In this article, Janine Pares from Thinksmart Marketing shares her insights and best practices to implement successful content marketing campaigns for B2B brands and win more customers. We’ll cover:
- Q: Can you introduce yourself and share with our audience your inspiration for getting into digital marketing and content marketing?
- Q: What are you doing to bring the most value to your clients?
- Q: What is special about thinksmartmarketing that makes it stand out?
- Q: Regarding the long-term content marketing strategy and planning, how do you advise companies to do that?
- Q: Have you ever encountered resistance on the client-side because maybe they don’t understand it? What do you do to educate your clients to onboard this long-term strategy?
- Q: Can you share with us your process of qualifying quality content? How do you make sure that the quality of the content is good?
- Q: Do you hire writers or marketers outside your agency to help you create content?
- Q: What do you think most writers miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
- Q: What is your advice for startups to do content marketing effectively from the beginning?
Q: Can you introduce yourself and share with our audience your inspiration for getting into digital marketing and content marketing?
My name is Janine Pares, and I’m the founder and managing director of thinksmartmarketing. We’re known as TSM. We’re a growing b2b content marketing agency specializing in content strategy, creativity, and performance that fuels the customer journey.
Particularly for those b2b brands and b2b businesses, where the customer journey is quite long and quite elongated and complex. That’s a space we understand well, and because of that, content plays very well in that space, of course. It’s a core killer of many of theb2b content marketing strategies that these brands require to go to market.
I’ve been in content marketing for about 25 years now, so I guess it’s been more of an evolution for us versus an aha moment or a realization that content is a big piece. It’s strategically placed absolutely within the foundations of any content marketing strategy.
So strategically, the approach has been around for years and years. Even though practically, the term content marketing is coined over the last ten years ago.
Using content as a format to bring to life a lot of the strategies and objectives that b2b brands have always had growing thought leadership—then having an impact in the market, creating credibility, and doing all those things that ultimately drive demand and influence.
Q: What are you doing to bring the most value to your clients?
It varies based on clients; most of our clients are large enterprise customers. We work with b2b buyers across the Asia Pacific, so they’re not small companies. They’ve got established brands, but not all of them are known in the market because they’re b2b companies.
They might be enterprises, but you don’t use their service or product unless you’re a CEO. So what we do to get started and often where we are engaged is at the strategic level content marketing campaigns.
Typically, clients have a couple of issues that they’re looking to navigate, and one is always constantly needing to drive more demand and drive more leads and grow acquisition targets to fuel their sales quotas. At the same time, the other one is distinguishing itself in an increasingly cluttered marketplace.
So regardless of the end outcome, we look to start understanding who are the audiences? How are they currently engaged? What’s that competitive landscape they sit within, and what are they now doing in the market driving success?
If we think about that whole end-to-end journey, where are the parts of the journey that they see the friction points? Where do things work pretty well, and do those things help us understand where to start business content marketing?
Because content marketing, as you know is such a broad area. There are so many things to cover in content marketing strategy, and so many impacts on what can influence marketing strategy, so it’s essential to understand what’s working well, accentuate that and identify the friction points to prioritize the marketing strategy.
Because ultimately, it’s the small incremental improvements that we make along a very long journey that result in an output. Often, even for large organizations with well-known brands, how do we review the positioning?
How do we create competitive, compelling, and creative positions in the market that help that brand start applying even because it’s so competitive? How do we say something slightly different as b2b marketers, and how do we present our clients differently from the way everyone else has been?
How do we align the client’s value with the audience’s need, and where’s that piece in the middle? How do we kind of concentrate the efforts around that middle of b2b content strategy so that we can build credibility and thought leadership while also smoothing out that sales process as we go along?
We often run customer journey mapping sessions and workshops with a collective team with customer input. We build personas. We develop b2b content and do b2b email marketing.
All of those things, but the end outcome is to try and identify competitive opportunities, identify friction points, and identify moments where we can create, whether it’s content sales enablement material or not.
Whatever the outputs are required to essentially fuel that journey, make it run more smoothly and shorten it if possible. So they are the things that we tried to focus on in the b2bcontentmarketingstrategy.
Q: What is special about thinksmartmarketing that makes it stand out?
Because we have the experience in the b2b content marketing, we’ve got the years back that up, but we have a firm commercial focus coming from the business team that has come through corporate. We’re predominantly a senior team who have a bit of an octic team, so ex-agency people are part-x corporate people.
Because of that, I think what we bring is a unique perspective and the ability to understand the problem very quickly. It’s not just about making something look incredible and having a big sort of PR splash.
It’s actually about what’s going to drive effectiveness into content and strategy, and so constantly moderating what we present and talk to a client about is what’s commercially viable? What makes sense and why and how do we take a big idea and scale it down so that it meets budgets and meets a political constraint or whatever the case?
I think that kind of commercial acumen is quite important, and indeed, I know that clients appreciate that, and they understand that we get their business, we get what’s important to them. We are often used to assisting with that process; ultimately, our key clients become an extension of their team for us so we backfill roles for them.
