Living in a world where information is at our fingertips, brands must be a click away to remain at the top of the consumers’ minds.
That is why content marketing is becoming increasingly important. Consumers turn to the internet to find solutions, cure boredom, and gather research. Therefore, it is vital to produce quality content that consumers will click through and enjoy.
Before we can understand what your content marketing strategy needs to have, we need to know what is content marketing.
Content marketing is material that does not directly advertise a brand. Its purpose is to distribute content that is created to be valuable, consistent, and reliable: to attract and retain an audience.
If you’re interested in content marketing and who does it the best – pop that blog into a new browser tab for later.
Okay! Let’s break down the six things every B2B content marketing strategy needs to have for attracting a B2B audience.
And YES, you need to have a documented strategy in place. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 69% of the most successful brands, in 2020, who engage in content marketing have a documented strategy: this rose by seven percent since 2018.
When building a content marketing strategy you will need serious SMART goals to help guide your campaign, and a well-defined budget to keep your spending in check. Once you have those steps completed, a strong audience understanding will ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Once you start learning more about your target audience, you will need to decide on the main content format you will use to reach your audience and articulate your content. Beyond that, you need to develop fresh and interesting content ideas to keep your audience engaged.
Finally, your content is completed and ready to be distributed. These are crucial steps, as you’re now delivering your content to your target audience and can gain insights into what content has led to success.
Start with SMART Goals
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely goals provide direction, motivation, and a clear focus.
By setting goals, you’re providing a target to aim for, and SMART goals are created to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
Taking a step back, you need to consider the big picture, why are you making this content? A mission statement should be used to answer that question before SMART goals are created for individual content marketing campaigns.
A mission statement outlines the purpose and direction of your content marketing, giving your audience and your content creators a strong overview of the role your content marketing will serve.
IBM has taken the step to publish its THINK Blog’s mission statement.
You can see there is a clear purpose to this blog, and consumers know what they will find. This mission statement will be the backbone of all internal SMART goals as it outlines the general purpose/goal of the branded content.
Enter Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) goals!
Perhaps your goal is to “attract a wider audience.”
That goal is far too vague.
Let’s think about what audience you’re going after, how much growth are you looking for, if that growth target is reasonable, if you have systems in place to measure this growth, and finally, when are you looking to see results.
Here are some guidelines to make your goals SMART-er:
Specific: your goal requires a purpose and is achieved by answering all applicable five “Ws” [who, what, when, where, and why].
Measurable: tracking the success of your goal will help you remain motivated and focused.
- Include in your goal how you’re going to measure success: by how much, how many, and how will I know when it is accomplished?
Attainable: goals need to be reasonable, and you should have a plan to achieve your goals.
- How can I accomplish this goal?
- How realistic is the goal, based on current constraints?
Relevant: goals should be set to address current issues or to improve an area of weakness.
- Does this seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time?
- Does this match our other efforts/needs?
- Am I the right person to reach this goal?
- Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
Timely: all goals need a deadline to work toward, which helps when prioritizing tasks. Do your goals indicate a timeline? If not, start answering the following questions:
- When do we want to see results?
- When will our goal expire?
- What can I do six months from now?
- What can I do six weeks from now?
- What can I do today?
With those parameters considered, your new goal would be something like this:
“Through the use of a branded blog, targeted at millennials interested in marketing strategies, we expect to see a 15% audience growth rate by the end of the year, measured by the blog click-through rate and stickiness gathered by Google Analytics.”
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defence, space, and security systems. Plus they know how to create SMART goals.
This goal targets workplace safety – not branded content – however, it is a strong, clear, and concise SMART goal.
We can easily pull out its specific purpose: achieve zero workplace injuries, every day. That will act as the base for all SMART goal parameters to be built.
They have outlined their measure of success to be zero workplace injuries. This will be achieved by addressing each workplace injury and eliminating the cause. Since this goal is ongoing, Boeing addresses they will work one day at a time, day by day, until there are no workplace injuries.
As America’s largest manufacturing exporter, having a safe and inviting workplace is relevant to their success, as they need labourers who are willing and able to work on-site.
Their goal for achieving zero workplace injuries has utilized every aspect of a SMART goal. It is apparent what they are working toward, when they know their goal has been reached, how they are going to reach it, and why they have this goal set.
SMART goals will be tailored to different initiatives; the specific, attainable, relevant, and timely portions of the goal will be crafted to match the needs of your outcome. However, measurement requires the use of different metrics, and we will dive further into these different metrics, below.
Refer back to your goal when determining which key performance indicators (KPIs) you will use in judging effectiveness.
According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers are keeping tabs on many different content marketing metrics.
As you can see above, there are many different ways of measuring effectiveness.
When deciding which metrics to use, in setting KPIs, they should be based on your goal and distribution channel.
If you’re not engaging in an email newsletter, it would be a waste of time and effort to track email engagement. However, if your newsletter was being published to your website, it is advantageous to track click-through rate, website traffic, and website engagement.
Having KPIs, based on suitable metrics, enable you to improve areas of weakness and learn from areas of success.
Perhaps you notice blogs regarding industry topics have prolonged engagement times when compared to your blogs regarding current events. This shows your audience is looking to you as an industry expert, expecting and appreciating industry content. Since your blog is not gaining traction as a current event source, all resources should be shifted to support industry content writing.
We have outlined four essential KPIs for tracking content marketing return on investment and you need to be tracking these, especially when your goal is to drive conversions.
Build a Budget
As frustrating as it is, you need to set a budget and stick to it. Setting your budget early on lets you know what content can be created and how often a new piece can be produced.
In addition to the research above, the Content Marketing Institute collected data in order to compile the 2019 average annual budgets for B2B content marketing based on company size.
This should give you a ballpark idea of how much to spend on content marketing.
Going in without a budget may result in beautiful content, but it won’t be sustainable. Consumers want fresh content and you need to be able to fund this consistent creation.
Remember: Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint!
Once your budget is set and you know how often you can afford new content to be produced, you can create an organized content calendar. This organization keeps your team on track and also keeps you on-budget as you create and roll out blog posts, podcasts, or infographics.
Do not blow your budget on a great podcast that no one knows exists! Make sure to leave room in the budget to promote your new content.
After you have spent time and money generating branded content, it is necessary to have funding left over to promote this content to your audience. This awareness will lead to higher engagement and conversions from your target audience. Leaving promotion out of the budget will restrict your ability to access paid channels of distribution, limiting your audience reach.
Understand Who Your Audience Is
Now that you know what your budget is, it is time to get to know your audience. Where do they search for information, how are they searching for information, and in what ways do they enjoy absorbing content; as well as knowing what the current top trends are?
Customer journey mapping is a great way to understand your audience. Using research to discover what your customer is thinking, feeling, and doing as they make decisions.
Through this mapping, you will discover where you can do more, what questions your audience is asking that you can answer, and when in the decision-making process do they look for answers. This will allow your content to be tailored to your audience and will generate click-throughs.
You should also consider in what style you will be posting.
Are you going to become a publication or a library? The publication style looks to build a repeat audience by frequently posting content on topics of broad interest to a specific industry. On the flip side, the library style narrows down the focus with more interconnected articles that are there when the visitors need them.
I’d recommend using the library style, if your goal is to grow your audience, as the content will be industry-focused and rank better in Google. This content is specific to an industry and your articles will center around ‘how to guides’, answering frequently searched questions, and areas of expertise. Although this content takes a little longer to develop, due to its educational nature, most of your content will remain evergreen.
Within the library style, you’re able to organize your content into topic specific sections, helping your audience find the category that best suits their interests and needs.
A publication style is beneficial when you have a built up subscription base who are readers of a weekly newsletter. This style releases up to date news and content around current trends; content that is not evergreen and easily dated. Due to the lack of longevity, this content often underperforms in terms of SEO, meaning you will have to work harder in making this content work for you in attracting a new audience.
