Businesses these days rely on different forms of marketing, whether paid or organic. Content marketing is an indispensable tool in your overall marketing strategy.
In their 2018 study, Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs discovered that while 92% of B2B marketers used content to reach prospects, only 63% of businesses have a coherent content strategy in place.
To most content marketers, these statistics make intuitive sense. "In B2B content marketing, you're never speaking to one person," says Ezequiel Djeredjian, Senior Marketing Manager at Elucidate, a financial risk mitigation platform. "Optimizing content for highly technical products is often a tough task."
What should your website's copy look like, and when should you get started on your blog? Who should your copy speak to, and how many different categories of prospects do you have to address?
Here's a simplified step-by-step process that will help you get your content strategy up and running in record time.
Step One - Understand Why
Many companies begin installing content marketing plans only to abandon them halfway through. One of the reasons this happens is because everyone in the business jumps onto the content marketing train without understanding its purpose.
So what is content marketing's purpose? At its core, content marketing enhances consumer trust in your brand. You can run as many ads as you like and advertise your product's amazing features. However, content is what backs up those statements.
Producing content also helps you carry on a conversation with your prospects. Many successful companies use their blogs to educate their customers and inform them of the latest industry news and insights.
For instance, notice how cybersecurity provider Cymulate uses its blog to inform and educate readers about relevant cyber threat news.
Your content doesn't exist to sell your product. Instead, it aims to build a relationship with your customer or prospect. Provide enough value to your prospect, and they'll turn themselves into a customer.
Djeredjian mentions that his team routinely works with Elucidate's sales teams to figure out issues that the company's customers and prospects face. This feedback drives content creation, whatever the final form might be.
Always begin by asking how you can add value and move forward from there.
Step Two - Build Personas
The persona creation process is an important one, but there's a danger of getting bogged down in unnecessary details. It's exciting to get to know your prospects, and it's normal to want to get as granular as possible.
However, it's wise to step back and always ask yourself whether you have enough marketing relevant information in your personas. If not, keep digging further. If yes, then stop. For instance, do you know what your personas value the most and what they think is a cheap, expensive, and value-providing price?
If the answer is yes, all you need to know at this point is where they hang out and target them. You don't need to figure out how they like their latte or what their Spotify playlist looks like. Some teams go to an extreme and draft negative personas.
Such an exercise makes sense only if there is significant overlap between your prospects and someone who isn't. In all other cases, it's a non-essential process.
Good persona creation begins with evaluating your data and data collection methods. Make sure you're tailoring your questions to provide maximum insight instead of creating even more questions. For instance, when asking your prospects what success at a task means to them, ask them which metrics they use. What you don't want is a highly subjective answer that can vary depending on the person in question.
When creating personas make sure you map the buying decision process in your prospect's company. Often, the buy decision is not triggered by your primary prospect.
You'll need to understand the motivations of the person who pulls the trigger, even if they aren't the one who needs the most convincing.
Step Three - Create Your First Pieces of Content
"The first point of contact is usually with a high-level executive," says Djeredjian. "They typically enter via blog content and proceed to interact with the website." Your website's copy is your business card and fleshes out what your prospect thinks of you.
You can be as helpful as possible in your blog but if your website lacks credibility, most prospects will simply go elsewhere. Make sure your website copy ticks all the right boxes. Next, you need to generate blog content ideas that will help you build a relationship with your prospects.
Djeredjian's method of using the sales team's feedback is a great place to begin. You can also monitor secondary social conversations about your brand or your industry on websites such as Quora and Reddit.
At first glance, keyword research tools don't seem to be the best solution in the B2B world. However, Djeredjian mentions that he regularly uses them to figure out trends and pain points while acknowledging that search volumes might not be the primary point of analysis.
Throughout the content creation process, make sure your sales and marketing teams are aligned. Marketing collateral that doesn't help sales teams convince prospects isn't of much use.
Step Four - Build Thought Leadership
What the B2C world calls backlinking, the B2B world calls thought leadership. Whatever you decide to call it, understand that the point of this exercise is to build credibility, not sell your product.
You can also use thought leadership as a way of growing your audience considerably. Content marketing isn't often associated with growth hacking tactics, but a growth-oriented content strategy might deliver better results for you when done right.
Build a list of collaboration partners and publications that are relevant to your product. Events and trade shows are another way of extending your network and increasing brand awareness. However, make sure you have enough content on your blog and website first.
Most of the people you get in touch with will evaluate your credibility by visiting your website, and it doesn't make sense to have an incomplete or ineffective one.
Step Five - Measure Relevance
No content strategy is effective unless you have metrics backing it up. Stay away from measuring vanity metrics such as total page views just for the sake of it. All of your metrics should be tied to measure content relevance.
There isn't a single metric that perfectly captures all of your content strategy's effectiveness.
Use metrics based on the type of campaign you've created and on the prospects you're targeting. For instance, Djeredjian considers new visitors an important metric for awareness-based campaigns. Metrics such as MQL and SQL conversion rates are important for deeper funnel prospects.
The key is to revisit your metrics regularly and vet them for effectiveness. Even the best metrics can go stale after a while. Prevent a disconnect between your content and metrics by reviewing whether your KPIs indicate the results you're seeing at the end of your funnel.
Better Brand Awareness Through Content
Content marketing is an important part of any business' marketing outreach. It requires patience and planning. With the right approach, you're guaranteed results.
Instead of throwing everything together in a bid to claim you have a content strategy, follow this step-by-step process, and you'll have a winner on your hands.