Content marketers, it’s time to get our s*** together.
Only 32% of us (down 2% from last year) have a documented content marketing strategy according to CMI’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends-North America. Furthermore, only 30% of B2B marketers say their organization is effective at content marketing, down 38% from last year, according to the same report.
We’ve lamented this fact for years now, offering strategies, templates, and tools to help each other, essentially littering the internet with our “how-to” content marketing spam. The time to stop was yesterday (author and CEO Carlos Hidalgo covers this in more depth here). And, in case you’re not totally convinced, another study shows that B2B marketers in North America waste a combined average of $958M each year in inefficient and ineffective content marketing.
So, obviously, we have a problem.
The good news: content marketing is still a viable and important marketing strategy.
The bad news: we’re doing it wrong.
The “produce more, faster” mentality is getting us nowhere. It’s time we start documenting our content marketing strategy and track our success—for the sake of efficiency, business goals, and most importantly, our sanity. It’s time to get organized.
Content Marketing Strategy Checklist
1. Conduct In-Depth Persona Research
The very first step to creating a content marketing strategy is to understand who you want to reach.
Content marketers run into trouble when they cast a wide net hoping to attract the right buyers. This tactic might generate high traffic numbers to start, but click-through and conversion rates will suffer.
Relevance and context should always guide your content strategy. Find out: who has a need for your product or service? What are the major pain points your solution solves for them? Where do they go for information, and what are their content preferences? Does your product do better with SMBs or enterprise companies?
Work with your customer success and account executives to set up interviews with customers. Ask: how did they first hear about you? What pain points does your product solve for them? Who was involved in the purchase decision? These insights will help you decide who to target and the best channels to reach them.
Tip: If you have historical customer data, look back at your past 10 closed-won deals. What was the trajectory each stakeholder followed that lead up to the sale? Did a manager-level stakeholder find your company via a blog? Did they subscribe to that blog? Who made the purchasing decision? Did your sales team use marketing content to get executive stakeholder buy-in?
Evaluate which content was used during the buying process for your most successful deals and look for patterns. Incorporate these buyer insights as a foundation for your content strategy.
- Define your customer personas
- Define your buyer’s journey
2. Align Your Strategy to Specific Business Priorities
An eBook, 2 webinars, 10 blog posts, and 30 tweets is not a content strategy—it’s a list of assets. Approaching your content marketing strategy this way will leave you with a lot of work and little evidence of success. The second item on your content strategy checklist: align your strategy to specific business priorities.
Start with the high-level business goals that your company is trying to meet. Is there a strategic push to reach a specific persona? Does your website and blog have great traffic, but deals are stalling out mid-funnel? Perhaps the company has set a goal to increase sales for a specific product line.
Whatever the goals, these overarching business priorities should guide your content strategy. If a business goal is to increase deal velocity and brand awareness isn’t even on the list, work on building out targeted nurture tracks and sales enablement content instead of white papers and blog posts.
Once you have a clear understanding of the company’s goals, you can begin strategizing how to support those goals with content. If your marketing team has quarterly revenue or pipeline goals to meet, factor those in when deciding which campaigns to execute.
Tip: Content marketing should support the entire sales funnel. Aligning your content strategy to business goals will empower you to make the right decisions when it comes to content creation and shield yourself from ad hoc content requests.
- Establish business priorities and revenue or pipeline targets
- Write down 2-3 content objectives that support business priorities
3. Meet with Your Editorial Board
As I mentioned before, content marketing supports the entire sales funnel. When putting together your content strategy, make sure you give internal stakeholders a voice and a seat at the table.
If you don’t have one already, set up an editorial board within your company. This board should include a representative from each content-consuming department (i.e. those who use marketing content to engage customers in any way) within the company. This meeting can act as an open forum for teams to give marketing feedback on how existing content is resonating with buyers at different stages of their buying journey, and where they feel content gaps exist.
This step is critical. As a content marketer, you might be doing a great job generating traffic and new names into the database, but if your sales team doesn’t have content to continue the conversation through the comparison and consideration stages, your top-of-funnel efforts are basically fruitless. A editorial board provides you the opportunity to listen, assess, and prioritize content needs.
Facilitate an open dialogue for ideation. Keep a running list and then group ideas into themes.
Tip: Create an agenda before meeting with the editorial board. Allow them to submit questions and ideas ahead of time, so you can prioritize topics and have a productive meeting. Come prepared to answer questions regarding past content marketing campaign performance metrics.
- Make a list of content ideas from the meeting
- Group ideas into themes
4. Choose Your Content Themes and Assets
Now that you’ve done your due diligence and gathered important customer and internal insights, it’s time to choose what content themes and assets to pursue. Start by writing out all potential themes and how they support the business priorities you outlined earlier. This will help you to asses which themes are highest priority and should be executed on now, and which themes can be added to the content backlog, or “sandbox.”
Once you’ve committed to your content themes, you can start to build out your content pillars. A content pillar is a major piece of content on a specific topic or theme which can be broken down into many derivative assets. Examples of content pillars include eBooks, reports, and guides.
Tip: Make sure the content themes you commit to are relevant to your audience and be weary of jumping on industry trends. Listen carefully and keep your content highly targeted, customer-centric, and solution-oriented.
- Commit to a few content themes for the quarter (number of themes pursued depends on size, scale, and goals of your business)
- Build a content pillar to support each theme
5. Set Specific and Detailed Goals
Finally, set specific and detailed goals. A content marketing strategy has many layers and moving parts and pieces. Establish goals at each level and set up tracking and reporting mechanisms to monitor success.
Keep in mind there are a lot of different data points you can pull to assess success. Set KPIs based on the business goals you’re supporting. If the goal is to increase deal velocity, you might not need to pull traffic metrics on every asset. However, you’ll definitely want to track click-to-open rates on mid-funnel nurture track emails.
- Set goals at the asset level
- Set goals at the campaign level
Remember: document your content marketing strategy! Without it, your chances of success are at risk. Use this content planning template to get you started.
Want more details about making content work for you?
Get in-depth strategies for creating demand gen and lead gen content by downloading our Blueprint of a Modern Marketing Campaign ebook. See how they work together to bring about the ultimate goal: revenue.