We are a fan of content hubs, low branded thought leadership web publications as a place for consumer and influencer engagement. Ian Truscott shares his experience and if you are interested in engaging your influencers and prospective clients by building a content hub, we can help – get in touch.
What is a Content Hub?
My definition of a content hub is a corporate sponsored web property, styled like a magazine or blog that has a firm editorial policy with a focus on being useful (or maybe entertaining) for the target audience for their product or service.
It is a place for the curation and creation of relevant content, from multiple authors that supports the brand’s point of view, market category or the business practice and problems that the company is focused on. Then building a community around that.
Some B2B content hub examples:
The big guys:
- Adobe’s CMO.com: http://cmo.com
- SAP’s Digitalist Magazine: https://www.digitalistmag.com/
- IQ by Intel: https://iq.intel.com/
- Think Progress by Lenovo: http://www.think-progress.com/
And the not so big guys:
- Small Biz Ahead – http://sba.thehartford.com/ – a content hub by an insurance company, The Hartford, focused on small businesses
- Connected Aviation Today – https://connectedaviationtoday.com/ – by Collins Aerospace, focused on the aviation industry
Why is building a community so important?
According to Gartner the number of people involved in B2B purchases is increasing and currently sits at around 7. If we also consider the fractured journey buyers take, the network of people inside and outside an organization that influence a buying decision, it really does take a village to make a B2B buying decision.
Beyond the buyers network, the power of this community for a B2B marketer is essential for building credibility, to be considered relevant in the conversation around a business challenge or category.
The challenge today, if you are not building a community around your point of view, or demonstrating thought leadership in the category you market to, someone else is building a community around theirs.
Where does a Content Hub sit in the B2B marketing mix?
As you can read here, I have three objectives for marketing, to create Awareness, Revenue and Trust (ART) and the role the content hub plays is to create Awareness and Trust with this community of buyers and influencers, as the content hub sits at the top of the funnel, in the early stage nurture.
To build awareness the content needs to useful, easy to share, subscribe to and like. The quality of the content through the editorial policy, the way it is generously presented without the hard sell, gains trust and an association with thought leadership in this category.
Once you’ve built an audience, you can then consider the content hub as any other part of your paid media mix and advertise on it. But, to preserve the trust and credibility that has been built, there must be a clear separation in the content hub experience and the lead generation activities, not least for data protection legislation.
In the meantime, the hub needs to inspire, educate and ignite the buyer to think about the problem and associate the company providing it with the solution.
How do you overcome the resistance to corporate content?
There is a barrier to this audience engaging with traditional corporate content marketing, like the corporate blog.
The consumer or influencer is sceptical and sensitive of being sold to and has a reluctance in the early stages of a customer’s journey to commit to showing an interest in a product or service. This barrier prevents them from engaging and this audience will quickly bounce.
This challenge is even more acute when trying to build reach and awareness through the audience sharing content. Sharing demonstrates not just an interest in the topic, but a personal, public advocacy of the content and therefore the products and services of the brand.
For someone to share content, it has to be aligned with the consumers own point of view and how they want to appear in front of their network.
This behaviour creates a friction or a resistance for a marketer when trying to grow awareness, trust and reach with a corporate blog,
With its low branding, a range of contributors and a strong editorial tilted toward being useful, a content hub provides a more neutral, safe space in which to engage this audience of buyers and influencers. The barrier of scepticism and cynicism about engaging with corporate content is lifted and people will engage, like and share the content.
Adobe’s CMO.com has done a fantastic job of this, a content hub they inherited from the acquisition of Omniture. Their community even includes executives from companies that could be considered competitors, who regularly not just read and share the content, but also contribute. The CMO.com community brand has transcended the Adobe commercial association.
What goals should be set for a content hub?
The objective of a content hub is not to drive someone immediately into a sales campaign, to sign-up, register for an event, view a demo or submit their email address. Although, of course, it would be nice if they did.
You have to trust that in due course, when they are ready, they will click through to the corporate website and do the lovely things we want them to.
This may not seem intuitive to other members of the leadership team or your boss, who are conditioned to harvest email address, that I hesitate to call leads.
Oh and when they do click through, in my experience they are way (we saw 3x times) more likely to convert as they have been “warmed”.
Therefore, the first objective of the content hub is to build a consistent, longer term engagement until this buyer is ready to act.
The second objective is to build influence and credibility within the buyer’s community. The content hub becomes the centre of a community of not just potential buyers, but the people that influence them.
Therefore the goals for the content hub need to be built around awareness, engagement, sharing and targets you have set for an influencer marketing program, in terms of who is interacting with and sharing your content.
This is a sustained long game, not about instant results, depending on industry, topic and (frankly) budget it will take several months to gain any traction, but once established and the community builds, the results follow.
What’s the editorial tone?
One of the joys of a Content Hub is that it gives you permission to take a slightly different tone from the necessary, more corporate content you need to create in other parts of the content marketing mix.
A content hub enables marketers to tune into the needs and language of their audience and speak to them more directly, without being encumbered by the corporate editorial obligation to sprinkle in the salesy words, the industry language or the product features.
This shift in tone is important, as the audience for a content hub will be slightly different from the corporate website or other marketing campaign activities. You will want your content hub to be a fairly broad church, welcoming not just potential buyers and influencers of those buyers, but also the influencers of influencers, the sharers in your industry category.
This audience will care even less about your acronyms, business shorthand, industry in-jokes and the detail of a solution. Their passion is the topic.
If you build a trusted, authoritative content hub, Google is increasingly going to love you as it evolves to reward the good content.
Create a content hub, engage your crowd and provide a safe space to meet influencers and buyers.
If you are interested in building a content hub – get in touch.