Content marketing should be at the centre of any B2B marketing strategy. Without it, marketers would be unable to build trust with their audience, connect with customers, or improve conversions and generate leads.

Yet, only 42% of B2B marketers report that they’re effective in their content marketing efforts.

Napier recently held a webinar ‘Is Content Marketing too Good to be True?‘, which explores the reality of content marketing, and how you can implement it successfully for your company. We address:

  • What is content marketing?
  • Examples of good and bad content marketing
  • Overcoming the challenges of content marketing
  • 5 pro tips to lead you to success

Register to view our webinar on demand by clicking here, and why not get in touch to let us know if our insights helped you.


Napier Webinar: ‘Is Content Marketing too Good to be True?’ Transcript

Speakers: Mike Maynard

Hi, welcome to the latest Napier webinar. Today we are going to be talking about content marketing and discussing whether the promises of content marketing are too good to be true. So, if you have any questions, I’d love to hear them. So please do post them in the chat, if you’ve got any questions and we’ll certainly go from there. So we’ll start off with content marketing.

You know, one of the questions we often have with clients is, is content marketing really too good to be true. And the problem is, is that what we do is we see a lot of people promising all sorts of things from content marketing. But actually, many clients find that the results of content marketing are not as good as they hoped. So, we’re going to talk about why that might be, and also discuss ways that you might be able to avoid some of the pitfalls of content marketing. So here’s the agenda for today. We’ll start off with just clarify what we mean by content marketing. So we’ll clarify the definition and will then give you some examples, some cases where we think people have done a good job with content marketing, and some cases where people have done a bad job. And it’s really trying to look at themes as to what works and what doesn’t with content marketing. And then we’ll go on and talk about the real main part of the webinar and ask whether the promise of content marketing is too good to be true. So, you know, the idea that content marketing will generate leads almost automatically. And does that really happen in real life, we’ll have a look at that. We’ll obviously find some challenges that people face in content marketing during that section. So, we’ll talk a little bit about how to overcome them. And then, as we like to do with our webinars, we’ll end the webinar with the Napier five pro tips of how to deliver great content marketing campaigns.

So, what is content marketing? We went to Google the source of all knowledge, to find out what content marketing is. The definition provided by Oxford languages, says that content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material. So, this could be videos, blogs, social media posts, that doesn’t explicitly promote a brand, but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services. Um, so generally speaking, content marketing is about producing something that isn’t necessarily a direct promotional piece. But by the fact you’ve produced it, you then create demand around your product. And obviously, you know, inherent within this, a lot of this is about sharing the content rather than pushing it out. And so, it requires people, you know, quite often to look for the content, a lot of content marketers talk about SEO and driving people into the content, through optimising things like blog posts. It seems like a great approach, you know, this, this is something where we can create materials that don’t have to be too salesy to promotional, and they’ll magically help sell our product. So let’s have a look and see, you know, whether that’s the case and the way we do that is, firstly, by picking out some examples of where people have perhaps done particularly well, or particularly badly, in our opinion in content marketing.

We’re going to start off with some of the good pieces of content marketing, and pick some examples that maybe you already know, that illustrate you know, how people can do things either very creatively, or more importantly, in a way that absolutely helps their customers. And this is a thing we’ll come back to is content marketing, helping people is an incredibly important element of content marketing This, this, resolving problems or helping people do their job is key to good content marketing. Sometimes, however, you can just be creative. A company called Midwich, they started a campaign where they just started promoting a QR code and didn’t say what it was people didn’t know, it just created some interest around the QR code. What it did, was the QR code led to their blog. So you can be very creative, very different, and you can spark interest. And people who wouldn’t be customers probably wouldn’t be exposed. So by definition, you’re targeting people who would be relevant to you, as a company, and you’re just trying to spark curiosity. And I think, you know, I certainly would be keen on scanning that QR code, if it was a company I was familiar with or buying from, and I just didn’t know what it was, there is that level of intrigue, and I think creativity can be a very important part of content marketing. But obviously, ultimately, that blog is only going to work if the content of the blog is valuable to the reader.

