The Challenger Customer: Chapter 6, section 1 (part 6 of 10)

Chapter 6: Teaching Mobilizers Where They Learn

Wheredo your customers, and Mobilizers especially, learn? … engaging Mobilizers where they learn is going to feel hard. Because they are learning in lots of different places. They’re following varied learning paths. They’re learning from peers and subject matter experts in social networks, where the rules of engagement are different than what marketing or sales are used to. … the average B2B customer consults nearly a dozensources of information, spread across all varieties of touchpoints on the path to purchase. Only half of that information comes from suppliers, in total. So if you’re an individual supplier, and say you’re one of four that a customer knows to seek information from, you’ve got about 12 percent “share of information” that customer is consuming.

On top of that, you have to teach customers at arm’s lengthin all these places? In other words, with little to no human engagement. How are you going to do that?

“Sounds like a job for great content,” you say. Well, yes and no. “Yes” on content. That’s going to be critical to teach customers, to change their direction while they are learning in a noisy information marketplace. But “No” in that almost all conventional wisdom on content marketing

Leads us awayfrom the kind of intervention suppliers need to be doing with Mobilizers to change their direction in that 57 percent.

The Dark Side of Content Marketing

At the risk of oversimplifying, there are three high-level points of guidance we repeatedly hear in the massive amount of content and marketing created to explain content marketing:

  1. Look smart – “You need to be a though leader
  2. Be useful – “Create content that speaks to customer pain points.”
  3. Be present – “Create customer personas. Publish content on a regular cadence.”

Each in its own way is a tiger trap for suppliers looking to teach Mobilizers where they are learning. Let’s take them in turn.

Look Smart. The problem here is that the vast majority of content written in the name of thought leadership focuses on building up the B and completely overlooks tearing down the A. Bottom line, customers aren’t going to change unless we give them a good reason to. That’s the tiger trap of thought leadership.

Be Useful. By definition, this line of conventional thinking has suppliers speaking to customer pain points that customers realizethey have. What are they searching for? Let’s write content that speaks to that. Even if it doesn’t relate directly back to the supplier’s solution. It’s an attention play. … In other words, suppliers who follow the be usefuladvice might be ringing up blog clicks and “engagement” metrics, but none of that is feeding through to any kind of meaningful sales activity.

Be Present. This is all about coverage. The problem here is the sheer volume of content that suppliers have to create and deploy. The back-of-envelope math on this gets really ugly, really fast. … Very quickly, the content tail wags the dog, as a big flashing light on the editorial calendar starts flashing red because no new blog post is in the queue for next week’s submission deadline. … They inexorably fall prey to putting content quantityover content quality. That’s the tiger trap of “be present.

The real devil with all of these content approaches is the opportunity cost. Every ounce of energy and resources that goes into creating and deploying “look smart, be useful, be present” content crowds outthe energy and resources needed to create surprising content that has a chance to truly change the customer’s direction.

Creating Challenging Content Paths

If the primary goal of marketing content is to break down the customer’s A and then build up a B, then suppliers should ensure that all of their content is somehow tied to that goal. In other words, once they have created a Commercial Insight, marketers need to step back and create a related content strategy. That strategy will lay out the content paths that lead Mobilizers on an ever deeper exploration of a Commercial Insight that simultaneously changes the way they think about their business and leads them ever closer to valuing the supplier’s unique strengths. Not that every piece of content must “get them to buy,” per se. But imagine if every piece of content were built back from a single, powerful insight, all thematically aligned, leading to an ever deeper treatment of that topic. The goal there is to “get them to explore.” As long as the exploration is designed to lead them exclusively back to you, the deeper the exploration, the better.

“look smart, be useful, be present” conventional wisdom in content marketing … leads marketers to create content on a very wide arrayof topics, for very different personas, and to scatter it as far and wide as possible. … Yet notice how this strategy doesn’t build a consistent path or message to anywhere, as each piece is largely independent of every other. … They may think differently about you, but they’re far less likely to think any differently of themselves.

On the other hand, when you lay a purposeful path with your content, so it’s all tied together thematically to a single, provocative insight, you get a different output altogether.

In this world, all the content is linked – almost like a trail of breadcrumbs – leading back to a single Commercial Insight purposefully designed to change the way customers (and specifically, Mobilizers) think about theirbusiness. What’s especially powerful here, each one of those links in that narrative chain provides a potential hook to catch a Mobilizer, and a possible rallying point for forging consensus.