According to a study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only 38% of B2B companies think their content marketing is effective. The same study also states that only 35% of the companies have a documented content marketing strategy.
My guess is that some of these companies do not even know whether they are effective or not. They cannot say what “effective” really is regarding content marketing without goals, metrics, etc. It would certainly help with the effectiveness of content marketing to have a strategy at hand.
Here are 9 essential elements any content marketing strategy should include:
Why do you do content marketing? What do you want to achieve?
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Without a clear objective in mind, your content marketing is likely to get sidetracked. It is hard to keep focused on a goal when you are unclear what this goal (or goals) is. You should be clear about what you want to achieve. Even though goals might change with more experience – without goals you cannot even know if you are getting any closer to achieving success. A “soft” goal like “getting better” with something is no real help. You might either feel not successful enough or very successful, depending on your mood.
Make sure you have a usable metric for each goal and an idea how you can measure this metric. Sometimes numbers would be nice to have, but cannot be had.
Who do you want to market to? Identify your typical customer with attributes like role in company, responsibilities, age, interests, job descriptions, location etc.
The identification of the target group is often underestimated, and many marketers end up publishing great content to an absolutely uninterested audience wondering why they cannot reach their goals. All the other elements of your content marketing strategy depend on a clear understanding of your target group (buyer personas) and their interests.
Define Your Story
What’s the storyline of your campaign? Are you helping your (future) clients with white papers related to your topic? Great. Testimonials, case studies about your product? Perfect. But be clear what you want to tell your customers and then create the content around that. But these are just the easy examples, often finding the right storyline for your set of goals and your target audience can be very complicated.
The story is not always about your product and its uses – it can be something completely different. For instance think about the many companies that generate brand awareness by doing good things (like sending health workers to Africa or giving away clothes for free to homeless kids) and then shooting videos about this. These can be storylines for content marketing campaigns.
Finding a story that works is hard – but almost always possible.
The Content and Content Formats
For whom will you produce what kind of content? Why and how is your content speaking to your target audience?
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Since this is all about a content marketing strategy, you need some content to work with. There are endless types of content you can use. Which ones you should choose depends on your target audience, the outlets you use, the budget you have, and on your storyline. The most important factor should be the preferences for content types of your target audience. The best content is absolutely worthless if it does not speak to the right people.
As said content can come in many forms and formats.
Which types of content are right for you depends on your own preferences, your target audience, the information you want to share and the outlets you use.
Often companies already have content they can use in their content marketing efforts. This is a good place to start. In the content marketing process you will have to evaluate which content performs well and which does not. The necessary investment into content creation will probably also influence your decision, which content formats you are going to use.
The decision about which formats are the right ones for you will also depend on the distribution channels you want to use.
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The Relation Between Content And The Sales Funnel
There are three main steps in the sales funnel: Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase
On each step, you can use content to catch the attention of strangers, keep yourself on the radar of prospects and to turn people into customers. The content on each step varies.
While content to catch the attention of strangers usually should be more about giving information, the closer you get to the sale the more your content can be about your product.
Decide On Schedule For Your Content Marketing Efforts
Some weeks ago a friend told us about an acquaintance who said: “We are doing content marketing now, we are publishing one blog post each month.”
While that is a nice start, you should not call it content marketing: One post every 4 weeks will not get you far. While quality certainly counts a lot in content marketing, quantity and regular schedule are not to be neglected. Once you grabbed the attention of your audience, you don’t want to lose it again to the simple fact, that you do not have any new content, do you?
Plan Your Distribution
Content without a distribution strategy is simply content without readers/viewers/consumers. To be successful with your content marketing you have to make sure you get your content to your audience. There are many ways to get attention to your content, ranging from social media and search engines to paid advertising (or even offline strategies like traditional mailings).
Most of the distribution channels either take the time to build or cost money or both. Decide on distribution channels for each piece of content or, at least, type of content you have. For many pieces of content, you can use more than one distribution channel – though often you have to adjust the content for different distribution channels. As a simple example: A blog post can often be repurposed for a newsletter, but adjustments like personalization, etc. will have to be done.
Measure Success and adjust according to your results
Now you are ready to start – but nowhere near your finish line. Measure everything and use your results to adjust and optimize your strategy.
A content marketing strategy is never fixed and final. Many factors change like distribution channels, interests of your audience, and even the reputation and standing of your brand. Never be content with the results you achieve, there is always something to do better and to optimize. Also, keep in mind, that the success of content marketing largely depends on your persistence, patience, and consistency.
Stay On It
My guess is that many of the companies that are unhappy with their content marketing results have been led to believe that content marketing is easy. It still seems to be quite a common belief that content marketing is easy, cheap and fast. Many content marketers have spread the word that “Great content will rise to the top no matter what” but things aren’t quite so simple. Realistically even very successful content marketing campaigns have sometimes taken years to reach the desired results.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it – but you need to bring the persistence into the marketing mix. With a well-defined content marketing strategy, great content and the persistence to work on it – well, until it works, content marketing has a chance to revolutionize your marketing efforts.
(This post was inspired by a SlideShare presentation by Barry Feldman “Fast Track Your Content Marketing Plan”)