Now I think we need to look at, you know, perhaps, you know, some examples of creating value for customers. So, if we look at perhaps, you know, one of the best known content marketing campaigns, Whiteboard Friday, which was created by Moz, they, they’re in a market, which is the search engine optimization market, that is very rapidly changing. So, there’s a need to keep up with information and understand what’s going on, and what you can do is every Friday, you can look at the MAS Whiteboard Friday. And if you do that, every week, you will be up to date, you will be a search engine optimization specialist, who will know most of the information you need to know. So it’s great, it pretty much is an ongoing training course. And it will tell you everything behind, you know, search engine optimization from, you know, how ranking factors are created through to how you can use machine learning to improve search engine optimization. So it covers a wide range of topics, it’s not a structured course, by any means. They’re picking out topics that either speakers are interested in, or alternatively, that are particularly topical. And then they then using these to drive visits to the website. And actually, frankly, a huge number of people working in SEO, use most tools, whether that’s purely because of Whiteboard Friday, or partly because of the quality of the tools, hard to say, but Whiteboard Friday has been a key thing. And certainly Rand Fishkin, who founded Moz, he was a key force behind Whiteboard Friday, seen as the face of Moz. And it was a great example of content marketing, working extremely well. Search Engine Optimization actually provides a lot of great examples. So, you don’t have to provide content, whether that’s a video or a blog post to help people. Sometimes you can provide tools. And a lot of search engine optimization professionals struggle with grouping keywords together. It’s a really painful manual process if you do it yourself. So this has been recognized by a lot of companies and they have taken the idea of clustering keywords and built tools to do it. So, they’re clustering together, keywords that are related to each other. This massively speeds up the SEO process in the early stages. There’s a number of companies that do it. And clearly, what you want to do is have people start using the free tool, and then ultimately migrate through to using your paid offering. And this is exactly what SEO scout is trying to do with their keyword grouping and clustering. So it’s a completely free tool. If you Google, it’s one of the first results, you start using it, you begin to think this is pretty good. It’s working well for me, it’s saving time and then you’re much more likely to choose to buy the product, the paid product. So, using tools is a great example.

Lastly, sometimes, content marketing is much more about creating the image for your brand. And so if we look at this, where we’ve seen Dell, for example, working with the Girl Scouts of America to promote STEM education, then this is certainly something that is not only going to raise the profile of Dell, a lot of potential Dell purchases will have children and they may be girls and the Girl Scout organization but also it creates a very positive view of the company. as well. So, they’re building blog posts talking about educating people around technology. And educating children around technology, which is great content, people want to understand that, particularly got children, you want to see what’s going on. But it’s also creating a great image for the company. So what we want to say is there is no one particular approach. For content marketing, it can be a blog post, it can be a video, it could be a tool that people use that has, you know, some software engineering behind it. There are all sorts of content marketing, it’s all about finding the right content for your customer.

Now, of course, there’s some examples of bad content marketing, and interestingly, this was the easy bit when we looked for examples of bad content marketing, we could have filled multiple webinars with content marketing campaigns, that people within Napier felt weren’t great. So, we’ve tried to look at you know, perhaps some of the mistakes that were perhaps less expected. So, one of them and I know Hannah was particularly keen on this is MailChimp. MailChimp decided to offer video content in a channel called MailChimp presents. And basically, you know, what happens if you sign up that you can be inundated with content from MailChimp, and it’s really hard to know what to look at. And it’s very hard to find content that’s relevant to you, because it’s so broad. So MailChimp, great idea, really good execution in terms of the website, just too much content, you know, frankly, trying too hard. So, you know, one of the lessons we can learn from this is that it’s not just about volume of content, it’s also very much about quality as well. And actually, curating content is as important as creating it. Content needs to be something that is honest and truthful as well.

