In my opinion, the biggest reason that brands such as Drift, Intercom and others have succeeded is that they take time to understand their customers’ needs.
Louis Grenier from Hotjar, who has spoken to hundreds of successful marketers (both B2B and B2C) on his podcast, Everyone Hates Marketers, sums it up perfectly:
“It’s understanding customers, understanding people. They all start with that—there’s not one marketer I interviewed who didn’t start with this principle. Really this is the core of marketing…You must have a deep understanding of your ideal customers, who you serve. And therefore you must have a deep understanding of who you should NOT serve.”
So how can you get this “deep understanding”? To get into the minds of your users, you need to talk to them, hang out where they hang out …
That’s how you’ll find out the real problems your users are facing, and then you can create content assets that will actually help them achieve success.
Reach out to your blog readers, newsletter subscribers, etc., and ask them what resonates with them. What do they like about your content? What don’t they like?
It’s critical to ask open-ended questions because you need unique takeaways, and you’ll only get those if you give users an opportunity to talk about their experience. Here are examples of closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. See the difference?
Avoiding closed-ended questions is easy: Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Content that’s based on these limited, generic sentiments likely won’t solve your problems—or your customers’.
Net Promoter Score surveys have long been used to seek customer feedback in order to guide product development.
In my opinion, B2B companies can also leverage NPS to ascertain how their content is being received and what they can do to inspire more potential buyers to take action.
Here are a few quick ways to get this rolling:
After Marie Kondo starts a family on the decluttering process, she doesn’t walk away and leave them to their own devices forever. No—she stays in touch and even pops in from time to time. This allows her to stay abreast of her clients’ feelings during the process and respond to new problems that arise.
Marketers should follow her lead. Interacting with your audience regularly helps you respond to their changing needs … and you may get ideas that wouldn’t occur to you otherwise.
GrooveHQ is responsible for one of my favorite examples of this strategy put to good use: It launched a marketing course for the readers of its blog.
Now that’s an odd choice for a company that makes customer support software.
So why did GrooveHQ team do it? Amid the many reasons mentioned in this post, CEO Alex Turnbull hammers on one key point that drove their decision:
“We’ve gotten hundreds of requests for a course that taught what we talk about on this blog.”
Now a lot of small- to medium-size B2B businesses might ignore requests like those, due to lack of resources, but GrooveHQ cleverly understood that the people who would take their course were essentially their target audience—B2B marketers, CEOs and other decision-makers. By understanding their lateral needs and offering a solution, the company has opened a path to new leads and conversations.
In a time where marketing departments are allocating more and more funds toward content marketing, it is essential that companies find creative ways to break through the noise and get in front of their customers.
This is possible when B2B marketers take steps toward decluttering their content marketing strategies. Decluttering requires keeping an open mind about new methods as well as continually addressing customers’ needs.
These are the pillars of a successful content marketing strategy—one that will result in content that sparks joy. As Marie Kondo would put it:
“Trust us, it will be OK.”
What’s your approach to creating content that sparks joy for your B2B audience? Share it with us in the comments below.
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