Here are 9 ideas you can use to strengthen your content marketing foundations. As you address each, all of your content marketing will grow stronger.
☐ You know your content up and down. You’ve done an intensive content and communications audit within the past 3 to 6 months. So you know the content, media and frequencies of your:
• Social media
• News media
• Testimonials and case histories
• SlideShare presentations
• How-to information
• Events and related communications.
☐ You formed a strong mental picture of your buyers. You’ve completed research to understand your buyer personas.
Or, you’ve spent so much time face-to-face with your buyers that you know them well. You know their questions, their worries and their problems, in their words.
In fact, when you write content, you can easily visualize the individual buyer persona you’re writing to.
You know what you need to create great content marketing for your buyers, since you can answer these questions:
• Which events and people set in motion decision-making about purchases?
• What change did buyers expected to gain after making a purchase?
• What had prevented buyers from addressing the problem sooner?
• What did buyers want to learn, specifically?
• Which product or service capabilities are most crucial to buyers?
• Who all was involved in the purchase decision?
• What did buyers do to evaluate each option?
You have a good sense of your buyers’ journey, including insights into what buyers do before they pick up the phone and call sales.
You help buyers diagnose their problems first, since that’s how their buying journey begins. You help buyers recognize, early on, that they have a problem that must be addressed.
☐ You have a radar fix on what competitors are doing. You’ve audited your competitors’ content marketing, including their:
• Social media presence and interactions
• News media presence
• Electronic marketplace presence.
In a competitive content audit, you almost always find abandoned strategies on your competitors’ sites. Why?
Because so many marketers pursue the shiny new thing, set it up and work it intensively for a few months, then abandon it when the next shiny new thing comes along.
I’ll bet that’s evident in your competitors’ content (and hopefully, not in yours). Take advantage of the lessons your competitors learned the hard way, without going through all that pain yourself.
Your analysis should note which strategies competitors have tried, which appear to be working and which were abandoned.
☐ You follow a written content marketing strategy. Most marketers don’t yet have a written content marketing strategy. That’s a shame, because marketers who follow a written strategy are 8 times more successful than those who don’t, Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute says.
A 1-page content marketing strategy puts you miles ahead of competitors as it:
• Articulates the business objectives and goals
• Aligns marketing strategies and metrics with business objectives
• Defines the audience and its drivers
• Identifies topics that are in bounds
• Spells out each form of content, length and frequency
• Invents new ways for content to help buyers meet their goals
• Aligns metrics for content marketing with strategies, so that deliverables and measurements fit together well.
☐ You developed a solid, customer-oriented message to deliver. You’ve worked out your message, using a 1-page Message Map, so everyone in marketing and sales is on the same page with the same message.
The number one people leave B2B websites is the lack of a message. But with a message map, you can keep all your website, social media, news and other content consistently on message.
Your message is all about your customer; it’s not a self-serving message about you. Your business units, geographies and executives never deliver conflicting messages because they’re on the same page.
The topics of your content marketing are agreed. You can artfully articulate the benefits your products and services deliver. You help buyers compare your offering with others and differentiate it clearly.
☐ You use a robust editorial calendar. Customers look forward to receiving your content, and it comes out consistently when customers expect it to.
All your content, from Tweets to e-books, fits into a logical schedule. Seen through customers’ eyes, you are making waves with useful information in a mix of media that reinforce each other.
You can quickly capture the first 8 seconds of a customer’s attention with a Tweet, an email subject line or a headline.
On key topics, you logically ladder up the buyer from 8 seconds to 2 minutes of content (a 400-word blog post). Then you carry the buyer forward to longer and longer content – 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or even longer.
☐ You execute per plan. Having a plan and executing it are not the same. Plan your work and work your plan.
To get the most out of your content marketing, you actually follow the written content marketing strategy you developed. And you adapt the plan to changing trends and circumstances as you go along, measure results and find out what’s working best.
☐ You measure results and take action based on measurement. You work through quantitative measures of all content marketing activities at least once a month. What you learn prompts you and your team to do more of what’s working well, and less of what’s not working.
You use the right yardstick by measuring what your content is designed to deliver.
If you focus on building awareness and authority for early-stage buyers, measure that. If you focus on generating leads and sales, measure that.
Don’t apply the wrong measures to the content marketing you create, because that’s sure to lead to disappointments down the road.
Your metrics show you which strategies are working and which aren’t.
You measure the “inside-baseball” metrics such as unique website visitors, how visitors are acquired, hits, views, open rates, click-throughs and likes. You create hypotheses about why that’s happening, then work to prove or disprove them with data.
When you work on carefully considered B2B purchases, what’s much more important to your executives and clients will be measures of:
• How many customers made inquiries?
• How many inquiries turned into qualified leads, as agreed by sales?
• How much revenue do these leads represent in the sales pipeline?
• How many leads actually converted into revenue?
☐ You calculate an ROI (return on investment) for your overall content marketing program. With at least a year’s worth of measurements in hand, you can calculate an ROI on content marketing.
Develop an easy yardstick for ROI. For example, ask your CFO to calculate what it takes to produce a positive marketing ROI.
Have him or her determine: for each dollar of marketing expense, how many revenue dollars must be produced to make it worthwhile?
What’s going right? I bet that a lot of things are going right with your content marketing. Take time today to count up the things that are going well and celebrate them.
Then, choose which of these 9 ideas you want to apply next:
☐ You know your content up and down.
☐ You formed a good mental picture of your buyers.
☐ You have a radar fix on what competitors are doing.
☐ You follow a written content marketing strategy.
☐ You developed a solid, customer-oriented message to deliver.
☐ You use a robust editorial calendar.
☐ You execute on plan.
☐ You measure results and take action based on measurements.
☐ You calculate an ROI (return on investment) for your overall content marketing program.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.