So Intel, they launched the 11th generation core processors, and they had a press release in a press launch that talks about how amazing these products were. And we had words like unleashed unmatched best in class. And in fact, 18 separate references to the world’s best. We also had a rider which was the fine print, which basically said that they may have tweaked the performance test to make their processes look better than any other processor manufacturers. So you’ve created this content, you’ve created this expectation, and then you’ve put in this caveat that, yeah, maybe we’ve we’ve cheated a bit, maybe we’ve pushed a little too far, and we’ve optimised for our processes, not for anyone else, it could still be that those Intel microprocessors are the best processes for laptops. But the fact that the campaign had so many caveats attached to the performance metrics, actually devalued because a number of commentators pointed to this fine print, and basically highlighted the fact that, you know, you couldn’t really trust the claims, because there were so many caveats. If you’re going to make claims particularly aggressive, best in the world cap claims, make them clear, make them simple, don’t try and, you know, cheat your way to the top, or even appear that you’re cheating your way to the top.

The third example is a very interesting one. I’m sure everyone remembers this Tesla cybertruck event, super futuristic truck being launched by Elan musk that, you know, was positioned as basically indestructible. And, of course, Elan broke the windows, the windows, in fact, it can shatter. So they they actually remained pretty much intact. You just had the crazing of the window where the stones attacked. It’s an interesting discussion, you know, did this actually raise the profile of the cybertruck? Because all the news outlets, were talking about the failure, which some commentators put out as being a very good thing, or was the fact that maybe the claims about the ruggedness and robustness of the cyber truck, you know, perhaps a little overhyped was that a negative that that was shown up, and it’s a really difficult thing to, to pick between the two, the two options. So I think again, with content you know, sometimes content might work for some people, and perhaps doesn’t work for others. And certainly, I think, you know, the Elan musk fanboys pretty much didn’t care that the window shattered whereas the people who were, you know, anti Tesla, perhaps were the ones who immediately jumped on this as a disaster. I think, you know, ideally, they would have preferred that the rocks bounced off, and the demo worked as intended. But that didn’t happen. And probably, you know, ultimately did lead to some question marks about whether other claims around the product were equally questionable.

So, you can see, there’s lots of ways that we can create great content. There are also ways that you can create content that maybe doesn’t work. What we’re now going to ask is actually content marketing as a tactic does it work, I mean, the promise of content marketing, you create the content, people then come and read the content and suddenly want to buy your product or your service is fantastic. But let’s have a look and see, you know, whether it really is true or not. So, the first thing to say is, I’m sorry, but people don’t read your content. And there was a study done, it was done back in 2008, which said that typically visitors read only 20% of your webpage. Similar studies have got, you know, vaguely similar results. But, there hasn’t been a huge amount of research, this is probably the one that is quoted most often. And I think, you know, most people feel that attention spans have fallen in the last 12 years. So perhaps people are reading less than 20%. So the first thing to say is when you create content, people are not going to read it if it’s written content. And that is just human nature, that’s not something you’re going to change, it is going to be a problem. So you need to make sure you design your content for the people who don’t read the whole web page. And we like to call these people the skimmers. So you’ve got to think about people who are not going to read every word, but just want to pick out the information that’s important. The other thing is when we look at traffic, just over a third of traffic on the on the internet, is actually bot traffic is not humans, it’s not people reading, it’s people wanting to index content, maybe find prices from other companies, things like that. And actually 25% of internet traffic is what imperia in their bad bot report called Bad bots. This is bots trying to steal data, like for example, pricing information. So for a start, we may see traffic, that’s not real traffic is not humans. We also create content that’s not used. In fact, serious decisions claim that the majority of marketing content is created is never used, which is a brave claim. But we’ve certainly seen a lot of content created that perhaps hasn’t been used as well as it has. And the other thing is, even when you see humans interact, you see someone sharing content on social media, you know, this is amazing. Someone has clearly read your post, they think it’s amazing. They’re placing their own endorsement by sharing the content. Actually, no, if you look on social media, research shows the majority of links have never been clicked. So the person sharing the content has never actually read the content. And clearly, if the person sharing isn’t going to read, then people seeing that share are unlikely to read as well, they may read the headline, but that’s about it. So there’s lots of reasons not to feel optimistic about content marketing.

