To build a content marketing strategy from scratch, get internal buy-in.
How? Here’s the short answer:
Inside the company, build buy-in by collaborating with colleagues to co-create your content marketing mission, strategy, and message.
Use buyer persona research or customer question analysis to gain crucial insights into what buyers need.
Here’s a step by step process for how to build a content marketing strategy from scratch:
1. Secure buy-in through co-creation
It’s not easy to gain buy-in. In fact, the #1 challenge business-to-business (B2B) marketers face is getting content marketing to fit into the company, its culture and organization chart.
To secure buy-in from executives, R&D, sales and marketing, “co-create” your content marketing platform.
How? Convene a team that gives voice to other people on the company’s content marketing mission, strategy, message and editorial calendar.
A co-creation approach is the most effective way to get the right issues debated, create understanding across departments, and move everyone onto the same page for implementation. Use a neutral facilitator to speed the process.
You can start to co-create content marketing strategy in any of 3 places:
• To start at the corporate level, involve the CEO and direct reports.
• Starting at a product level, include the business unit head, division manager, product manager, sales, R&D and marketing.
• To start at a regional sales level, work with the regional sales manager, key product managers, sales and marketing.
2. Gather buyer insights
To build your strategy on solid ground, bring to the table everything you know about customers and buyers.
When you perform buyer persona research in advance of the first strategy meeting, you can bring useful insights from buyers to the team. For example, you’ll learn:
• What event triggered the need to start a buying journey?
• Which media do buyers use?
• Which information do buyers seek?
• What obstacles do buyers encounter?
• How exactly do buyers overcome the obstacles to making a purchase?
If you don’t have buyer persona research or lack the resources for it, then focus on finding out your customers’ top 100 questions.
Capture customer questions face-to-face, by phone, on the Internet or via BuzzSumo’s question analyzer. Here’s a step by step process to help you transform customer questions into compelling content.
After you have gathered 1,000 or more questions, use text analysis to find out:
• What are customers’ top 100 questions?
• What do questions show about the buying journey?
• Which obstacles prevent potential buyers from reaching a decision?
With these insights, you can create content that answers customers’ questions best.
3. Simplify with a one-page strategy
Most marketers lack a written content marketing strategy. That’s nutty, because a written strategy makes you 4 times more successful.
Don’t make content marketing strategy into the daunting process of creating a 3-inch binder no one reads.
Boil down your strategy to its essence on one page. Use the one-page strategy template below to align content marketing with business needs.
The content marketing strategy template builds on an OGSM framework:
• Objectives: What are 2 or 3 things the company must do in the year ahead? Or, what are the top 2 or 3 items on the CEO’s to do list? (qualitative)
• Goals: How will the company measure the achievement of its objectives? (quantitative)
• Strategy: What will marketing do to support the achievement of these objectives? (qualitative)
• Metrics: How will marketing measure achievement of strategies? (quantitative)
Then, you need to plug in your content marketing mission. If you don’t have a written content marketing mission, you can create your own with this template.
Add into your strategy:
• Buyer benefits. Quickly answer the question, “What’s in it for buyers?”
• Calls to action, both soft and hard.
Why do you need both two types of conversions – soft and hard? Because when someone answers yes to a small ask, the human consistency principle urges them to say yes to a bigger ask.
It’s wise to make a small ask (a soft conversion) before you make a big ask (such as a hard conversion that puts buyers into the demand pipeline).
Most teams hammer out a content marketing mission and strategy in a half-day workshop. Once you have a mission and strategy, give people a couple of weeks to absorb it.
Then organize a half-day session to develop your marketing message. Convene the same team that gave input to your strategy.
4. Create a message that hooks buyers in 7 seconds
A concise, clear and consistent message helps you hook people’s attention fast – in as little as 7 seconds or 23 words. Seven seconds is the length of the average sound bite when people are quoted in news media.
To overcome people’s short attention spans and make your message hit home, boil your message down to 7 seconds with a Message Map. A Message Map helps you say it, share it, present it, tweet it, blog it, post it, publish it, or debate it well.
What is a Message Map? It’s a simple intuitive tool that helps you:
• Tell your story in 7 seconds or 23 words.
• Keep it clear, concise and consistent.
• Tell the same story in digital, print and live media.
• Scale up the story as needed.
• Get everyone to sing from the same songbook.
• Gain buy-in and speed reviews.
Here’s an example of a 7-second Message Map for the Virgin Hotel Chicago.
Co-create your Message Map as a team, so people understand, buy into and use the same consistent message.
Why? Because the human brain equates consistency with credibility. You have to deliver a message consistently for audiences to believe it.
With a Message Map, you command attention as you answer the audience’s key question, What’s In It for Me? (WIIFM?)
Breakthrough with a concise message in 7 seconds. Then gracefully scale up your message to 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes or more.
By delivering one main point, called home base, backed up by 3 positive points, your message will be remembered. With a Message Map, you always have the right-sized message ready to go in any medium – live, print or digital.
Build your path to success
To build a content marketing strategy from scratch, involve other people in co-creating your platform.
With your content marketing mission, strategy and message in hand – plus buy-in from your co-creators – you’ll build a smooth path to launch content marketing successfully!
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.