Let’s start with the good news: According to “B2B Content 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends,” 89% of B2B organizations are using content marketing and 62% report being much more or somewhat more successful with their overall content marketing approach compared to last year.
Now, the not-so-good news: Nearly half (49%) do not have a content strategy. That’s problematic because the most successful B2B content marketers have a clear strategy.
Just as having an overall marketing plan is key to success, developing a content strategy provides an important framework for achieving your company’s goals. Creating and delivering content without a strategy is a bit like playing darts while blindfolded – you might get lucky and hit the target or you might take someone’s eye out!
Developing a content strategy is not simple – it requires research, input from employees and customers, knowledge of your company’s overall marketing initiatives, and some serious brainstorming – which is why so many organizations are operating without one, especially smaller companies that may lack the resources.
However, any company, big or small can develop a content strategy by following these steps:
- Develop detailed buyer personas. This is always the first step in creating content because you can’t produce relevant, valuable information without knowing who your audience is, what they’re interested in and what their pain points are. You can get a clear picture of your buyers through website analysis, keyword searches, employee feedback, customer surveys and even competitive analysis. Once you know who your audience is, you’re ready for step two.
- Focus on creating content for your audience, not your brand! A successful content strategy answers your buyers’ questions (what are they searching for?); addresses their issues/concerns; and attempts to solve their problems. It is not promotional! Think about how your content can impact buyers at every step of the journey, from their first engagement with your company, to the final decision-making process. Many companies find it helpful to make a list of “frequently asked questions” and then develop content around each one.
- Make it an ongoing process. If your content marketing efforts consist of a “one and done” email blast or the occasional post, you’re not engaging and building an audience, and you’re certainly not guiding buyers along the path to your door. While 91% of B2B marketers still rate email as the most important channel to deliver content, the most successful content marketers are using marketing automation to create targeted, consistent campaigns. Meanwhile, 71% are also using LinkedIn to deliver content and 58% include print in their distribution plan. In fact, the average number of channels in B2B content strategies is eight.
- Align your efforts with sales and marketing initiatives. If everyone is rowing in different directions, your boat will never reach its destination (and you’ll probably get seasick in the process). A successful content strategy should be based on your organization’s overall marketing plan and boost sales by generating quality leads. This requires open communication between sales and marketing to determine how a qualified lead is defined; what the process is for following up on leads; what information is key to buyers at each stage of the process; and what type of content would be most helpful to sales reps. For instance, if you’re selling premium parts and price continues to be the biggest obstacle for your sales team, then content that features compelling statistics regarding the true value of using premium parts or case studies that show how quality pays off in the long run can educate potential buyers and assist sales.
- Create your yardstick. No strategy is complete without determining how you will measure success. There is no single or best measurement for content marketing. If the majority of your content is web-based, measurements may include page views, time on site, bounce rate and inbound links. There are also social media metrics such as engagement and reach to consider. Of course, the holy grail of content marketing measurement is lead generation – how many qualified leads are being generated by your content strategy? Rather than focusing on one or two metrics, it’s best to take a comprehensive view.
Once you’ve developed a content strategy, be prepared to change it! That’s right, no plan is cast in stone. At the recent “Content Marketing World 2017,” Mike Weir delivered a presentation entitled “The Future of B2B Marketing,” which outlined emerging trends that may impact your content strategy, such as positioning your company as a thought leader in your industry, focusing on the entire customer experience, making employees your most effective marketers, and the use of artificial intelligence.
Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “that all makes sense, but our company doesn’t have the bandwidth to make it happen,” then consider adopting another industry trend: hiring an agency to help you develop a content strategy and implement a marketing automation platform. It’s an investment that can save you time and money, and make the most of your resources. For more information, download “Why Hire a Marketing Agency” and “Marketing Automation: Why Use an Implementation Specialist.”
Still have questions? If you’d like to talk to a real person about developing a content strategy, please call Jeremy Sterling, Director of Marketing and Certified Pardot Specialist, at 734-546-5434.