Strategically addressing these critical questions ahead of any actual content production can ensure teams are not just creating content for the sake of creating content. As any high-tech marketing team can attest, however, the demands for “fresh” content are pervasive but perhaps misguided.
Fresh content versus content frequency
Having fresh content on a website and other digital real estate (e.g., social media, third-party publications, organic search, paid search) has many benefits. Fresh content can build trust by showing customers a brand is invested in their success as they produce timely materials that are immediately helpful to them. Fresh content keeps up with current trends. When organizations are among the first to write about those current trends, for example, they can become thought leaders on the topic by establishing their authority on the matter and jumping in to a not-as-crowded content pool. Google may also recognize the content’s relevancy to search queries on the topic and the company’s authority on the subject, rewarding the organization with higher search engine rankings for the content piece. In the eyes of a B2B: more visitors, more money-making opportunities.
There is a big difference though between “fresh” content and content “frequency.” While both are important, frequency establishes cadence, gives folks like Google something new to crawl, provides materials to promote on other channels and caters to the B2B buyer journey. The ultimate compliment to content producers is when customers understand the cadence in which they publish and return “on time” to regularly consume that content – that is content frequency.
Fresh content, on the other hand, is timely material meant to give an organization a voice on an emerging topic (often relevant to what they offer). For example, a high-tech vendor may notice a spike in search queries or social mentions of “headless CMS.” In this case, their subject matter expert could write an article about the pros and cons of a headless CMS (that’s the fresh content) and promote it in their weekly customer newsletter (that’s the content frequency). Likewise, a financial services company may notice a spike in conversations about “peer-to-peer payments.” They may decide to do weekly articles (frequency) on the (fresh) topic.
Knowing the differences between the two is important when a CMO says to their content team, for example, “we need fresh content” as there could be some confusion if the content marketer is already publishing weekly. Like with all things, expectation setting is critical for both internal (i.e., colleagues) and external stakeholders (i.e., readers). As a further example, this very article helps Episerver publish at our desired frequency but is not an article on a “fresh” topic, rather it’s an evergreen blog meant to help marketers make decisions about content mapping.
Fresh content’s impact on High-Tech conversions
Despite a B2B buyer journey not being linear – meaning there is no clear path between research and conversion – most marketers agree in the three stages of a B2B buyer journey: awareness, consideration and conversion (and sometimes retention). Content in each of these stages can have conversion points showing how a buyer is progressing in their relationship with the B2B organization. Let’s look at each phase and the types of content buyers want to see based on Episerver’s recent internal research of our own key personas, customer journey mapping and content-gap analyses.
During the awareness phase, a company or champion in the organization is recognizing the problem, defining a solution, and getting approval to address. During this phase, fresh content regarding both the problem and the solution will help that champion make the case for approvals.
While evergreen material is also critical to supporting the B2B buyer journey, companies must pay close attention to what buyers actually think the problem is and why they are researching solutions to begin with. These buying triggers may change fast and the best content teams recognize the opportunity for fresh material. During the awareness phase, buyers are doing a lot of Google searching and outreach to their peer networks while also meeting with internal leadership and external third parties like Forrester and Gartner analysts as well as attending industry conferences. Our interviews concluded B2B buyers in the awareness stage are looking for the following content types:
- Analyst reports
- Thought leadership articles
- Event presentations
- Webinars/whitepapers/research reports
- Customer case studies (that look like “me”)
The qualitative data research Episerver conducted matches quantitative data from our B2B Digital Experience Report 2019 in which findings indicated a very high preference for independent validation of offerings. Knowing this, content teams should work with analysts, current customers, partners and press to offer third-party opinions on topics to support a B2B buyer journey.
Fresh content during this stage often impacts conversions by bringing in new site visitors and making them known after they download a content asset (i.e., fill out this form, and receive this…), sign up for a webinar, register for an account or attend an event. As the site learns more about the person, the next-best content item should be suggested to them. In fact, when a B2B company personalizes content on its website, 91 percent of B2B leaders indicate the company cares about their experience or that they think they are getting a better experience because of the personalization.
