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How to Get Started in Content Marketing

In our ongoing series, we’re helping B2B marketers overcome the challenges highlighted in our recent B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchamarks, Budgets and Trends. Most recently, our contributors are providing insights and examples to help you make the case for content marketing in your organization.

Why is this so important? One of the most striking differences between self-described effective and less-effective content marketers is executive buy-in. Fewer than 10% of effective marketers who use content marketing have an issue with executive buy-in, but almost a quarter of less effective marketers cite this as a challenge.

Last week, our contributors answered the question, “Content marketing can be a new way of thinking for some marketing teams. How would you explain the value of content marketing to a manager or executive who is primarily familiar with traditional advertising approaches?”

This week they tackle the question, “If a marketing organization is new to content marketing, how do you suggest they get started?”

Here are four suggestions for a marketing organization starting to do content marketing:

  1. Determine what type of content you’re going to cover. Think broadly about categories. Include sales, customer service, human resources, product, management and customers. [Here are more detailed insights.]
  2. Involve a wide variety of employees. Ask for content creation volunteers from across your organization to distribute the work and get different perspectives.
  3. Set up an editorial calendar to organize the content creation process. If you’re getting content from a diverse group of employees and/or paid writers, you may need editorial support to ensure a consistent voice.
  4. Give employees guidelines to help make the content richer. [The National Enquirer has ten great lessons.]

Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen)

Think about the intersection of two spheres: the issues your prospects care most about; and the areas where your company has a real expertise. Start by generating great content in the overlap zone. Can’t miss.

– Doug Kessler (@dougkessler)

The best way to get started in content marketing is to analyze your customer’s behavior patterns. Where do they spend time? What do they care about?  If they are teens, then look at the kinds of content teens search for or sign up for in the forms of texts, social media applications, etc.  If they are seniors, they may like print marketing or direct mail pieces.  Once you’ve agreed who your customers are, or better yet, you know, then decide how to target them.  Learn everything you can about how they consume content.  Once you know that, you’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of content marketing platforms that are sure to reach your target audience.

– Ahava Leibtag (@ahaval)

1. Focus on the target audience.
2. Set goals and the plan.
3. Execute against the goals.

As any company sets out to start a content marketing program, it is important to understand its target audience and set goals first, rather than jumping on the content marketing bandwagon.  For example, you’ll want to know if your target audience is even receptive to content marketing – do they read blogs, watch videos, etc. – before spending your resources developing the content.

Once you understand how best to engage your audience, you’re ready to start testing some different content types.  Don’t be afraid to outsource your content development efforts!

– Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaksymiw)

“Think like a publisher” is a phrase bandied about frequently. I prefer “think like the shopkeeper from yesteryear.” As best you can, know your customers on an individual basis and encourage them to connect with others in the community. Serve them all by offering narrowly curated content that speaks to their collective tastes, desires, and needs.

– Katie McCaskey (@KatieMcCaskey)

The best thing any organization can do is start a blog. Even before you have a clear content strategy defined, blogging gives you a great avenue to test your message.

  • Because it’s a “slow burn” activity, a blog allows you to explore how you want to present your business without making a huge investment.
  • Every single post adds to the asset value of your marketing expense.
  • A collective body of work demonstrates consistency, thought leadership and establishes your authority in the marketplace.
  • Each new post has the potential to attract new readers who can then access all your historical posts.
  • If you anchor your blog on your website – and you should – it also does wonderful things for your SEO.

– Sarah Mitchell (@globalcopywrite)

At Gartner, we always opined that “you can’t manage what you haven’t measured,” so the first content marketing step should be an inventory of what content already exists. This will include an understanding of what white papers, opinion posts, product data sheets and case studies already exist and could be leveraged, and most importantly, will highlight what is missing.

To promote understanding of what you have covered and where there are gaps, content should be categorized. Some pivot points could include:

  • Persona (the particular targeted buyer segment the content aims to address)
  • Type of content (opportunity, technical, business case, competitive comparison, testimonial / reference, etc.)
  • Stage in buying cycle (discovery, awareness, consideration, preference, decision, post-purchase)
  • Marketing channel (website, download, tool, blog, e-mail, etc.).

Tom Pisello (@tpisello)

1. Make a list of the critical “pain points” your customers are experiencing that your company and brand can help them with.

2. Make an “inventory” of all the relevant content that currently exists in your company in regard to these pain points.  For example, include studies that provide valuable data, insights and experiences of top leaders that are unique and genuinely represent thought leadership in your industry.

