New content is published online at an astounding rate. Estimates say that 2 billion blogs are published each year, not to mention all the other types of collateral shared online. As a marketer, you are competing with millions of content creators and companies, so it can be tough to break through the noise with a compelling narrative that meets audience needs and helps drive sales. Meanwhile, you’re dealing with constraints like limited budget and time.
The Spur Group has worked on hundreds of marketing and communications engagements, and we’ve documented the three biggest challenges we see when teams are creating marketing content.
1. Marketing, sales, and technical teams aren’t aligned on key messaging
2. Translating technical details into compelling content for prospects and customers
3. Existing content not resonating with the target audience
While this is not an exhaustive list of challenges, we’ve found that even the most talented and hard-working teams struggle with one or more of these. Read on for our recommended strategies for dealing with each of these challenges.
Challenge #1: Marketing, sales, and technical teams aren’t aligned on key messaging
When stakeholders aren’t all on the same page, it can be impossible to get messaging and content right. A misaligned team results in disjointed messages and costly delays for a publishing schedule. Misalignment is both a short- and long-term problem, as it reduces stakeholder engagement and financial support.
Strategy #1: Bring together key stakeholders
Rather than meeting with stakeholders separately, bring together all essential people in one meeting. By having everyone together, you can push for agreement on decisions. We know that it can be tough to bring busy people together in one meeting, so if that’s impossible for your timeline, prioritize the key people whose sign-off you need to move forward. If you can’t move ahead without one stakeholder’s signoff, they need to be at that meeting. Additional attendance is extra credit.
Strategy #2: Gain consensus on your target audience
Your first key decision with stakeholders is gaining consensus on the specific target audience and their needs for a particular campaign or project. It may seem like a basic step, but it can easily be overlooked. As you work on different initiatives, your team is likely dealing with varying audiences that include partners, field sellers, and customers. Within each of those groups you have a business audience and a technical or specialist audience all with specific needs.
Strategy #3: Use a facilitator without a stake in the decision
If you’re in a meeting to determine audience, messaging themes, or tactics, you might have several opinionated stakeholders, and a facilitator without a stake in the decision can be invaluable. As a neutral third-party, a facilitator can also listen to all sides of the story and frame the situation objectively so others in the room can make an informed decision. Without a facilitator, the hallmarks of an unproductive meeting can appear, whether it’s one stakeholder dominating the conversation, groupthink, or a circular conversation that goes nowhere.
Strategy #4: Use project management best practices
Making the same decisions multiple times wreaks havoc on your timeline. To avoid wasting time, we recommend following project management best practices: build a plan and approach right away, schedule the necessary meetings immediately after the plan is finalized, determine final approvers on each deliverable, and communicate often throughout the project. To save yourself time and budget re-doing work, document and communicate all decisions as they are made and refer to them if necessary.
Challenge #2: Translating technical details into compelling content for prospects and customers
Effective technical content must be both useful for sales teams and potential customers. Essentially, sales teams need to understand the product suite to sell, and customers must understand how the solution can help solve their problems. Both purposes are essential for the sales process and future revenue.
Strategy #1: Clearly define the product narrative
Have a clear understanding of the benefits of your product or service, and gather specific use cases to communicate those benefits to sales teams and prospects.
While this point might seem like marketing 101, you’d be surprised how often marketing teams have strayed from basic principles. When we’re pressed for time or stressed about long to-do lists, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what the product does, not the specific problem it solves. At the end of the day, your potential customer cares most about solving a business challenge, not the features of your product.
Strategy #2: Focus on the benefits of your product
Solving customers problems should be your number one goal, not focusing on new features and capabilities.
To best understand the difference, consider the example of purchasing a new car. Almost all vehicles come standard with certain features like power locks and windows, cruise control and Bluetooth. When you see an advertisement for a vehicle, the company doesn't brag about having cruise control or air bags. Instead, the commercial will feature a safety or quality ranking. The car company is not promoting a feature (cruise control or air bags), but a benefit (quality or safety) that is enabled by the features and capabilities of the car.
Teams too often mistake features and capabilities for benefits. Instead, step back, recognize the difference, and determine why the feature matters.
Strategy #3: Keep your messaging simple
If we keep up with the car metaphor, a TV commercial doesn’t talk about safety, luxury, quality, and affordability at the same time. Given the time constraint of a 30-second commercial, addressing all of those benefits would be tough to do, so most vehicle commercials choose one. Yet, even with a longer time slot, the most efficient use of time is highlighting one key message targeted to the target audience.
In the end, focus on what matters to the customer. Answer the central question: “What is this product doing for me?”
Challenge #3: Existing content not connected to marketing goals or target audience
The best content is tailored to a specific audience and aligned with a larger company or department goal. Marketing collateral geared toward decision makers within manufacturing at the awareness stage will be different from influencers within education at the consideration stage. If the team is not on the same page when it comes to the goal or audience for a content piece, the evaluation and metrics will likely miss the mark.
Strategy #1: Evaluate current content through an audit
Consider conducting a content audit of your existing marketing collateral, examining key metrics and categorizing to identify gaps. With a content audit, you can better deal with budget and time constraints for content creation — by reworking and updating existing content, unpublishing outdated collateral, and optimizing high-performing pieces. The content audit categorization process helps you make connections and discover what resonates with your audience, plus it helps you identify content gaps and plan new work.
Strategy #2: Narrow down to one audience and target content to their specific needs
If you don’t have the time or budget to create multiple versions of your content, choose your most desired or top audience. You might have to make some tradeoffs to secondary audiences, but it will help you focus your resources on the most relevant need.
Once you’ve narrowed down the audience, map out their challenges, needs, and wants. If you have some baseline messaging to start, plan for minor but necessary content adjustments to meet the needs of your audience. If you have limited resources, optimize for your primary audience.
Solution #3: Focus on specific benefits
Choose the benefits you highlight based on your audience. If you’re selling to a business user, chances are they’re thinking big picture. Whereas, a technical user probably wants to know specific details about how the product works and how it will affect their role. The difference between those two audiences doesn’t have to be vast, but if you focus on the information that resonates with each audience, you’ll be steps ahead of the competition.
With messaging aligned, you can focus on building great content
We’ve covered the three most common challenges with marketing content development, but we’re sure others exist. Whether you’re launching a new product, rebranding existing services, or running a new campaign, you’ll likely face at least one of these challenges. They’re often difficult to avoid, but there are tactical, proven solutions for overcoming them.
By getting your stakeholders on the same page, developing clear content, and creating messaging that resonates with your customers, you’ll be set up to bring results for your product or service. Setting your marketing efforts up right in the beginning puts you on a path for success.