Content marketers can always benefit from examining, revisiting and fine-tuning their content strategy, to ensure the campaigns flowing from these strategies deliver results and cut through the increasing amount of content clutter out there. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful B2B marketers reported spending 40% of their budget on content marketing as of 2018 – up 1% from 2017: while that’s not exactly as much or as prevalent as advertising, PR or other forms of marketing, it’s certainly out there, and growing.
The fact is that a lot of B2B content out there does not achieve the goals it is intended to, leading to wasted effort and resources spent on content development, formatting, distribution and promotion. Think hamster running on a wheel without actually getting anywhere.
But this certainly doesn’t need to be the case. With a clear smart content strategy in place, it is possible to make less content work harder, increase customer engagement and achieve overall business objectives: whether this is sales enablement, brand awareness, lead generation or something else.
Developing a content strategy does not need to be difficult, cumbersome or expensive. But it does need you to be clear-minded about your goals, audiences and capabilities.
Whether you’re a B2B marketer doing this for the first time or a seasoned content marketing professional, you’re probably aware of the importance of strong compelling content, as well as how hard that content is to create. All the more reason for it to have a clear purpose.
If you’re planning for next year’s content marketing campaign and are looking for a framework to develop and grow a plan, you’ve come to the right place. Here are six easy steps to creating a simple, yet smart content plan that can guide your tactics for next year.
1. Define your target audience:
As with any type of marketing activity, it is essential to start with the target audience. Who are you talking to? What are their goals/ aspirations/ concerns? Just as your B2B sales process addresses different types of stakeholders, your content strategy must do the same: as different audience types prefer different types of content, resonate with specific messages and play a different role in the sales cycle. Audience setting for content marketing is more nuanced and multi-segmented than with other marketing disciplines like PR or advertising, since it is a much more personalised discipline.
2. Set your content goal:
Establish what you want your content to achieve for each audience segment. Try to think beyond simple goals like ‘purchase’ or ‘awareness’, as content strategy can achieve goals that are much more subtle and multi-layered. This infographic by dcustom pulls together a number of sources to show the various things that content can achieve for you at different stages in the buying cycle.
3. Establish your message(s):
This is probably the easiest part of the process as you can use it as a starting point for brand assets, such as positioning and key messages that might have already been defined for other parts of the marketing mix. Think about what your competitors are saying and how you’re going to differentiate. For technical or complex product categories, you might also want to think about the level of detail you want to go into with some parts of your content.
4. Create key campaigns:
Once you have your overall key messages, you need to develop ‘campaigns’ that you’re going to run over the year. These will be driven by audience segment, product or any other imperative that suits your organisation. Arranging your content by campaign will enable you to plan and develop content for specific needs and targets. A complex, multi-product tech organisation might run several content campaigns at once, each with multiple pieces of content in different formats. When you’re thinking about this, be selective and identify the formats that will work best for your message and audience: web content, long-form content such as white papers, graphical content like infographics, AV content, interactive quizzes and polls. Speak to internal stakeholders such as sales and product marketers to determine what works best. And if you’re still stuck for ideas, you can always refer to lists like this list of 105 content formats by convinceandconvert.
5. Create metrics and KPIs:
Think about what success would look like for each type of content: this ties back to your objectives. And once you’ve got your content metrics defined, think about whether your content and its formats are appropriate and aligned with these metrics. It’s important not to confuse marketing metrics with content metrics – open rates for example might be more appropriate as a marketing metric, than to determine whether your content was indeed effective in achieving the goals you set out to achieve.
So, there you have it. A content strategy, as opposed to a content marketing strategy, that will help you focus your efforts and ensure that you always have a bank of fresh, fit-for-purpose content that’s ready to go and engage your audience!