3. Evaluate and list all the ways your particular customers are open to receiving content.  Will they watch videos? Read blogs?

4. Create a plan to turn items from Step 2 into content forms from Step 3.

– Lisa Petrilli (@LisaPetrilli)

Start by really clarifying your business objectives over the next 180 to 360 days.  Remember that if you are just getting started in content marketing, your goals and metrics should center around the production of content, NOT the results that that content will bring over time.  For instance, if you are starting a company blog, make your first objective to be able to produce three to five posts per week consistently over 90 days.  Once you reach that, take the production goal up a notch to five to seven posts per week.  If you can hit these marks over the first six months, then take a look how your subscriber base and traffic has increased.  Set that number as your baseline metric, and then move forward with a plan to improve from there over the next 180 days.

– Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)

Here’s how to get started with content marketing:
1)  Gain a solid understanding of your ideal customers and their information needs and preferences.
2)  Map your buyers’ concerns to your organization’s expertise to identify the sweet spot.
3)  Conduct a content audit to determine how well your content satisfies your prospects’ needs – and where there are gaps.
4)  Create an editorial calendar to ensure you stay on target with your content plan.
5)   Develop new content and/or repurpose existing content.
6)  Make your content easy to find, access and share online.
7)  Measure your results and refine as needed.

– Stephanie Tilton (@stephanietilton)

With reference specifically to content marketing in a B2B environment:

1. Start with a complete content audit — not just what’s on the website, but what exists in binders, file folders and buried in desk drawers, too.  Get beyond brochures to anything that smells like “real” content – original research, white papers, editorial produced for mainstream or trade media, conference presentations, etc.

2.  Audit the current state of content marketing — if the company barely has a functioning website, you’ll need to start with the basics, perhaps an eNewsletter.  If, on the other hand, they’ve made some forays into more adventuresome content marketing territory (perhaps they’ve set up a Facebook page or started a corporate blog), you might start by organizing more regular updates or postings.

3. Talk to the salespeople — find out what materials they use with individual customers (and while you’re chatting with them, find out who these customers are and at what stage in the buying cycle the materials are used — also, whether they are effective).

4. Identify the organization’s “subject matter experts” — the ones who regularly speak with the media or deliver conference presentations.  Ask (beg or coerce) the SMEs to sit on your Thought Leadership Council.

5. Set up an editorial calendar by collaborating with the SMEs (getting their buy-in and also nurturing a sustainable content stream from each).  Take the editorial calendar one step further and set up a production schedule — figure out what resources you’ll need and who’ll do what so that you can publish compelling material consistently.

7.  Identify metrics to determine whether you’re getting traction.  As part of this process, check in with the feet-on-the-street (sales people or customer service folks) to see if they are distributing the content and what kind of feedback they are getting.

– Jennifer Watson (@ContextComm)

I like what Joe Pulizzi described in last week’s post about getting people and content together in a room to discuss how customers and content relate. Getting started with content marketing requires understanding what assets and processes already exist and how and why they are used to build relationships with customers.

That then triggers discussion about the marketplace and how the company creates value for customers.

From there, you can start to piece together a bigger picture perspective, a content strategy, a rough content calendar and a strong sense for where gaps and opportunities exist for content marketing.

– CB Whittemore (@cbwhittemore)


The ideas cover a lot of different areas:

  • Understand your business objectives and determine realistic goals (at first, the goals may be built around production instead of results)
  • Develop your positioning – where do your expertise and your customer needs intersect?
  • Get to know your customers:
    • Analyze buyer behavior
    • Build buyer personas
    • Figure out what kind of content they like to receive
  • Think about the content you already have and can build:
    • Audit your content to figure out what you have and what is missing
    • Assess where you’re at in terms of the current state of your content marketing
    • Start a a blog – a great platform to test your message
    • Offer narrowly-focused curated content
  • Make a plan to get it done:
    • Develop an editorial calendar and production schedule
    • Consider a thought leadership (or editorial) council
    • Enlist help from employees and freelancers
  • Have a plan to share your content
  • Measure the success of your content and continually modify it

Is there anything on this list that you think is most important? Anything you would add? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you are interested in learning how to educate and justify the importance of content marketing, stay tuned to our posts on Tuesdays. Even better, sign up so to get all of our content marketing how-to articles.

Other posts in this series: