Guest Blogger: Wendy Sorquist's career has taken her from Target Corporation to small business rocket ships including Chamilia, to owning her own business, giving her a depth of experience and unique perspectives on marketing and go to market strategy. She's worked in a variety of roles including sourcing, product development, marketing, event management, in industries as varied as health food, jewelry, and network marketing, as well as CEO of her own company Pashen where she wore all the hats. In her current role as Director of Marketing for WOODCHUCK USA, she is leading an effort to expand and diversify WOODCHUCKS customer base and channel expansion strategy in B2C, Commercial Interiors and Retail, overseeing initiatives including micro influencers, corporate giftology, and inbound marketing and advertising while keeping a critical focus on strengthening the core B2B business.
As a well versed marketing professional, Wendy Sorquist knows more than just a thing or two about content marketing. As a follow up to her wonderful presentation on the Today's Best Practices panel at the Ecomm Forum, we thought we’d ask her a few questions on how to use content marketing to tell your brand story. Nice person that she is, Wendy agreed to answer them.
How and why is content marketing important for B2B?
The ultimate goal is to drive revenue through meaningful sales and marketing leads. This means being driven by content creation, prioritization, and optimization such as data analysis and automation. Sounds easy right?
Every blog, inbound offer, or newsletter I receive says the same thing: Consistent content is crucial to driving meaningful leads in a B2B driven business model. So if you are in marketing and you are prioritizing content, please take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Content is no longer a buzzword, content is going nowhere, and acknowledging and investing in that is a huge milestone.
How do you incorporate your unique value proposition into your content marketing strategy?
Starting with your value proposition is another way to drive and generate content. At WOODCHUCK USA, we want to be known for connecting people with nature through our ‘Buy One. Plant One.®’ program and products along with our commitment to adventure. Our mission and our WHY are layered into everything we do. Our digital and print pieces, website content, social media and newsletters across all channels are aligned on this. It is the center of our channel matrix. So start with your WHY. We learned early on people don’t buy what you sell, they buy why you do it. Having a brand filter that is refined and clicks on exactly how you want the content to be perceived is crucial. Use this as a checklist when creating content. We call it a brand filter.
Why is it important to share your brand story and what value add does it give prospects and customers?
In 2018, one of our key initiatives was to tell our brand story better, and the impact we are making. Making the commitment, and visualizing this is the first step. This is something that is not going away in 2019 though, rather it has seamlessly integrated into our marketing strategy now. Telling your brand story can be so fun and easy. Look around at any and every asset you have and look at it as an opportunity to tell your story. For people to hear about your story, you must tell it. From your company signature line to emails from customer and buyer journeys.
What can you do? Start by making the commitment to tell our brand story and invest in content. Write your goals on paper so there is accountability and it can be measured. Manifest growing and driving a thought leadership driven approach.
The other thing that was somewhat unexpected, is that through committing to telling our brand story, company morale has actually improved. This was an unintended and beautiful consequence. Each Monday, we meet as a team as highlight the cool stories that emerged from the week, the most incredible jobs we did that week, and the impact we made through our own ‘Buy One. Planet One.®’ program and reflecting on the meaningful partnerships we’ve formed with other companies. When you reflect on this together, you are better able to visualize the direct impact you as a person has made and more importantly, what you accomplished as a team. It feels like living out your WHY in real time. That is how and why WOODCHUCK USA is prioritizing content.
How can you use content marketing to generate brand awareness?
Map out the three phases of the decision making process to catch buyers. In the different phases of this decision making process, you will become a thought leader in providing content that is both useful and necessary in order to make a decision. Then pump out content and maximize the deployment of each piece. Ensure you can measure the conversions so over time you can see your leads increasing. It’s less about YOUR brand, and more about people finding you because you provided them with something useful, in the form of information.
If you are being asked to write blogs, participate in panels, be a thought leader in your community and industry then you know you are doing something right. The added bonus of PR comes very naturally with thought leadership. And then you have some natural content for your social channels. They all feed together for the good, ultimately driving sales. See, easy right! So define what it is you want people to think of your brand when it comes up and drive that through content. Be aware of your brand story and the unique value proposition you bring to the table. Focus on the use case so that your content is naturally driving sales, in a completely organic way.
How does a small marketing team best allocate their time and resources when it comes to content marketing?
The bottom line is we need to be executing a high amount of content. There is no way around it, each day, I challenge you to stretch yourselves beyond your limits to check things off of the prioritized content queue. No one person is a content expert, but we can research, write, and understand our customer better by being relevant to them.
Hiring an intern that strictly writes totally saved us, and helped us prioritize and force content generation through a consistent and dedicated part-time resource. Content is usually the first thing to slip through the cracks during a busy week, so finding ways to prioritize (force prioritize) can be useful.
What are your top resources when it comes to content creation and coming up with unique ideas?
Tap into things within your reach. At WOODCHUCK USA, more than any other company, I’ve learned to maximize everything, most importantly, partnerships. This plays into our content generation in so many ways. Tapping into this audience is a resource for content creation that has proven to be very lucrative for our team in driving testimonials, case study opportunities, and telling the organic story of our partnership and the impact we have together. Partner with your evangelists and best customers to tell your stories together. Be sure to highlight the end use case. Go above and beyond to include your partners. Spend the extra 10 seconds to do a post right by tagging every last possible partner or trade off writing and featuring each other in blogs, social posts, etc.
Talk to your customers, the UX is unavoidable, however, you slice it, talking to customers is absolutely essential in beginning this process and really valuable if you want a matching and seamless customer journey. Lead them through this experience first-hand, nurturing them along the way with meaningful, customized content. Layer in the answers to all of their questions, really naturally while playing up on your value proposition. But in order to know what they want, need, desire…..you have to talk to them.
What's the biggest challenge small businesses face in content marketing over the coming years?
In my role, everything we do starts with the ROI or analysis on how this will convert more or drive revenue which requires building a business that converts inbound to revenue. Getting resources in place to drive content isn’t the easiest because when you make the commitment to drive content, it is a slow growth. Investing in content can be tricky as the ROI isn’t immediate. And convincing an executive team to add resources for content creation is almost impossible.
What's your best piece of advice when it comes to telling your brand story?
Be authentic and make sure your brand story is buttoned up and that each person on your team knows how to tell the brand story seamlessly. Practice your elevator pitch and listen to your team members practice. Tell it everywhere you go. Be your own brand advocate. Driving authenticity can be as easy as looking around you. What cool things are you doing for company culture, tap into your team members and play off of other people’s ideas. Create an environment where no idea is a dumb idea.
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