5 Things I Learnt about Content Marketing at LinkedIn in 2018
December 23, 2018
I’ve been leading Content Marketing for LinkedIn in APAC for a year. It’s been a jam-packed-learn-at-speed-do-at-pace-steep-learning-curve kind of experience. So I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the things I’ve picked-up along the way.
1. Think Valid Business Reason, Win and Result First
One of the first rules you learn as journalist is to put the audience and their interests at the heart of everything you create. And now as a content marketer, when I’m asked what makes great content, I’ve usually responded with “put your audience first.”
After a year at LinkedIn, I’ve come to realize that what I was really trying to say was don't crow bar your products, services or brand into everything you write; don’t let your mission get in the way of what the audience cares about. And while this still holds true, it doesn’t help others create great content. So what does work?
A surprising source of inspiration came from a recent partnership with Tim MacCartney, APAC MD for the Miller Heiman Group (MHG). Tim was explaining to me MHG’s sales methodology, and I was instantly taken with how the same approach could be applied to Content Marketing.
MHG’s methodology starts with identifying three key points before any pitching for business can begin. A Valid Business Reason, a Win and a Result are all ways to understand your audiences’ interests and needs, and if you can find all three and create content that encompasses them, you will inevitably “put your audience first.”
Valid Business Reason (VBR): Something that gives your potential buyer [or audience] a reason to spend their valuable time with you.
A VBR accomplishes two major goals:
- It gives the potential customer information she/he/they need(s) in order to understand exactly who you are and why you want to meet; and
- It establishes a common foundation, so that when you do meet you can concentrate on understanding the customer’s Win-Result Concept.
Win: According to MHG, a Win is the fulfilment of your buyer’s own personal goals. Winsare always subjective, and they are different for every buyer.
Result: The Result is the measurable impact that a product or service has on your customer’s business. Results are objective, and they tell you what is important to each buying influence.
So how can a sales methodology be applied to B2B Content Marketing?
VBR: The topic or theme that you have expertise in.
Win: Does my content help someone excel in their job?
Result: Does my content talk to the same KPIs that my audience is measured against?
This framework is a really great way of ensuring your content puts the audience first and makes it far easier to pursue “good” or “usable” content over another vacuous contribution to the digital noise.
TOP TIP: To assess whether you’re on to a content winner why not share your concept with a few members of your sales team and ask them to identify a VBR, WIN and RESULT. If they can quickly point to all three, you’re heading in the right direction.
Of course, you’ll also need to think about how to say it. Is a video, joke, meme or article — and the context in which it’s delivered — the best way to share this information with your audience?
It’s working for us at LinkedIn. We try hard to put our audiences’ aspirations above our desire to sell them something. In the B2B context, its far more valuable to think about how our expertise can help people succeed in their jobs, than focus on extolling the virtues of our products.
2. Your Content Can Connect the Entire Business
My talented colleagues in the US recently did a study with the Content Marketing Institute into the role content plays in connecting sales and marketing teams.
If the sales team doesn’t know which content is available and how it maps to the buying cycle, they won’t know when and how to use it. And as much as 80% of marketing content can go unused by the sales team.
On the other hand, when marketing and sales is tightly aligned, the sales team understands when and how content should be used. A highly aligned sales and marketing team can mean a bigger content budget. According to the CMI/LinkedIn survey, 61% of content marketers in highly aligned organizations expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2018.
Here are more ways content can connect a business:
3. You Don't Have to be a Big MNC or Have Deep Pockets
Did you know that our entire content marketing team for two very different lines of business at LinkedIn globally is just 12 people. We look like this:
Maybe that seems a lot to you, but in APAC there’s just two of us, George and myself. We cover more than 10 countries and are a valuable source of lead generation for two business lines in this part of the world.
Even though I’m one of the first people to extol the power of localization, we just can’t commit to producing bespoke content for every country.
Instead we look for ways to leverage global research and content. To do this we partner closely with our counterparts in NAMER and EMEA to embed the APAC view from conception.
We work with our local sales teams to find those nuances that help give our content a local flavor and surface them with our colleagues at a global level. This begins at the planning stage so that we can share APAC concerns (or remove too many American references) from the get-go. This means that we’re not using Kim Kardashian as a cultural reference for people who have absolutely no idea who she is (yep, her cult following doesn’t extend beyond Western borders) or as I prefer to say we don’t serve American roasted peanuts to a country that would prefer satay. We still serve peanuts we just need to localize the dish!
Being a team of one for so long, should have been lonely and quite boring but in fact it’s been so much fun. It’s the fun factor that actually makes content interesting. Our own research shows that humour has the greatest impact on engaging APAC audiences (outside of Japan). So I’m not afraid to keep laughing and looking for ways to inject a bit of fun into my day. There’s a reason my “WALK UP” song is Everything is Awesome.
Above: Trying a traditional Chinese wine in Dali, with Xiaodan Zhou
5. Collaboration is How You Make Blockbusters
The quickest path to failure is to create content in a vacuum. If you want to achieve a successful outcome, talk to your sales team, marketers and leadership as soon as you can. Get them involved from the beginning of the story, bring them along the journey and they will be so much more invested in it, plus they’ll kindly point out the messaging that doesn’t work or is less relevant.
On that note, I want to say a huge thanks to a long list of people, across a number of functions, that have made this year exceptional. Lucia Peyrot, Danielle Uskovic, Keith Richey, Jason Miller, Megan Golden, Christina O’Conner, Jane Fleming, Alex Rynne, Sean Callahan, Steve Kearns, Amanda Bulat, Puneet Nagpal, Xiaodan Zhou, Ruiqi He, Caroline Yam, Molly Doell, Krutika Sri Krishna, Eugene Yeo, Michele Tan, Charlee Sharples, Assaf Tarnopolsky, Sammy Elzab, Mukkul Dasgupta, Mac Witmer, Alyce Erikson, Orla Walton, Siobhan Waters, Cassandra Clark, Michelle Blondin, Gwyneth Tan, Julia Leong, Ananya Ganguli, Jacs Wallace, Tim MacCartney and Alex Park.
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