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How to Create Content Intelligence That Drives Engagement & ROI

The passive, obliging B2B buyers of the past are gone, but meeting new consumer-style expectations doesn’t just require more content. It also requires more data. A lot more.

B2B marketers have a major content ROI problem. Almost everything we create is diametrically opposed with the way buyers actually behave. We churn out one blog post or case study after another, the same as we’ve always done, then push it out in our nurture programs and wait for the MQLs to roll in.

Only here’s the thing: we’re doing all this for an audience that no longer exists. An audience that was happy to let marketers determine when and where they could access their content of choice, like scheduled shows on prime time TV. An audience that was willing to do the leg work in tracking down the precise information they need to make complex purchasing decisions. An audience that wouldn’t think twice about handing over their email address in exchange for our latest whitepaper. Basically, an audience that let us marketers call all the shots because they didn’t know it could be any different.

That passive, obliging audience has now vanished. In their place are B2B buyers who expect the same seamless, self-directed content experiences they’ve come to enjoy in their consumer lives on platforms like Netflix and Spotify. Both use AI to cultivate rich user data and deliver content according to behavior and preferences. As B2B marketers, it’s time for us all to step up and follow suit. Every piece of content we offer needs to not only be relevant to the individual buyer, but also immediately accessible. If we want to deliver, we don’t just need more content. We need more data. A lot more. Content intelligence is how we’re going to get it.

Christine Polewarczyk, VP Research Director at Forrester, recently joined PathFactory co-founder and CPO Nick Edouard as a guest speaker on a webinar all about content intelligence. Thanks to her deep content expertise, Christine had several actionable insights to share for any B2B marketers looking to rev up their content engine with content intelligence. Here are three big takeaways:

1. Start thinking about your buyers (and content) differently

B2B buyer’s journeys are getting more complex, with a rapid increase in both stakeholders and touch points. Forrester reported that the number of total interactions during the purchase process rose from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021. Purchase timeframes are also getting longer, with 32% spanning at least 4 months (up from just 19% in 2015).

Buyers are doing their due diligence — but they’re not doing it alone. Over 80% of purchases now involve complex buying groups, and 60% have more than four people. That means champions, influencers, decision makers, ratifiers and end users. Our content needs to work harder than ever, and we can’t afford to keep thinking about buyers in broad strokes like industry or job title.

“You’re not targeting a single persona anymore. We need to get more intelligent about how we deliver content experiences to different roles within these buying groups if we want to be effective,” said Christine.

A lot of B2B marketers are falling short. Forrester found that 56% of buyers thought vendor’s content was extraneous, while 61% believed it was more style than substance. To deliver helpful, valuable and relevant content experiences, we need to understand their topics of interest, key behaviors and evolving informational needs across the buyer’s journey. We can do this in real-time — and at scale — using content intelligence, which analyzes and catalogues content assets, tracks and measures engagement data around every single visitor interaction with each content asset, and then builds rich profiles around particular topics of interest.

This gives marketers unprecedented insight into our prospects and how they interact with our content. Not only that, we can merge this data with our existing CRM to uncover which content assets are actually driving revenue. Only then can we truly ensure a data-driven content strategy.

2. Streamline and centralize your content engine

There’s no way around it: B2B marketers need to improve their content operations and AI capabilities if they want to increase engagement and drive ROI moving forward. Too many organizations invest in shiny new marketing automation and ABM tools, yet still rely on manual spreadsheets, disconnected tools, and cumbersome processes that won’t scale. For marketers to effectively deploy content intelligence, a centralized and streamlined content engine is key.

A good place to start is a content inventory, to identify gaps and get rid of clutter. Metadata — the “data about data” used to train AI engines and drive machine learning, and a central component of content intelligence — can be introduced in stages, starting with basic tags and working up to a universal taxonomy. This basically means marketing, sales, customer success and any other team within your organization using the same descriptive terms to tag content assets and avoid redundancies. Even automation and AI capabilities can be implemented gradually, before scaling across your entire content engine.

3. Start with a basic taxonomy

Overhauling your entire content engine may seem like a daunting task — especially if you don’t have the buy-in or resources yet. But that doesn’t mean you should walk away in defeat. Even if you won’t have a shiny new content engine up and running overnight, there are still steps you can take to course correct. As Christine put it: “This is evolution, not revolution.” You need to crawl before you can walk or run.

A good place to start is basic taxonomy. Determine which 10-20 attributes are most important to measure and analyze, then assign your tags accordingly. Some types of taxonomy your content engine can learn over time, but might struggle to implement right away — like funnel stage, asset type or product SKUs. These might be good tags to look at when you’re getting the ball rolling.

Also avoid focusing exclusively on format. Although it’s good to know the specific types of content you have in your library, this particular taxonomy is more helpful to marketers on the backend than it is to buyers on a self-directed content experience. Think about it this way: if someone spends 15 minutes on your whitepaper, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re interested in whitepapers. It means they’re interested in the topic — regardless of the format.

As marketers, it’s time to tap into content intelligence and unlock the rich content experiences B2B buyers now expect from us — and ultimately more drive engagement and ROI. “We have a lot of work to do. We know that buyers want more relevant, useful and engaging content… in order to get to that, you need to introduce content intelligence into your overall strategy,” said Christine. There’s no time like the present to get started.

Want to learn more about customer-centric experiences that have the biggest impact from the experts at Forrester? Check out the new Forrester report, Calibrate To The Customer For Optimal Buyer Experiences And Maximum Revenue Results.

We also wrote the first-ever content intelligence guide for B2B marketers. It’s crammed with actionable insights to help you accelerate your digital transformation and turn your content engine into a major competitive advantage.