Current marketing wisdom says content should be mapped to buying cycles. Yet according to a study from MarketingProfs and Junta42, 78% of B2B marketers say awareness is an objective of content marketing.
Question: Where is awareness most valuable in the buying cycle?
Answer: Early stage research and creation of a consideration set.
Question: Would it be better if prospects were aware of your company when they started the research process?
Answer: “Well, DUH!”
It is time to step back from planning content for the buying cycle and focus on Stage Zero Content. Stage zero content is intended to establish your brand, your expertise or your perspective in the mind of your target market, when they are not researching or considering solutions. This content is valuable to a far broader audience than even early stage buying cycle content.
Stage zero content is fundamentally different from buying cycle content. Here are five general characteristics of stage zero content.
- No Investment Required. Ways to improve business or reduce cost that require purchasing your product are only valuable when I’m in market.
- Current. Current information is critical when I’m looking to stay abreast of the industry. Noting the launch of Twitter lists today isn’t helpful.
- Original. While there may few real original content opportunities, simply reposting from Mashable or CIO isn’t adding value. You can’t break the news, but you can at least bring a point of view.
- Consumable. All content should be easy to read or consume, but this is critically important for stage zero content, when I don’t have a specific pressing information need I’m hoping your content will address.
- Accessible. Minimize registration, your content, not your followup emails, are intended to drive awareness and perception.
Thought leadership is a viable stage zero approach to content marketing, however it isn’t the only solution. Practical, hands on advice can be appropriate stage zero content. Research can be stage zero content. Even content curation can be the basis for becoming a stage zero content resource.
One company that does an excellent job of providing stage zero content is HubSpot. The tools and research they offer are applicable to their marketing audience, even if they are not looking for a solution. And they have become recognized as a leader not for offering a simple solution, but for offering valuable information.
When I look for information on inbound marketing, I turn to HubSpot, and if I’m looking to work with anyone in the category, HubSpot will be the first company I call.
That is stage zero content. Isn’t that what content needs to do for you?