When I talk to other B2B Marketers these days, the conversation inevitably comes around to content marketing—that catch-all category that lumps together everything from blog posts, case studies and white papers to infographics, podcasts and explainer videos.
To anyone toiling in the marketing trenches today, this shouldn’t be surprising. Content is at the heart of what we do. Why? Because B2B buyers depend on it at every stage of their buyer journey.
B2B buyers are firmly in the driver seat
Consider how B2B buyers purchase products today. There was a time when a call to a vendor sales rep would be the first step in the process. Not now.
According to research from the Corporate Executive Board, 77% of all B2B buyers said they would not even speak to a salesperson until they had done their own research. CEB also reports that buyers are on average 57% of the way through the buying process before they first interact with a salesperson.
So if they’re not getting their information about products directly from sales reps, where are they getting it? The short answer is content.
In the absence of good content that is well aligned with the stages in the buyer journey, we have to rely on the old way of doing things. That means prescriptive, product-focused, unidirectional, seller-centric marketing. And we already know these methods are simply not very effective.
So, as B2B marketers, if we haven’t already, it’s time to come to grips with content and the practice of content marketing and decide how we can use it effectively to achieve our specific business goals.
Content Marketing – first steps
If you are considering investing in a new content marketing program or at least turning your current efforts up a notch, here are six essential things you need to make sure you’ve got covered if you’re going to succeed.
Before you read on, though, I would point out that content marketing is not a straightforward discipline. Each of the items in this list demands a significant amount of thinking, analyzing, discussing, execution and testing to get right. So consider this list a starting point for more in-depth exploration as you move forward on your content marketing journey.
1. Start with a solid content strategy
No matter how keen you are to get going, the worst thing you can do is to start churning out new content willy-nilly without a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. The first step with any content program is to create a comprehensive strategy that clearly outlines how your program will help you achieve your specific business goals. For example, are you trying to generate awareness for your business or product? Or are you focused on generating new leads to pass on to Sales? Maybe you’re trying to get people to sign up for your blog.
Along with your goals, your strategy will also define how you will measure the success of your program. This could take many forms, depending on what you want to achieve. For example, you might measure success based on the number of unique visits to a blog post, or the number of times an infographic was shared by your followers on different social platforms. Or, you might measure the number of new leads a particular piece of content generated.
2. Understand your target buyer
Before you begin the process of content creation, you need to know who your audience is. In other words, who are you targeting with your content?
One way to tackle this is by conducting extensive research into your buyers and creating “buyer personas”. These are detailed profiles that capture everything you need to understand the characteristics, needs, and challenges of the specific people you’re selling to.
Who are they? What are their concerns? What problems are they trying solve? What kind of information are they looking for? Where do they usually go to get information? What kinds of content do they prefer?
3. Create a content marketing plan
Once you’ve got a clear strategy that outlines your content marketing goals, and detailed personas for your target buyers, then you need to put together a detailed content marketing plan.
A good content plan defines the specific content pieces you’re going to create and maps it to each persona and their needs at each stage of the buying process. It also includes a resource plan to identify who will create the content and an editorial calendar that outlines when and where these content assets will be published across the various channels.
4. Produce outstanding content
There’s an enormous amount of content out there. But, as we all know, not all content is created equal. Some is outstanding, some is so-so, and some is downright awful.
You obviously want to be in the outstanding category to differentiate your content from everything else that’s published out there on a daily basis. Rand Fishkin, the CEO of Moz, has a name for this kind of content. He calls it “10x content”, because it’s ten times better than everything else out there. In all your content creation efforts, that’s what you need to strive for.
5. Publish where buyers will see it
You may have the best content of all your competitors, but if they don’t see it, it’s not going to do them any good. Nor will it help you reach whatever you’ve defined as your content marketing goals. If your target audience can’t find your content, you won’t get page views, downloads, likes, and shares. And you won’t get new leads.
Choose a promotion strategy that is carefully designed to reach your prospective buyers. Choose your channels strategically based on an understanding of where your prospects go to get their information. This is perhaps the most important consideration. It will likely require experimentation, and it will definitely require measurement, testing and analysis. But those are big subjects for another post.
6. Test, measure and refine
Remember those goals and measures of success we defined back in step one? These are crucial for determining how effective your content marketing is. So track them on an ongoing basis, report on them, and adapt and refine them as you go, so you can use metrics to demonstrate the impact your content marketing program is having.
Content marketing can be challenging. But as with any new initiative, doing the up-front thinking and defining a clear strategy will set you on the right path. From there it’s about creating and promoting outstanding content that sets you apart from the competition and helps you achieve the goals that you’ve set.
If you need help with any aspect of your content marketing, contact us today and let’s start the conversation!