But actually, sometimes it works. And we can produce examples, you know, even at Napier, where we’ve had phone calls, from companies we haven’t talked to before, and the marketing manager said to us, you know, I received your email newsletter every month, I find it really useful. I’ve never really talked to you about anything. But now I need an agency, and we’ve literally had wins of clients purely through the newsletter without any other internet interaction. So content marketing does sometimes work. But content marketing only works when you do the right things. You know, so the first thing to say is generating content is not the goal. Many people think it’s all about, you know, getting content out and particularly about volume of content. It’s certainly not the case. There was a study a little while ago that Microsoft did, where they found that in any given year, the majority of their web pages were not actually read by human. So humans only read a minority of the web pages on So volume is not the key, it’s quality. And it’s not just quality. It’s variety. It’s not just white papers, and obviously white papers tend to be the favorite content marketing tool. In business, business tech, but actually a variety of content is really important. And we’ll talk a little bit about that later with some recommendations. And lastly, the truth is engagement often is fairly low with content. Quite often you’ll create content, and people just won’t love it. But what you’ve got to remember is the purpose is creating some content that’s going to help potential customers. And if you create content that will help potential customers, then ultimately, you should be driving new customers through your content. And if you’re measuring customers, and not volume of content, you’re then able to look at you know, whether you’re getting a return on investment, and that really is important.

So how do we create content that really works? You know, we’ve talked about not just focusing what we shouldn’t do, we shouldn’t just focus on volume. But there are some, you know, really good guides as to how to create content that will work. And the first thing to remember is, this isn’t easy. You’ve got to produce something that is relevant and relevant for the people you’re trying to address your audience your personas, they’ve got to see it at the right time, they’ve got to be interested in it. And if it bores them, it really isn’t going to work. And to be able to do all that you’ve got to choose the right format, the right content and the right channel. So, content marketing is tough. And the way to go about it is to think about everything from your customer’s point of view. So when we look at the solution, we’re looking very much at our personas that we’ve defined, and also our customer journeys we’ve developed. So you know, as an example, we have a persona, we talk about a neighbour called new technology Nicola, which reflects a marketer, who is very keen on applying martech to their campaigns. And typically, they’re very digitally orientated. And quite often, they’re very driven by metrics, so creating content for them is very, very clear. That persona would be very different from a persona, perhaps of a PR manager, who would be much more worried about brand, much less worried about, you know, individual stats, and really concerned about things like messaging. So creating content for these two different people would need to be very different. You also need to make sure you deliver the content at the right time. And the only way to do that is mapping your customer journey. And so again, you know, there’s different ways to map in different situations. But if we’re trying to reach someone who already knows, Napier, and is actively looking for a PR agency, we need to find very different content to someone who maybe today does all their PR in house. And from our point of view, perhaps may look for an agency at some point in the future, those two stages in the journey could be exactly the same persona, but they require very, very different content. So think about your customer journey. And also think about what you can achieve if you’re thinking about the top of the funnel, the very early stage of attracting people, and you’re not going to drive sales. Unless you’ve got an incredibly short sales cycle, all you’re going to be able to do is capture content, capture, contact, sorry. Whereas if you’re looking at the bottom of the funnel, where people are about to buy, then clearly there is where you need to measure sales. So it’s not just the content you create, but also the metrics that need to change depending upon what point in the customer journey you’re targeting.

Here’s a great example. YouTube videos are amazing, and particularly how to videos are amazing. I can speak from personal experience, because I was desperate last night to find a video that said that told me how to get enough I’d dropped down the inside of a Ford Fiesta door whilst trying to fit a new wing mirror. And I needed that not I couldn’t finish the job. YouTube came to my rescue told me how to take apart the door and was absolutely amazing. I mean, the consumer world, there’s been so much done in terms of how to videos. And certainly, I think in the b2b world, there is still an opportunity to create more how to videos and prior videos that explain how to achieve things with your product or your service. And the other thing I notice often quoted but it is still very valid is that YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google. And actually, if you’re young and you want to know how to do something YouTube is quite often the only search engine people consider. So, you know, creating content that really fixes a problem is great.

You can also help people do things that are inherently complex. So, we can look at calculators this actually is a fairly simple calculator. But you can create complex calculators. So this will allow you to estimate the life of a battery in terms of hours. But actually, we’ve worked with a project for example, the left you put in the sensor and the microprocessor. And the battery you’re going to use, tell it how much you want to communicate how frequently you want to measure, and it will create an estimate of power consumption from that. So, you can create very complex calculators, these calculators can be incredibly, incredibly useful. One of the facts about the Napier website is that in many months, our highest trafficked page is not our homepage, which is quite unusual for website, most websites, it’s the homepage. But actually, our highest traffic page is a page, which lets you create SMART goals. And all it’s doing is making you fill in some boxes. And then it puts your SMART goal into a sentence. It is really simple. But it is incredibly popular. And clearly a lot of people find value in that. So I think creating calculators is a massively underestimated tool in terms of content marketing. Select to guide a similar thing. And here’s an example where one of our clients have the fantastic idea that if somebody wants to develop using artificial intelligence, and they probably haven’t done it before, and it’s probably new, so they don’t just need to know the products. But they’ll also need to know information about how to use those products. And, and so we worked with a client, which was fine now using their idea to combine both products and also helpful information. And so people put in the application, what sensors they’re using, how they’re connecting, to share the data, and the selector guide, or select not only the best boards for use with the project, but will also provide additional information on perhaps how to use the boards or what to do if you want to use Alexa, as your voice recognition system. So adds extra content in there and enhancing your selector guides by adding useful information is a really helpful thing to do.

So, there’s lots of ways we can create good content. And ultimately, it’s about trust, though, if your audience trust you, then absolutely, your content will be viewed. And this is again, you know, very closely related to my challenges of fixing my son’s Ford Fiesta last night, where every time you look at a YouTube video, you also look at the number of views. And a high number of views gives you that feeling of trust and confidence. And you can also build that trust by giving the audience what they need. So helping them out solving their problem giving them the information. When we talked about content marketing at the start, we did say that content marketing was about pre-creating content that doesn’t directly sell. And certainly we have consistently found that content that doesn’t over promote, absolutely works best. So eliminating that kind of sales pitch is really important. And you need to write for people don’t write for SEO, even though SEO is important to drive people to your content, the contents got to work for the people first. So write content for people and the SEO will take care of itself. And finally, it’s about content marketing, not content production. Please don’t use volume metrics. And where we find people focused on volume, almost always the quality falls. So those are our kind of Five golden rules.

But what we’d like to do is present some tips. So some ideas that hopefully will summarize the webinar and give you some clues as to how you might be able to move forward with a more effective content marketing campaign. So here are five pro tips on content marketing.

So the first thing and hopefully this is not gonna be a surprise. Put yourself in the customers shoes. You’ve got a plan. You’ve got to think about personas, you’ve got to think about the customer journey. And you’ve got to create the content that customer wants. And most importantly, please don’t create content you want, it’s very easy to create content you think is important or you think is relevant. Quite often, you’ll find your customer doesn’t care either because they’re not ready, or they don’t need that information. So really trying to understand what your customer needs and respond to their needs. Rather than thinking more of an image-based campaign where you put out things you feel, make your brand look better.

The next thing to do is think about return on investment. Now, at Napier, we’re really big on focusing on return on investment and ensuring that our clients get value, and also that we get value when we run our own marketing campaigns. So, whenever you’re creating content, you need to understand what you’re aiming for that content to achieve, and how much that goal is worth to you. So it could be generating new leads, where you might compare the value of a lead with the cost of perhaps going to a trade show, and how many leads you might get at a trade show for a certain amount of cost. Or you might look at, you know potential conversion rates, which we do a lot trying to assess what the likely conversion rate is, once we get people to sign up moving through to becoming customers, and how much they’re likely to spend. So always think about return on investment, and that’s a great way to focus your time on the things that are going to add the most value.

Perhaps the best tip, and one of the most important is that titles are the key thing. We’ve already said that most people only read 20% of, of your article. And in fact, a lot of people will only read the headline. But if more interesting HubSpot did some research on content marketing, and they were looking at promoting ebooks. And they looked at all the different factors they could find that they could adjust to try and drive more responses. So more signups for the book. And the single biggest factor was the title of the book, that was the most important thing, it didn’t matter what was in the book, and clearly actually shouldn’t matter. Because that won’t affect conversion, people won’t know what’s in the book until they’ve actually converted. But the content and the layout of a landing page, or indeed an email promoting the book was much less important than the actual title of the book. So titles are really important. And definitely we’d recommend a B testing titles whenever you can, whether that be blog titles, or whether that be titles of ebooks. And obviously, that’s not always easy to do. But it’s something that over a period of time, you should really get a good feel as to what works and what doesn’t.

Format really matters. I’m here, I mean, the pro tip is really simple. Take a number of white papers, put them together, call it an ebook, and I guarantee that you will have a higher signup rate than you would have done for any of the white papers. It’s very interesting moment, we’re finding ebooks that providing a comprehensive guide seem to be the content that people are very keen to sign up to. And it’s probably because the quality is consistently good. Whereas, you know, to be honest, there’s some poor quality white papers out there. But really think about the best format. And it doesn’t have to be written format. Again, you know, if you look at Moz with our whiteboard Fridays, although they do publish the transcript, well, that’s mainly for SEO. It’s really all about the video. And with them, it’s not just about the video. But it’s also really about the format of video, it’s someone standing in front of a whiteboard. And so it’s very consistent, very familiar. And we strongly recommend you experiment with formats and find the right format.

I’ve mentioned skimmers before, and these people aren’t going to read all your article, but you’ve got to love them. So firstly, write something where the length reflects what the reader wants, not what the writer wants. Secondly, accept whatever you do to make your content succinct, people won’t read it or they’ll skim read it. So you’ve got to help people find what’s important. Wikipedia is a pretty successful website in the general scheme of things. And all Wikipedia articles tend to have a table of contents. And in fact, Table of Contents becoming more and more important as you put longer and more complex web pages up. So whether it’s a longer blog post, or whether it’s a web page for more information, having a little table of contents at the top will absolutely increase the engagement of readers. The interesting thing as well is not only you helping the reader there, but actually your SEO team will love you because Google also loves table of contents in long articles. So definitely, please think about doing that when you create any content that’s more than a scroll or to a web page.

And finally, and here’s our bonus tip, we always like to give a bonus tip, be brave. Some of our best content marketing results have been achieved by content that is much more fun, much more playful than normal content. And this ranges from a client that talked about customer service in large enterprises, and related it to their local cheese shop, which got them leads from huge companies. They got a lead from British Gas, the biggest potential customer for them in the UK. But also we’ve written content that talks about what supercomputing experts can learn from the England managers actually, Roy Hodgson, I don’t know if anyone knows, but clearly he was a supercomputing expert. We had a great article about what people could learn from Roy Hodgson’s approach to managing England. And it was incredibly successful in the UK, people outside the UK had no clue. They didn’t care about Roy Hodgson. So it was, you know, it’s the England manager, very focused on particular market, very much fun, and very different from what our client would have normally done. But thinking outside of, you know, normally what you do, and differentiating yourself by being prepared to have a bit more fun and enjoy content a bit more, is a really good idea. So we’d strongly recommend being a little bit brave and trying things that maybe appear to be a little different or a little risky.

So, that’s covered, everything I’ve got in terms of the webinar, I’d be really interested in, if anyone’s got any questions, if you’d like to share them in the public chat, that would be ideal.

Okay, I don’t think I’ve got any questions at the moment. But certainly, if anybody would like to contact me, my contact details are on the screen here. So please send me an email, ask me questions. Or simply send me examples of what you think are either really great piece of content marketing, or a terrible content marketing and perhaps we can create some sort of board of the best and the worst that we can share for a bit of fun with the people on the webinar. Thank you very much for listening and look forward to talking to you for the next webinar.