While social media has made it easier for small businesses to maintain strong relationships with consumers, there are still challenges with creating and distributing the right content. Knowing how to properly utilize many platforms for the best results can be difficult, especially when competing with large corporations. However, there are tips you can use to improve your marketing strategies and help your business. Continue reading to learn about how to develop a content marketing strategy.
The Digital Era means that it’s no longer just Facebook and Instagram users who need online content to do their jobs—it’s everyone, even B2B companies. B2B marketers need to use content marketing as a valuable tool for business development, to expand brand awareness, build trust and credibility, win customer loyalty, and increase a company’s sales potential (just to name a few reasons).
How can you be sure your content is of high enough quality that it will be seen and used by your target audience? The answer is no longer “stuff my content with keywords and hope for the best.” That used to guarantee top positions on social media and search engines—and therefore organic traffic, leads, and sales—but we don’t live in that world anymore.
Businesses need to turn quantity into quality, and transform chaotic blog posts into valuable content. This means that you need a documented and well-structured B2B content marketing strategy.
What is a content marketing strategy?
Essentially, a B2B content marketing strategy is a solid plan that tells you why, what, when, and how you are creating content, and ensures your teammates are on the same page throughout the entire content marketing journey.
In other words, it is a step-by-step guide that helps you identify your business goals, determine the type of content you need, define the distribution channels that are best for accomplishing your goals, and work out a B2B content marketing checklist of how you are going to make and measure your overall performance.
Why is a content strategy important?
Having a documented content strategy will help you avoid disappointment, including:
- Disorganized work and misunderstandings within a team
- Wasted time and resources creating content that nobody sees
- Inability to track, estimate, and evaluate weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual results for further performance improvement
On the other hand, a solid and documented strategy aligns the team around a common mission with everyone focused on the same priority. Having an outlined strategy makes it technically and psychologically harder to ignore, and makes completed work more tangible. It also makes it easier to define what type of content to develop, and fosters accountability.
So it’s easy to see why 60% of the most successful B2B marketers incorporate a documented content strategy into their marketing practices. We’re providing the following guide to help you create yours.
How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
To develop a successful inbound content marketing plan that will help you grow your business, you must think through the following six components:
1. Define Your Goals
Any content strategy, whether it’s for a blog or to develop a website, requires setting goals. The success of your content marketing plan is dependent on you fully understanding what you are doing, why you are doing it, what your story is, and what you are trying to achieve.
Your goals may be to create brand awareness of your product, generate leads and sales, or increase the size of your subscriber audience—all long-term goals. It’s also important to have short- and mid-term goals. When drafting your content plan, try to be as specific as possible.
The SMART goals framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) can help you set goals that will keep you on track:
- Specific. Goals should always be clear; avoid being vague. If you are not specific, you will be unable to set deadlines and measure content performance. For example, instead of the larger goal “improve organic traffic,” consider a goal that’s more specific like “improve organic traffic by X date.”
- Measurable. Goals should be measurable, which allows you to track the performance of your content. Also, when goals are measured, it can help your team stay motivated and interested in the results of their work. Setting a key performance indicator (KPI), which demonstrates how effectively or ineffectively your company is pursuing its key business objectives, can be helpful.
- Attainable. When setting goals, aim high, yet stay realistic. Goals should be achievable in terms of the resources and time you have at your disposal.
- Relevant. Make sure any content goals correspond with other goals your company is currently pursuing. Ask yourself, “Does the goal align with all of our interests?”
- Time bound. Set deadlines with specific dates or time frames for achieving your goals.
As an example, the SMART goals for a B2B technology company might include:
- Growing the website’s organic traffic: 5,000 unique monthly visitors by Q1 next year (up from 655 in Q1 this year)
- Generating 30 marketing qualified leads (MQLs) per month from organic traffic, including 12 from the corporate blog, by Q4 (up from 7 in Q1)
2. Define Your Target Audience
Once you have set goals, conduct research on your target audience and answer the following questions:
- Who are you creating content for? Looking at your audience from different angles will help you identify their specific features and segment them according to their interests, hobbies, demographics, age, gender, occupation, etc.
- What problem will your content solve for them? Ideally, an inbound marketing content strategy implies understanding and guiding your customers at each step of their buying journey. Provide your audience with content that will smoothly guide them through each stage of the content marketing funnel, delivering the right message at the right time.
Note that articles which are intended to raise awareness and draw your audience’s attention to a particular problem will differ from the articles for customers who are already aware of the problem and are currently searching for solutions. The same goes for articles designed to convert readers into leads.
A way to to understand the customer journey is to look at the RACE framework. It can help you document the actions your company should take to attract, engage, and convert clients. It includes the following stages:
- Reach—The reach stage allows you to build brand awareness among your potential customers. Its primary purpose is to draw page visits to your paid, owned, or earned media (your website or blog, your social media profiles, or guest posts).
- Act—This stage involves persuading your website visitors or prospective customers to take the next step in their buying journey when they reach your website or social network, such as learning more about your company, searching to find a particular product, or reading one of your blog posts.
- Convert—The convert stage is when your visitors become customers, and they do things like make a purchase, subscribe to the company blog, download a white paper, etc.
- Engage—Here is when you work on developing long-lasting relationships with your customers, building their loyalty, and increasing your social presence and direct interactions with them. This stage can be tracked through actions such as repeat sales or if your customers share your content on social media.
