You’re a content marketer or you are contributing to content marketing efforts in your team, and you’re not sure if you are on the right path. You published provocative opinion pieces, helpful tutorials and eye-catching infographics but you’re not getting the level of engagement you expected in your first few months.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Very few content marketing programs start off with success and unless your organization is pumping substantial investment into paid channels, chances are the stats on Google Analytics aren’t as impressive as you hoped when you wrote your first blog post.
If a colleague in another department asked you what your content marketing strategy is, would you have a clear answer? Are you prepared to discuss your target audience, how your content marketing assets support the buying process and how your approach varies by communication channel?
According to the latest annual B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, we see that 63% of B2C marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. The report also asks marketers how effective their content marketing strategy is in helping their organization achieve their content marketing goals, and 7% of B2C marketers reported extremely effective, 28% very effective, and 53% moderately effective. The outlook for B2B content marketing is even brighter. If we look at the most recent annual B2B Content Marketing report, we see that 88% of marketers surveyed use content marketing in their marketing strategies.
Year-on-year findings in these reports by CMI and MarketingProfs indicate a trend: Successful content marketers are documenting their content marketing strategy and those who are further along in their journey are more likely to be successful. After all, content marketing takes time, resources, subject-matter expertise and plenty of effort.
If your team hasn’t started documenting your content marketing strategy, or you believe your plan could be more clearly defined, it’s time to dig deeper. How granular you make your plan is up to you, but here are five questions to get you started.
1. Who are we writing for?
If you don’t have personas for your target audience, now’s the time to create them with your team. You can interview customers or gather customer insights and observations internally. Consider holding a one-day persona-building workshop with members of your sales and product teams.
When you develop the personas, identify problems or challenges your buyers, influencers and users have that you can address with content. Maintain a list of these ideas—they'll serve as the foundation for new deliverables your team can create.
2. Who will produce our content?
Many talented marketers lead content marketing programs single-handedly but if you want to scale, you have to identify collaborators. Are there subject matter experts (SMEs) in your company that you can persuade to contribute? Do you need to get permission from their managers? What about external contributors? If your company has business partners, that’s a great place to start.
Outsourcing some content development is not to be frowned upon. Depending on your team's bandwidth, capabilities and objectives, you might want to hire freelancers or contractors for specific projects. There are plenty of web platforms for finding part-time talent and depending on how niche your content is, you may find people who can transform your ideas into compelling assets faster and more efficiently than if you produced them in-house.
3. How frequently do we aim to produce new content?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, especially your team’s size, bandwidth and other priorities. Consistency and quality matter more than frequency so don’t feel the dire need to publish a blog post every day. Find a sweet spot and try to stick to it.
It can take 6 to 9 months for content marketing to pay off, so you need to build up your content inventory. Most of us are creatures of habit so if you can deliver content that addresses your target audience’s problems and your users start to engage, having a consistent cadence helps entice them to visit again and again. Regular touch points are key whether you are in a B2B or B2C environment.
4. What content should we create to help move prospects through the buying process?
Many people perceive that content marketing is synonymous with thought leadership and in turn that there should be a wall between the content marketing strategy and the sales funnel. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Your content marketing initiatives are essential components of your company’s business strategy. You play a key role in building pipeline, engaging prospects throughout the sales cycle, increasing your company’s thought leadership position and growing your brand’s presence.
To align your content marketing strategy with the buying process, map out the purchasing cycle in stages—ie. awareness, consideration, selection and retention—and list the deliverables that support each stage.
For example, you might have a collection of eBooks to support the awareness stage in the funnel. Which of your deliverables support the buyer further into the process? Most of your content will be in the pre-sales phase but if you take into account content such as ROI calculators and case studies, you’ll likely have some assets for each stage in the process.
5. Which formats should we use for the content we create?
There are many ways to format your content and you should vary your approach. Here are some formats that will help give your content marketing spice.
- How-to: Teach your audience how to do something
- Listicle: Organize tips or ideas into a digestible list
- Explanatory: Explain what something is
- Think piece: Share your observations and opinions
- Profile or feature: Provide a close-up view of a person, product, business or trend
- Q&A: Interview someone, then publish the interview
It's also key to take advantage of different mediums. The written word is most marketing teams primary vehicle for content marketing but countless studies show B2B and B2C companies alike can generate exceptionally high levels of engagement from photos, video, podcasts, presentations, infographics and other mediums. Your ideal content marketing mix will vary depending on your audience, your products or services, the buying process and other factors.