We act as an extension of their marketing arm so that we build that level of trust and IP around their business that we’re trusted to manage.
Other agencies on their behalf or manage end-to-end projects, brief things into global, and it’s that trust and that confidence that we build with clients. That probably separates us from others.
Q: Regarding the long-term content marketing strategy and planning, how do you advise companies to do that?
Most people now know that it is a long game, and there are no shortcuts. I think it’s important to balance that with just getting started with something.
So I think having a plan or informed b2b content marketing strategy, even if it’s not an in-depth strategy, is taking the time upfront to consider a few critical pieces; make sure it aligns with the business objectives and the audience’s needs, and then use that to guide the execution of b2b marketing.
I think it’s good just to get started with your marketing strategy, but some people are concerned about marketing because they don’t have the budget or they don’t have the time, or they don’t have the support to get a great program off the ground.
That’s typically the case but what you can do is get started with a small pilot test, learn and grow over time. As you begin to get some of those successes, you can then build the confidence in the business to invest further because the reality is it does take time.
It can take a minimum of 9 to 12 months to see any impact, particularly for complex sales processes.
Q: Have you ever encountered resistance on the client-side because maybe they don’t understand it? What do you do to educate your clients to onboard this long-term strategy?
Our clients are typically marketers, so most marketers understand that, but it could be more struggling in smaller businesses and people who don’t have a marketing background. And obviously, seeing success from others and, I guess, assuming that that’s happened quickly, while there may have been several years of hard work before the success emerges.
So I think it’s just helping them understand how it works, how the different channels work, how even the algorithms work, particularly at an organic level, and why it takes time to see some of that success.
I guess helping them better understand my earlier point on how to measure success? So success isn’t only about a sale. That’s not the only form of success. Other pieces need to happen ahead of a sale that leads us towards that and help them understand that you can expect to see this sort of reward with this level of effort.
But if you want to accelerate your reward, then we need to massively accelerate the effort and maybe prop that up with other activities. So that we’re running a prom program, it’s not just content marketing. We’re running media campaigns and doing some other things to get that success until the organic piece builds up over time.
Q: Can you share with us your process of qualifying quality content? How do you make sure that the quality of the content is good?
The reality is we’re not always in control of the content, mainly where things are coming down from global or other regions. It exists and mandated that you need to use it or the client provides the content, and we don’t always choose that.
Our focus is always on creating the content ourselves, and that way, we have much more control. That’s easier, but we’re the other case. We pride ourselves on doing it, for instance, if we’re running a campaign.
We’re leveraging content to run a campaign; it’s about saying okay, what do we have available in that bank of assets that fits and works in terms of the key messaging we’re trying to push in the market, in terms of the audience that we’re trying to attract and if it works how do we align those two pieces and if not, what alterations does the content need to make it work well.
We go back to the client, and we make recommendations. Sometimes it’s as simple as we just need to change the title of this thing and change the synopsis or change the creative to align. Sometimes we need to add sections to address a key pain point or address a critical audience.
Q: Do you hire writers or marketers outside your agency to help you create content?
Sometimes, it depends on the subject matter. We have in-house writers, but sometimes we hire outside writers. We’ve got a bank of specialist subject matter expert writers.
So if we’re talking about a technical issue related to financial fraud and compliance that needs an expert writer, or if we’re talking about more technical content with cloud migration, we use our specialist writers because they have that subject matter expertise.
They bring a level of understanding to the audience, and we’re communicating typically to senior stakeholders in the market; C-suite. So you do need to have a level of expertise in the content, so we have a pool of specialist writers that we can bring on, but we, of course, have our in-house writers.
Q: What do you think most writers miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
I guess it’s not just the writer because if we are bringing in a specialist writer, that person’s job is to run the interview and get the material and write it but actually, it’s our job to do everything else.
As an agency to understand the client and decipher the brief? What are we trying to communicate here? What’s the outcome, and what’s the goal? Be very clear about that needs. To be communicated very clearly to the writer, it’s not the writer’s job to do that. It’s our job to do that.
So we take full responsibility for the quality and the output. We’re using the writer as a subject matter expert to draw out the key points. So it’s not a one-person job.
Q: What is your advice for startups to do content marketing effectively from the beginning?
I guess my point earlier is to start with a plan. It’s important to, before execution, just allocate some budget, some time, and it doesn’t need to be a considerable amount, but there needs to be something allocated just to work out what needs to be done.
Because that saves a lot of time and cost in the long run because it aligns everyone, it aligns the stakeholders as well in the business, so that’s really where we start. Every business is very different, so it’s difficult to give you a shopping list of recommendations because the recommendation is different depending on their context.
What are they trying to do? What are their time frames? What are the particular challenges? But ultimately, it all boils down to your audience and the market where you play. If we know it, we can craft something that will have the best chance of success, and then we can identify the appropriate cadence and frequency and formats and all those sorts of things.