Content marketing is expected to grow to a $400 billion industry by 2021. There are several factors contributing to the growth of the industry.
First, the need to produce fresh content to maintain (or improve) search engine rankings is still an issue for both B2B and B2C companies. Additionally, consumers have grown accustomed to researching products and services independently online. Also, content analytics and measurement tools are more advanced, making it easier to understand the impact of your content creation efforts.
As a B2B marketing agency, we have seen firsthand how successful our clients are when they create, target, and amplify high-quality content. At Elevation, we work with dozens of B2B organizations across a variety of industries to create impactful content that helps them achieve their sales and revenue goals.
In all cases, without exception, a solid content marketing strategy is crucial for success. In this post, we’ll outline a five-step approach to planning and creating content.
5 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
- Conduct a content audit
- Develop a content plan
- Form a production plan
- Amplify your content
- Evaluate your success
1. Conduct a Content Audit
Before you can begin creating a comprehensive content marketing strategy, it’s important to understand what content you already have. Content auditing is essentially a two-step process:
- Content inventory: Make a list of all your existing content. This may include blog posts, videos, whitepapers, webinars and presentations, and offline materials such as brochures and product specifications.
- Content audit: This is an analysis of your content that takes the content inventory to the next level. It requires you to do an assessment of your existing content and how it fits in with your overarching business goals.
The content audit will ideally identify strengths and weaknesses of your current content approach. It should be done at least quarterly to ensure that your content is current and still relevant to your goals. A well-executed audit should include the following:
- Track inventory: Create or update a list of existing content.
- Identify: Tag content based on type (e.g., videos, images, blogs) and goal (e.g., awareness, education, conversion).
- Troubleshoot: Identify gaps in content or new content needs. Flag outdated, irrelevant content.
- KonMari: This is the “keep or toss” phase of your audit. Get rid of content that doesn’t have a purpose, and keep content that does.
- Plan: Create a content marketing plan that considers all previous steps. It should be focused on your overarching goals and KPIs.
You need to understand the content you already have before you develop a plan for new content.
2. Develop a Content Plan
Step two piggybacks off step one. This is where you’ll spend the most time reviewing your content needs and creating a list of content types to fill those needs. Your content plan should include a target persona (or personas). This is the person—or people—you’re creating the content for.
Your target persona should consider who you are targeting and what information they need. It can be helpful to create several different target personas based on your various constituents (e.g., existing customers, prospects, press, and employees). The more the persona reflects a real person, the better equipped you will be to create content that meets the needs of potential prospects and customers.
At the heart of your content plan is the content itself. Identifying and listing content types that you’ll include in your plan will ensure that your content strategy is diverse. Make sure you address a variety of content types because B2B buyers are increasingly turning to vendor websites and vendor-supplied content to make buying decisions.
A recent Demand Gen report found that more than 80% of B2B buyers use more sources to research products and services than ever before. The buying cycle is also taking longer, with more than 60% of respondents in this same study indicating that the length of the buying cycle has increased in the past year. Buyers look at a variety of different content types when researching new vendors. These include (but are not limited to):
- Company information (from your website)
- Pricing information (from your website or another third-party source)
- Product information
- White papers, webinars, e-books
- Social media posts
- Social media threads/feedback
- Search engine results
Listing the different types of information that your constituents use will help you shape and refine the foundation of your content strategy. Check out five steps to create a content marketing plan here.
3. Form a Production Plan
The production plan considers the information you gathered in steps one and two and synthesizes it into a comprehensive editorial calendar.
Each organization approaches editorial planning differently, but a good rule of thumb is to plan some content on a quarterly or, if possible, yearly basis. Foundational content such as blog posts, video, product or company information, and events can be planned far in advance. This helps with resource allocation (e.g., the writers, programmers, designers, and other staff needed to create and deploy the content).
It also ensures that you’re always producing new content and publishing it throughout the year. Your editorial calendar is helpful in providing a bird’s eye view of every piece of content you produce. It’s also a great way to tie content to specific holidays, events, or seasons.
The calendar itself should include a visual component and a planning component. Here are examples of each.
The above image illustrates a visual editorial calendar which is color coded by content type (e.g., blog post, social media post, contributed pieces, etc.). Holidays and weekends are highlighted in blue so that content can be planned around these days accordingly.
The visual calendar only tells part of the story, though. It’s important to have a planning component or flowchart, per the following example:
The editorial planning calendar will include many more details associated with your content than the visual calendar. These details can include the internal due date, final edit date, status of the piece and the assigned writer.
Get as detailed as you want with this. It’s meant to track every single piece of content that’s in production and set realistic expectations for due dates and the quantity of content.
4. Amplify Your Content
You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to create compelling content, so once it’s published, make sure you have a content amplification strategy in place. Here are a few examples of how you can amplify your content:
- Share blog posts on social media and encourage your employees to share, too.
- Send an email to clients, prospects, or other lists highlighting the latest content.
- Reach out to influencers who may be interested in featuring or profiling your content.
- Repurpose your content – for example, turn a blog post series into an e-book, guide, or webinar (which you can then share).
B2B buyers turn to social media to research new vendors by browsing existing discussions, asking for suggestions and recommendations, and connecting directly with thought leaders or vendors. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that the content you create doesn’t just live on your blog or website.
5. Evaluate Your Success
You’re not done once you hit “publish.” You’ll need to track each content initiative and tie it back to measurable goals. Here’s how:
- Monitor content that lives on your own domain via a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics.
- Create a report or dashboard that easily ties content back to measurable KPIs (leads, sales, email sign ups, etc.).
- Use a social listening tools such as Hootsuite to track social interactions, feedback, and shares
- Whenever possible, tie content initiatives back to actual sales or new business (e.g., measure your ROI).
Tracking is a critical part of your content marketing strategy. It enables you to evaluate what content works best for which audience and where you should focus your resources. You can then go back and evaluate your strategy (again, on at least a quarterly basis) and update it based on what’s working for you.
Create a Content Marketing Strategy That Works
Follow these five steps to develop a content strategy that engages views and keeps them coming back for more.