Content marketing has rapidly become a necessity for every major (and even small or mid-size) company. The benefits to having a content marketing strategy are manifold:
- It builds trust with customers and grows your brand’s reputation.
- It heavily helps with conversions and sales. In fact, nearly half of customers view 3 to 4 pieces of content before contacting a sales rep.
- About half of Internet users look for videos of products or services before vising a store and 4 in 5 consumers find video content helpful.
- 84 percent of people trust online content as much as friends.
The key to a successful content marketing strategy is, quite simply, the content. And custom content, or branded content, can really help establish an organization as a trustworthy source of information.
So what is custom content and what’s its role in content marketing?
At its core, custom content is meant for the segment of your audience who are already familiar with your brand and need more detailed and company-specific content to get closer to a purchasing decision. In other words, it’s branded content for that helps build your company’s expertise and thought leadership within the market. And it’s focused primarily on customers and qualified leads who have already built a relationship with your company and are looking for more information. It’s where your brand can educate buyers and move them further down the sales cycle.
Custom content is integral in helping your brand differentiate itself from the competitors and, while it will appeal to your existing audience the most, it can also help educate and qualify top-of-funnel leads.
Custom content can take a number of forms, but it tends to gravitate towards more in-depth content that showcases a brand or product’s expertise. This can take the shape of:
- How-to blog posts that explain complex products or services
- Ebooks that identify and share solutions to common industry pain points
- White papers that analyze industry trends and offer expert insight into how the markets will respond
- Research reports on company data points that offer a high level view of industry trends
But while custom content clearly provides strong results for brands, many of them are struggling to figure out the right type of content to create for their audience, and lack many of the internal resources to create it and get it in front of the right people. In fact, according to HubSpot’s recent 2018 Marketing Statistics report, only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing – this is down from 38% last year.
So, if custom content is providing so much value in down funnel conversions, why are companies having such a difficult time creating and distributing it?
Well, it starts with the reality that custom content is really hard to generate. It’s more than just cranking out a blog post or two on industry topics. It’s value is in taking the time to really understand customer and industry pain points and create highly focused branded content that answers questions and dives deep into real solutions and approaches that your targeted audience will find not only engaging – but useful.
Custom content is how you showcase your industry knowledge and understanding of customer challenges, and convince them that your solution is uniquely tailored to solve their problem. And because of this, it requires way more than just a cursory topic research – it requires taking the time to really research industry challenges, customer challenges, and your organization’s approach to both.
On top of that, branded content requires a more complex creation and approval process that typically involves multiple stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs). And in many complex and regulated B2B industries, you have to add in approval by the legal department as well. This can create bottlenecks and approval challenges that can hold up the content creation process for months at a time. This, understandably, can push many organizations to creating and distributing content that might be less effective, but is easier to get through approval channels just to have something to publish.
What is the answer? There’s no easy answer, but starting with a clear and well thought-out process for content development can help minimize some of the challenges with SME and stakeholder approval. Working with an outside content marketing agency that specializes in content development can help significantly improve timelines for approval and ensure that custom content topics are going to resonate well with your audience and drive results – an absolute necessity with the time and financial investments that are required to create custom content campaigns that drive bottom-line results.