During the consideration phase in a B2B buyer journey, a company or champion in the organization is starting to interview implementation partners, expand the evaluation team, speak with customer references, narrow down their list to final candidates, conduct meetings with sales representatives and start their final decision-making. The types of content those in the consideration phase are looking at are:
- Customer reviews
- ROI calculators
- Customer support (testing call center response)
- G2 review
- Glassdoor review
- Technical documentation
- Compare/contrast articles
Fresh content during these types of stages often impacts conversions by confirming a person’s choice in a high-tech vendor. Hopefully a known visitor by now (having accessed Awareness content), high-tech vendors’' content mapping should include content that further helps the buyer know the vendor understands their business challenges and has the experience and capabilities to solve them. Whereas awareness content helps frame the problem and solution in a “thought leadership” type manner, consideration content unequivocally proves the high-tech vendor is the best option because they know their business, they address things like technical and security needs, they will grow with them and there are customers who can back up all these claims. An example of this is Episerver’s Forrester Total Economic Report in which a third party calculated the return on investment of Episerver, proving customers get paid back for their investment in as little as six months.
The good news for content-fatigued marketers is they can also rely on their professional network to create fresh content that moves buyers to conversion. Episerver’s friends at Brilliance Web Solutions, for example, routinely (remember, content frequency) publishes compare/contrast articles for Episerver – satisfying the need of buyers during the consideration phase who are looking for content on the high-tech vendor they are researching. Brilliance does a great job of making the content fresh with new data points and emerging trends:
In the coveted conversion phase, buyers are acquiring executive approval, finalizing details and implementing their chosen high-tech vendor. With the higherups vetting the vendor and the buyer’s job on the line, they are crossing every T and dotting every I. Episerver’s research shows these buyers want to dig into technical details, security expectations and SLAs. They are ready to make the final business case to leadership, and secure approval to move forward by building out the timeline and roadmap for future development. In addition to operational content like “how quickly can I get my team trained and ready to execute,” those in the conversion stage want to see:
- Supporting information for business case
- Developer training
- User training/User conferences
- Developer documentation
- Implementation Partner database
In this phase, “fresh” content presenting new problems may send the buyer into a tailspin as they are often petrified of making the wrong decision. Content helping with a final conversion needs to continuously backup their decision on which high-tech vendor to work with. This might be the first time a prominent executive has entered the project, for example, to ensure the high-tech vendor is stable. Therefore, “fresh” content would be more appropriate when helping the buyer/champion make the best possible case for their recommendation, particularly for lesser-known vendors.
The upside of content without conversion
Oh the conversion phase…the B2B buyer journey everyone wants to get to but not everyone reaches. Even if the latter happens, there were many conversions even before the conversion phase thanks to fresh content catering to what buyers need to see. That downloaded whitepaper on an emerging trend, conversion. That registered-for-webinar on an emerging trend, conversion. That event signup on an emerging trend, another conversion.
Even for high-tech vendors that are not ultimately chosen, fresh content allowed them to get to know who their prospective buyer is and cater to his or her needs. As a known individual, high-tech vendors can continue to market to them with fresh content as new problems and solutions are always afoot. As our colleagues at Idio, an Episerver company, like to say “you are what you read” and the high-tech vendor catering to customer needs through content, knows them better than anyone.
A note about retention
High-tech vendors are not immune to spending more budget on acquiring new customers than retaining existing ones. It’s often a flaw in marketing plans and content strategy is no different. In the retention phase, customers are evaluating the success and long-term benefits of the chosen solution. In Episerver’s research, the types of questions current customers have are:
- Was the implementation smooth? If not, was the vendor able to step-in and help?
Content considerations: Monthly performance updates
- Has the tech seamlessly integrated into my existing technology?
Content considerations: Tip sheets for implementations
- Have we been able to fully realize the potential of the solution, or have some features been a challenge to adopt?
Content considerations: Customer surveys
- Has the team embraced the new solution, or am I facing resistance?
Content considerations: Articles on cultural change
- Has it freed up my time to focus on more strategic objectives?
Content consideration: Articles on time management
- Has there been any downtime, bugs, security breaches? If so, how has it been addressed?
Content consideration: Regular social posts on uptime and security
- What new features/enhancements are coming up that I can take advantage of?
Content consideration: Frequent publishing/sharing of the vendor’s product roadmap