How do you make sure your content is relevant?

How do you make sure your top executives support your marketing efforts?

In this article I will show you how to solve these two problems – and more closely align marketing with sales, at the same time.

Making content relevant

Today’s forward-thinking marketers are now less focused on messages and more on the role of creating a knowledge center. That’s definitely true here, where we are spending a lot of time developing ebooks and content. The goal is to attract customers to us with our content.

How do we make sure our content is relevant? We ask our customers what they want. Every year we put on events, survey our audience and interact with them as much as we possibly can. I also try to spend time interviewing clients and I ask them what they want to get from us and how often they want to get it. I don’t like marketing in the dark.

I also have made a point of picking the brains of the smart people in our company. I have created an editorial board consisting of engineers and architects at our company. They know their stuff. They provide the details that I need to use to create good content that clients will find relevant.

You can’t expect people to bring this information to you; you have to actively pull the information out of them.

What’s interesting is how customers always surprise me. In fact, if you interview customers and you’re not surprised, that’s shocking. Each customer is dealing with their own personal, specific issues that keep them up at night. There’s no way for me to know exactly what these are unless I’m regularly interacting with them.

We understand the more obvious, generic pain points, but at the same time, there are specific issues that I never would have thought about because I’m not working in the plant with them, day to day. For example, one thing they’re worried about now is that the older people are leaving the industry and the knowledge isn’t getting transferred to younger workers.

Getting top management support

Marketers never have enough time. The more advanced stuff, like lead scoring, always suffers at the expense of the day-to-day, must-get-this-done stuff. Everyone has goals about what they have to achieve, and you have to hit them. But there are also “nice to have” advanced goals, which are tough to meet when trying to meet day-to-day deadlines.

It helps to meet your larger goals if you have management support. One thing I learned from my years at Marketing Sherpa is that you need to get other people in the company passionate about marketing. So the first year I was here, I really focused on that. I had to sell the vision about what marketing could accomplish and get their needed buy-in. If marketing was going to be successful it wasn’t going to be just because of our team, it would be the efforts of a company that was now thinking with a customer-first mindset.

To begin this process, I gave a passionate speech to the executive board about marketing, and held lunch-and-learns with other divisions, aimed at informing and helping others catch the vision of marketing. My goal was to show them what we could do with an active marketing program that focused on “low hanging fruit,” highlighting some quick wins and providing a vision for future opportunities. It worked. Within weeks I had division leaders reaching out and asking how they could help.

What did I learn through this process? Don’t expect that others share your passion for marketing. It isn’t because they don’t like marketing, it’s just because they may not understand fully how you can help them or their customers.

Also, you have to be willing to break stuff in order to fix it. Break down old process, old ideas and build something new with others. Any time you create something together it’s much stronger and the buy-in has been established. Yes, doing this creates a new kind of stress, but I get faster approval for what I am doing, because they’re all bought in and on board.

Working more closely with sales

I think every marketer’s first job is to learn as much as possible about their customers. To gain insights, do the research, and invest in becoming a customer advocate. Your target customers’ needs are always changing, and how they digest your content is, too. The problems they had last year are not the same as this year.

I hired a market analyst recently, to make sure we’re up to date with what is happening in the industry and what my clients are up against. In addition to the events and conversations with customers, I also spend time with my Sales team daily to see what customers are saying. Before I got here, marketing and sales weren’t aligned. Now I spend a good amount of time in sales meetings asking how our potential customers are doing and what types of questions they are asking.

The truth is, good marketing is like putting a puzzle together. You’re constantly collecting information from every source you can, pulling the pieces together, always trying to find new ways to collect information, digest it, and then find ways to put it to good use for your customers. To do that you must be willing to never stop learning from others.

Justin Bridegan is currently the Director of Marketing for Stellar. Like many of us, he didn’t set out to become a marketer. He was headed to law school when he was bit by the marketing bug, and went to work for a software company SQE, and later Marketing Sherpa. As a Senior Marketing Manager at Marketing Sherpa, he ran their marketing department and spoke regularly at their summits. Later he was recruited by Stellar, a fully integrated firm focused on design, engineering, construction, and mechanical services worldwide, based out of Jacksonville, FL. Over the last three years he has built up the department and works with a number of local vendors; there are six people on the internal team now. Some of Stellar clients include: Starbucks, Kraft, Food Lion, Heinz, Nestle, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Sara Lee, just to name a few.

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