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The 3 Content Marketing Strategies Your Program is Missing

missing puzzle piece-strategyAs our recently released 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark research tells us, the majority of brands out there have absolutely no documented content strategy.


Why is this so critical? Because only 11 percent of marketers who don’t have a defined content marketing strategy for their enterprise describe their efforts as being effective.

Double ouch!

I’d like to write that this is not such a bad thing, but I just can’t do it. This is a major problem —an epidemic, if you will. But the bigger issue may be that most marketers really don’t know what it means to develop a true content marketing strategy for their business. This is understandable, since most marketers were never well prepared for the shift to content marketing.

comparison of content marketers effectiveness

As we work with enterprise brands, time and time again we are seeing the same issues being overlooked. If I were to rate them in order of frequency, the following would be the top three:

1. An utter lack of buyer personas

The issue: A buyer persona is a helpful tool to use as part of your content marketing plan. It’s the “who” we are talking to and with.

When developing content for our content marketing programs, it is our personas that provide the context we need to frame our stories. At any one time, you may have employees, freelance writers, agencies, and even outside bloggers creating content for you. Personas keep the main goals in focus by emphasizing to whom your organization is reaching out, and why it matters for your business.

Adele Revella, founder of the Buyer Persona Institute, is perhaps the leading expert on the creation and implementation of personas. In her eBook, The Buyer Persona Manifesto, she defines the persona as, “a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned in direct interviews with real buyers.”

Most content programs don’t use personas… at all. Content creators guess, use hunches, or use an uninformed brief that works to replace the persona.

Adele’s fix: The only way to gather clear, unexpected insights about how your buyers make decisions is to have a conversation with them. Make it a goal to spend a few hours a month interviewing recent buyers, including those who chose you and those who did not. Ask buyers to walk you through their decision-making process, starting with the moment they decided to solve this problem. Each in-depth conversation should take 20 or 30 minutes, but the time it will save you in planning, writing, and revising content will be immeasurable.

Note: Adele has provided some excellent templates for handling your buyer personas. You can access these among the bonus materials found in my new book, Epic Content Marketing.

2. Lack of consideration of a cohesive audience outcome

The issue: Does the content you create have an overriding content marketing mission? In other words, have you determined what outcomes you want to result from the audience engaging with your content? For example, is your goal to have your customers become informed about the benefits of 401(k) plans? Or maybe you are looking to educate your audience on all the solutions available to address the challenges of using soldering equipment (that’s the goal of Indium’s blog).

tech spotlight
Indium’s blog

The fix: Part of choosing a content niche where you can honestly become the go-to resource for your customers is a laser focus on the audience outcome. To do this, answer this question: “What does your content actually DO for your customers and prospects?” If you don’t know the answer to that question, your story is probably disjointed.

3. The print channel is getting stonewalled

The issue: Our B2B research found that just 35 percent of B2B marketers leverage print magazines as a content marketing tactic. Now, I understand why this is so low: There are significant barriers to entry here (unlike what we see with social media, where there are literally no barriers to entry). With print, there are editorial, production, and circulation development costs. There are also printing and postal charges. Let’s face it: Print can be expensive.

But answer me this: What if there were a social media channel where all your customers were hanging out, where there was not a lot of clutter or noise, and where few of your competitors had a presence? You’d be all over it, right? Of course you would.

In our enthusiasm for our beloved digital channels, we’ve forgotten about an opportunity that’s right under our noses. Do you think 2013 Content Marketing Award overall winner TD Ameritrade complains about the expense of its print magazine, thinkMoney, when it knows that 90 percent of subscribers take some kind of action after reading the magazine? Nope.

thinkMoney Magazine

There is no fix for this. You just need to acknowledge the fact that you might be missing out on an opportunity to go “old school” successful with your content marketing program.

Think about it.

For more insight on developing a strong content marketing strategy that helps you stand apart from your competitors, read Joe Pulizzi’s latest book, “Epic Content Marketing.”

Cover image via Bigstock