Content strategy is the basis for successful business-to-business content marketing. Like the foundation of a house, content strategy contains and supports content marketing efforts. Also like the foundation, it is a good place to start building. That being said, it’s also never too late to formalize a content strategy.
Why have a formal content strategy? Well, the numbers tell us that there is a strong relationship between content strategy and confident marketers who feel effective in their content marketing. According to B2B Content Marketing 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends – North America Study, 84% of marketers identified their content as “ineffective” said they had no documented content strategy. On the other hand, 66% of B2B marketers with a documented content strategy viewed themselves as effective, whereas only 11% of those without a strategy did so. Despite these benefits, a surprising number (44%) of companies, especially large ones, don’t have a formal content marketing strategy. So, where to start?
1. Getting Started.
The first step to generating any type of strategy is to figure out what you want to accomplish. Sit down with key stakeholders and generate a prioritized list of goals for content marketing. Is your main focus lead generation or thought leadership? Are you trying to get found or convince those who’ve already found you?
With the list done, consider the scope and budget of the project. What have you got? What do you need? How does this effort meld with existing efforts? Will your company be overhauling and rebranding all of its content or just doing a few more whitepapers? How much money do you realistically need? How much can you expect to have at your disposal?
Deliverable: The Content Inventory – a table with organized listings for all existing materials. The table should include fields like title, location (URL or otherwise), document type, and description.
2. Who’s Reading this Stuff? When?
As most marketers will tell you, it’s important to understand who’s buying your products. The same is true for content. Who is consuming your content? What does that person need (think broadly)? What value does your company have to offer in relation to their need? How and where are these people consuming content? What kind of content is valuable to them (in-depth information, testimonials, competitor comparisons, at-a-glance, etc.).
Next, consider how these people move from knowing nothing about your product to becoming a customer. For example, your customers might initially find your website, read about your services, submit a form, compare you to competitors, and then buy. In this case your customer process might look like: Discovery -> Initial Research -> Outreach -> Qualification -> Closed Sale.
Deliverable: Content Segmentation Grid – a matrix of target customer profiles against steps in the customer process. Plot groups of content (whitepapers, videos, etc.) from the Content Inventory on the matrix based on the step in which they would be consumed. For example, case studies may be used by customers in the Qualification stage. This chart illustrates holes in existing content coverage.
3. Give ‘Em What They Want (Strategic Pillars).
Strategic pillars are areas of content focus, designed to guide content marketers’ attention to the most impactful tactics. The concept and process for developing strategic pillars for content strategy is outlined in depth by Christ Moritz in his article, “How to Develop the Strategic Pillars to Hold Up Your Content Marketing Strategy“.
Essentially, to build your strategic pillars, think back to the goals and target profiles you developed in the first two steps. Consider things that stand in the way of customers reaching the desired outcomes. Are customers unclear on your services? Do they need to be convinced that you’re credible? Are your quotes undercut by a competitor? Check your Content Segmentation Grid for gaps in available content that may also act as barriers. Make a list of barriers for each goal, then group the barriers into a handful of broad categories (i.e. customers don’t see the value of our services). From these, generate a one- to two-word answer to the problem. For example, if customers don’t see the value in your services, the answer might be “Demonstrate Value”. These answers will become your pillars. After you’ve formulated the pillars, add tactics to address each answer. In the case of demonstrating value, the tactics might include case studies and a ROI calculator.
Deliverable: Strategic Pillar Diagram – a visual representation of starting with your aggregated target groups in the center, then branching out to each strategic pillars and the associated tactics. The chart becomes a great overview of the basic strategy, presentation asset, and quick reference/office decoration.
4. Channel It.
Now that you have you pillars and tactics, it’s important to match each tactic to the right channel or mix of channels. Certain channels are better suited to delivering certain tactics. Relate your channel decisions back to your target groups. Which channel(s) apply to which group? Which channel(s) carry the most weight with this group? Which channel(s) are most frequently accessed by this group? How does this relate to the goals for that group?
When you’ve developed a set of tactics and goals for each channel, evaluate. Is this set of channels/tactics within scope? Do we have a presence on the requisite channels? Who will manage each channel? What are they key performance indicators (KPIs) for each channel/goal combination?
Deliverable: Channel Plan – a chart that describes the content velocity, tone, primary target groups, goals(s), KPI(s), and governance for each channel. This document becomes invaluable in keeping channel focus and content planning.
5. Keeping Score.
Make a point to measure KPI metrics that were defined in step four. Collect these metrics at regular intervals and compare them over time. Set realistic goals for performance and analyze why the goals were or weren’t reached.
Over time, adjust the campaign goals and tactics as needed. Company priorities may shift over time. It is possible that success on one goal will make another a greater need. Maybe target groups and preferences have changed. Content strategy is not a static entity.
Deliverable: The Content Marketing Scorecard – as described in this article, a scorecard is a table that tracks goal KPIs over time. A scorecard provides a great high-level view into the performance of content marketing efforts. This scorecard can be used to demonstrate impact/value or point out channel/goal combinations in need.
That wraps up a fast, five step overview of B2B content marketing strategy. With this framework, you have the tools you need to get started with your own content strategy.
Let us know what you think:
- How could your organization benefit from content strategy?
- How does your organization view/use content strategy?
- Anything we missed?
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