As great as it is to see so many B2B companies jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon, the reality is that many of them will struggle to drive meaningful business results. Why? Because they often overlook a simple reality: To create and deliver content that attracts and retains customers, a haphazard approach just won’t cut it. You need a strategic framework for conceptualizing, designing, and scaling your efforts.
While developing an effective content marketing strategy isn’t easy, becoming familiar with its core components is the first step for moving in the right direction.
At OpenView, for example, we have built our content marketing strategy around six key elements:
1. Well-defined targets
The key to effective content marketing is to be sharply focused. It’s virtually impossible to successfully market to everyone all at once, so instead you may find it easier if you concentrate your efforts where you think you can move the needle most.
Start by focusing your content efforts on just one customer segment at a time — the segment that includes your best customer. This customer should then serve as the model for your target buyer persona.
2. A deep contextual understanding
Regardless of who your target buyers are, it’s going to be virtually impossible to create content that resonates with them until you understand the unique context of their situation. In addition to knowing who your buyers are, you need to understand what they care about and what their path to making a purchase looks like. You also need to get your head around which points throughout their buyer journey you need to influence to drive conversions and move them through the sales funnel.
To create content that will resonate with your buyers, you first need to learn:
- Their motivations, pain points, and role in the buying process
- Where along their buyer journey they are most likely to get stuck
- What assistance and information you can provide to help get them unstuck and propel them forward
One of the best ways to develop that understanding is by creating buyer personas and taking the time to analyze and understand the buyer journey. It also never hurts to reach out to your target audience directly — interviewing and surveying its members to get a better understanding of their individual concerns. The information you gather can then be used to inform your persona development efforts and give them more context.
3. Clear conversion goals
Once you understand who your target buyers are, what they care about, and the steps they take along their buyer journey, it’s time to figure out what actions you want them to take as result of consuming your content.
Each of those actions is a conversion. As your ultimate marketing goal is to convert your target buyers into paying customers, your content strategy should be centered around a set of smaller conversion goals that will collectively help propel them through the buyer’s journey. In addition to leading prospects toward your desired destination, these smaller goals also serve as benchmarks that can help you track and measure the performance of your content along the way.
When setting your conversion goals, make sure that each is appropriate for the stage of the buyer journey you are targeting. For example, top of the funnel conversion goals might include opening an email or visiting your website, while later in the buyer journey you may want to encourage prospects to download a report or sign up for a free trial.
4. Appropriate points of contact
Another important aspect of content marketing strategy is deciding how you are going to initiate conversations with your target buyers, and get them to be receptive to receiving your content offerings. For example, you can choose to contact them directly through emails, phone calls, text messages, or tweets. Alternately, they might make the first move by reaching out after discovering your business through search engine queries, online forums, or advertisements. Another option is to arrange for prospects to be contacted by third parties — such as their fellow consumers, friends, colleagues, or industry analysts — on your behalf.
When deciding which options to pursue as part of your content marketing strategy, keep these tips in mind:
- Always consider your buyer and their context when selecting a method of contact.
- Your method of contact must be effective enough to drive whatever conversion goals you have set.
- Less expensive forms of contact are often better than more expensive ones.
- Because your target’s preferred media channels, formats, and communication styles may vary widely, plan on utilizing multiple vehicles, programs, and points of contact in your outreach efforts.
- The less work you have to do to make contact, the better.
Finding the right ways to make contact with your target buyers is just as important as creating content that reflects your understanding of them.
5. A process for alignment
The next step in developing your content marketing strategy is to figure out how to pull it all together — i.e., how to align your contextual understanding of your buyers and their journey with your conversion goals, the points of contact you are going to use to deliver your content, and the actual content you are going to create. The best way to do that is by creating a matrix that will help you keep track of all these moving parts, such as the one shown below:
Doing so creates a strategic framework for designing and executing the kinds of campaigns that successfully drive conversions and result in real business impact.
6. The ability to scale
The last major point to consider when developing a content strategy is how to tackle one of the biggest challenges many B2B content marketers say that they face: producing enough content to satisfy their buyers’ appetite. The best way to do so is by building a plan for repurposing, repackaging, and recycling the content you create for ongoing use. Here are three approaches to consider:
- Repurpose the big stuff: The true value of a large piece of content isn’t just the asset itself, but also all of the smaller pieces of content that you can turn it into. For example, consider repurposing long-form content like eBooks, white papers, and reports into shorter content formats, like articles and blog posts.
- Repackage the small stuff: The same principle can also be applied in reverse. If your company produces a lot of short-form content, take inventory of it and look for common themes. You may find opportunities to combine those smaller pieces of content into a larger resource.
- Recycle the evergreen stuff: When you create something remarkable that your audience truly values and shares, don’t stop there. Turn it into a series of evergreen content that can be updated and recycled (i.e., republished) on a regular basis.
If your content marketing strategy contains these six elements, you will be in a much better position to start creating real business value.
Looking for additional insight on creating an effective content marketing strategy? Check out what the experts had to say on the topic at Content Marketing World 2013. Access to a wide range of presentations is still available through our Video on Demand portal.
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