Simply producing content isn’t going to get the job done anymore. But even though competition is expanding in 2016, many will still fail to drive bottom line results.
That’s good news if you’re just getting your feet wet in content marketing because you can learn from best practices to drive superior execution to stand out.
But before you start your content generating engines, let’s back up a bit and look at 7 elements that every successful content marketing strategy must have:
1. It starts with the goal.
You have to know whether your content is going to create awareness, move people into a shopping cart, or generate leads for B2B sales reps. Obviously, targeting CEOs of Oil and Gas companies is a different goal than driving millennials to a shopping cart for the latest and greatest tech product.
2. Clearly define your target audience and develop buyer personas.
Unlike the one-to-many assets that we used to develop in branding and awareness campaigns, you can’t really develop one piece of content that will address all of a buyer’s issues in a single piece.
But you can create individual content assets that address them individually to nurture them down the purchase path.
So who is it that you want to attract and what are their issues? Research and identify your buyer personas based around problems that you solve. Figure out what their issues are and how you’re solving their problems and turn that around in your content to attract similar prospects.
Perhaps that’s a specific customer segment that has similar issues that you solve. A good place to start may be with your best (and most profitable) customers.
3. What channels do you plan to use to communicate?
Before you start thinking about the medium, you have to determine the channels where you’ll be promoting your content to maximize visibility. In other words, where does your audience want to consume content and where they actually live today?
For example, will your content be delivered on your website through a blog? Is this a Youtube channel? Are you developing a podcast series?
4. Decide what the best mediums are to communicate to your audience.
Many times, the channels you choose will decide the mediums for you—for example, if you’re going to do a series of podcasts, then your medium is an audio file. If your channel is a youtube channel, then obviously video is your choice.
But if this content for your website, ask if this going to be a blog, a case study, a white paper, an infographic, etc. And further, will these images be a pdf or a jpg image or just an image on a webpage?
5. Once you’ve figured out the goal, audience, distribution and the mediums, now it’s time to determine the topics.
In most B2B companies, the primary purpose is to generate leads for an outside sales team, so you must start thinking about what are the high probability pains that you solve and what stage in the buying process they are in at that particular time.
The person that is early in their search (a top-of-the-funnel prospect) is going to have different issues than someone that has narrowed their search to 2 or 3 vendors.
So maybe the appropriate piece of content for someone in middle of the funnel would be an infographic that serves as a buying guide that helps them navigate the purchase process. Towards the end of the sales cycle, maybe it’s a case study that includes a video testimonial to demonstrate why your’e the best vendor on the planet to solve that problem.
6. What actions do you want them to take as result of consuming your content?
In the complex sale, it’s important to develop conversion goals for each stage of the buyer journey.
This is the make up your conversion strategy, and it’s the ultimate goal of a content marketing program. It’s also where you can measure key performance metrics and find opportunities for improvement.
At the top of the funnel, your goal might be to capture interested prospects through your website or email and get them to sign up to receive future content. Later in the buyer journey, you might want to send people to a white paper or demonstration.
At every stage in the buyer journey, your goal is to figure out how to initiate sales conversations. Remember, a content marketing strategy is designed to replace digitally the one-to-one conversations that salespeople used to get on a regular basis.
7. Determine your budget and scale.
Budgeting for content marketing can be an expensive proposition because what we've described here is not a project or even a series of projects and campaigns that can be assigned to marketing—it requires the mindset of a publisher.
The most innovative organizations have found that they they have plenty of budget to work with by shifting resources away from traditional branding and awareness efforts that aren’t producing leads and shifting them to the content team.
Marketers typically get side-tracked with the urgent versus the important, and this can’t happen with proper content execution. You need a dedicated content officer or strategist whose sole responsibility to to ensure efficiency and accountability.
In fact, the Content Marketing Institute found that 86% of B2B companies with a "content marketing owner" were the most effective in their execution of a content strategy. In many cases, companies have found success in outsourcing this function because they’re not mired in day-to-day fire drills that a typical marketing executive has.
Now that you have an idea of the goal, audience, mediums, channels, topics, conversion metrics, and budget, the biggest challenge is scaling.
Most content marketers struggle with producing enough content to “feed the beast” because it seems like it’s never enough! And worse yet, if you stop producing content, so do your conversations.