Why you need a content marketing strategy

Content marketing is easy, right?  Most marketers can easily come up with an idea for a content piece; get it written, designed and distributed.  But how many are really thinking it through and ensuring that the content is meeting the business’s or the customer’s needs? How many really have a content marketing strategy behind their activity?

Recently, the CMI conducted research that showed 70% of marketing teams will increase their budget for content marketing in 2015. Surprisingly, only 45% of them had a documented content strategy and only 23% could measure ROI from content marketing.  So why are so many creating more content without a clear plan or goal?

Defining a content marketing strategy is clearly important, but creating the content against a plan isn’t quite so easy, especially in a large complex organisation with multiple products, markets and geographies. Knowledge can be trapped in the organisation and so much energy can be spent simply generating the content that it’s too easy to overlook, or have time to create, a cohesive plan which has buy-in across the organisation.

So what are the steps to start a more strategic approach to content marketing?

Consider the key business objectives and KPIs

Start by asking ‘why?’.  Why are you creating the content and how will it help deliver against your objectives?  Are you looking to generate leads, engage prospects, improve customer retention, increase customer satisfaction or increase existing customer spend? Are there new markets or products that are going to be released and to who?  What type and form and frequency of content do we need to help deliver against these?

Consider the customer cycle

Map out your buyer’s journey: the stages they go through from initial awareness through to purchase. But don’t stop there – once a prospect becomes a customer, map the customer journey and the communications they require in order to onboard successfully, renew their contracts and become an advocate.

With a complex B2B sale, there’s multiple stakeholders and so not all content themes fit or work for everyone.  Researchers need different information from project sponsors, so consider how you can give them the information they need at the appropriate time and in the appropriate format.

Once you’ve considered the buyer and customer journeys, do an audit of content against buyer and stage.

Analyse what’s missing

Once you have a clear picture of your current content, consider what’s missing.  Think about the information they need and what you want to tell them at each stage (focus though on what information they need to make a decision).

Consider the challenges they are facing in their organisation, or team, and how the information you provide could help them overcome those challenges.

A great way to understand prospects is to work closely with the sales team.  Regularly ask the sales team to identify pains and concerns that their prospects are talking to them about.  Also ask them if they have access to information that they can pass on to those customers to mitigate their fears.  (This also enables you to inform Sales of additional content that can help, new automation programmes and new content creation opportunities).

Consider market trends and new industry insights too

What’s happening in your market and what industry trends are shaping product development?  A prime example is the wave of discussions about Big Data over the last few years.  From hosting to marketing, everyone has something to say about the impact and use of Big Data.  Educate, inform or even drive fear if you want, but use market trends to help shape your content creation.

Spread your content across the prospects and customers

Commonly we find many organisations focus on content creation to generate leads or convert buyers. Consideration pieces (the middle stage between initial awareness lead generation and key conversion pieces) get overlooked. And customer content – well, that gets completely ignored.

Whilst B2C marketers are all over customer retention communications and ensuring that you have a good, enjoyable experience as a customer, B2B seriously lacks.  There’s such a drive for growth and long contracts, that once they have you as a customer, they love you and leave you, moving quickly to the next prospect ready to convert.

It’s a simple truth that a little love early in the relationship will go a long way.  You’ll make your customers love your product and your brand, better still they may even recommend you and become an advocate.

How will the content be used?

Once you’ve created the content, what are you going to do with it?  You could leave it languishing on your website in the hope that it will be found, or you could shatter it and distribute it.  You could use it as part of lead nurture, your active PR programmes or customer engagement programmes. Just make sure you maximise the content that you create and map out the intentions for its use as part of your plan.

Tracking and measuring

Ah, our favourite part. It’s the bit that often gets missed. Set up your tracking to know exactly how each element has performed. Defining your KPIs will be driven by the objectives you need to achieve so how can you shape them to ensure that you report effectively on your activity. This is particularly important to demonstrate the ROI of the content marketing programme. Without it, your budget may be affected in future.

Who’s going to create it?

Quite simply, assign responsibility.  Your in-house capability should enable you to create most of the content, but it’s likely that a copy-edit and lick of design will boost performance.  A resource map and considered plan to get internal resource from other departments (technical writers or product specialists) on board with the content marketing strategy can have a huge impact on achieving success.

Don’t do it all at once

All long journeys start with a single step. Start by doing things well, rather than trying to do everything. Poor content won’t deliver, in fact its more damaging than you think. So it’s worth thinking it through and really focusing on delivering a few key pieces exceptionally well and generating learnings and ROI so that the next phase of your content marketing strategy is even better.

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