- How many audiences are you targeting? Do not target only one audience; think about all the clusters you are planning to address. Your business may provide a wide range of services, and your content may be aimed at more than one audience.
3. Conduct a Content Audit
If you have been in business for a while, conduct a content audit to evaluate your work. Just as the goals you set for your business should be measurable, a content marketing plan should also be transparent and trackable. Know ahead of time how you will measure the results of your content marketing.
First, assess your content strategy from various angles to determine how it’s performing, what’s working, what’s missing, and how you can make improvements.
Second, choose ways to track your content’s performance. Any goal should have a KPI that can be used to measure whether a content’s objective has been achieved or not. KPIs will also help you figure out what can be done in a different way, and how to set new goals, if necessary.
As you work on your content strategy and are analyzing the performance of your new content, don’t forget to look at the performance of your existing content. How much traffic does it get? Is it getting any traffic? Does it need to be optimized or removed? Also don’t forget about any evergreen content you might have which brings organic traffic and viewers to your website. Make sure it’s in good shape.
Consider using analytics tools to assess the performance of your content on your website and social media pages. Google Analytics can tell you which content is producing the best traffic, and show you the content that’s not doing well and needs to be optimized. Do not ignore metrics like page views, unique visitors, demographics, average time on a page, bounce rates, and where your visitors are coming from. To analyze social media content performance, use the built-in analytics tools to find out which blog posts are performing the best.
It’s also important to assess how your competitors are doing. You may want to conduct a situational analysis, which will help you understand the relationship between you and your competitors’ internal and external environments, capabilities, audiences, strengths, and weaknesses. This information can be beneficial as you develop your content marketing plan.
4. Define Your Brand Identity, Content Type, and Format
Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of you and your competitors will give you a better understanding of what makes your product unique. Your competitors may sell a similar product; this means you need to let people know what makes your product special and why your current customers stay with you.
When choosing content type, keep keyword research and search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. Remember that longer articles (3,000+ words) tend to catch more organic traffic and shares than short articles.
Other types of content to consider include videos, podcasts, ebooks, infographics, and blog posts. Think about how you can repurpose your content and adapt it to different channels: copy and post text from a website article to your social media account; transcribe a YouTube video you’ve created and post the transcript on your blog.
Remember to provide the right content format for where your customers are in their buying journey:
- Top of the funnel (TOFU): Blog posts, “how to” guides, infographics, checklists, ebooks, and video tutorials
- Middle of the funnel (MOFU): Lead nurturing content, such as product overviews, tutorials, and webinars
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): Customer-generated and case-oriented content that includes case studies, customer reviews, or product overviews
As you determine best formats and channels, ask yourself: Do you prioritize publishing content on channels where your customers will easily find it? Do you create content that’s focused on meeting your customers’ needs instead of promoting your business? Do you have content which supports customers across all the stages of their buying journey?
Consider that the B2B Content Marketing 2020 report found that “95% of the most successful B2B content marketers” factcheck their content for accuracy, and 88% put their audience’s informational needs over their own sales messages.
5. Define Your Distribution Channels
The next step is choosing how to deliver content to your audience. Select distribution channels that are based on your business goals, content marketing goals, and the platforms where you will best reach your target audience. Remember that the channels you use to deliver your message do not have to be limited to just one or two. You can select a mix, for example, choosing between your own website or blog, and social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Don’t copy the same narrative and publish it on multiple platforms. Instead, study the requirements for each medium and adapt your content accordingly. Repurpose your content in the form of photos or infographics for Instagram, short messages with a link to your landing page or blog for Twitter, and consistent articles for your website. A B2B company might consider incorporating LinkedIn to draw in new customers. There are also forums to deliver your content in the form of a question/answer dialogue to engage your audience in discussion.
Do not hesitate to incorporate outside channels into your content strategy. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 46% of top B2B marketers promote their content at outside speaking/events, 63% write guest posts or publish content in third-party publications, and 70% rely on outside media and influencer relations.
Also consider some alternative ways to promote your content. You might pitch an article to a popular publication, repackage articles into SlideShare presentations or infographics, create downloads (white papers or e-books), launch PPC campaigns or paid ads on social media, or craft a newsletter that highlights your new content and send it out to your entire email database.
6. Choose a Content Management System
No matter what goals, formats, or channels you have chosen, you need to publish your content on a regular basis. This does not mean, however, you should constantly bombard your readers with new posts. You just need to be consistent.
This is where a content marketing calendar comes in handy. It will help you keep track of your content, and what, when, and where it should be published. There are numerous tools that you can use to maintain an editorial calendar and to schedule posts.
However, if you want to have one place to create, manage, and track your content, consider content management system (CMS) tools like HubSpot CMS, WordPress, etc. No matter which product you choose, make sure it provides you with a clear picture of all the tasks, timelines, and schedules you need, and ensures all the members of your team are on the same page.
Your Content Marketing Plan Should Meet The Needs of Your Company
It takes time and resources to develop a successful content marketing strategy. But having an organized plan is a must if you don’t want to be generating a lot of inefficient content and hoping that it will attract new leads. Modify the six components of this guide—goals, audience, audit, format, channels, and management—to create a strategy that meets the specific needs of your company.
Developing a high-quality strategy that meets your business objectives can certainly be a time-consuming task, but in the end, the results will pay off over the long run.