When starting out in developing your strategy you should begin with creating a library of content, this will live on your website for users to discover and learn from!
Once you know all about your target audience, use this information to figure out what style of language they prefer. Generation Z’s will look for a conversational and casual style of content, whereas a Millennial is going to appreciate a casual yet elevated style.
Choose a Format For Your Content
Great, now that you have a SMART goal, a strong budget in place, and an understanding of your audience, it is time to think about which format will work best to spread your message. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the top ten most used content types by B2B marketers breaks down to:
- Social Media Content (95%)
- Blog Posts/Short Articles (89%)
- Email Newsletters (81%)
- In-Person Events (73%)
- Videos – excluding live streaming (71%)
- Case Studies (69%)
- Infographics/Charts/Photos/ Data Visuals (67%)
- Webinars/Online Events (57%)
- White Papers (55%)
- Ebooks/Guides (51%)
- Podcasts (21%) [Bonus Content Type]
Do not feel pressured to stick to one form of content, if your budget allows for it, branch off into creating additional content to support your main feature.
You don’t even need to create fresh content ideas to go along with an alternative content form because content repurposing is here!
From one podcast into a blog post into a youtube video, Ross Simmonds knows how to repurpose content and ensure he is appealing to everyone in his audience.
After guest starring in The GrowthTLDR, Ross promoted the podcast on his social channels and in March, a month after the original podcast posting, he created a blog post to further support the podcast and spread his knowledge on channel distribution.
Due to Ross’ library publication style, he knows that his content remains relevant, even as time passes. Therefore, he was able to link his blog on content distribution from his podcast, to a pre-published youtube video.
As you can see, using repurposed content allows you to take pre obtained information, expertise, and knowledge to create ample amounts of freshly formed content to be published on different platforms.
Using different formats will attract different audiences. Keep in mind who you’re trying to attract as well as what information you’re looking to share.
If you’re going to be sharing a lot of facts, an infographic will be useful in making the information easily digestible.
Consider how much investment is required from your audience to gain the most out of your content. When looking to capture your audience’s attention to share educational information, it is best to rely on blogs or infographics due to their clarity and retroactive accessibility. Case studies can be presented beautifully through videos, as well as podcasts, since your goal is to share information instead of it acting as an educational resource.
Develop Interesting Content Ideas
Do you have any posts up on your blog with titles similar to “Top Trends to Watch For in 2019” or “Instagram Marketing in 2019” – why not revisit those blogs and update them for 2020?
Refreshing content that is out of date is a great place to start when developing content ideas for a pre-existing blog.
Coming up with new and exciting content that fits your goal can be exhausting. Especially if you’re working within a small content team, which limits the scale of a brainstorming session.
Luckily, websites such as Buzzsumo, Feedly, or Keyword Tool exist to make this task easier for you. These websites will help identify current trends and additional keywords your audience is searching for.
Mike Raia is the marketing team lead for Integrify, a Chicago-based workflow management software provider. A part of his content marketing strategy is creating relevant content for the brand’s social channels.
As you can see from the Buzzsumo testimonial he wrote, the website helps save him time and stress when coming up with and deciding on content topics.
Now within fifteen minutes, Mike knows what topics are trending and can decide which will fit best with his audience. Giving him more time to work on developing a strong piece of branded content.
IMPORTANT: Create an idea bank!
One tool Mike highlights is Buzzsumo’s save feature, where you can save topics of interest for future retrieval.
Do not feel as though you need to start from scratch on every piece of content you create.
As you brainstorm ideas and research current trends, begin developing an idea bank that you can refer back to whenever you’re ready to create a new piece of content.
Distribute and Measure Your Content
Alright, onto the last piece of the content strategy puzzle: distribution and measurement.
You have finalized your content, it is fantastic and ready to be published. You know your target audience and should have an idea of your preferred posting platform.
There are three main channels of distribution: Organic, Paid, and Owned. Look back to your SMART goal and budget when figuring out which one will work best (note: it may be more than one).
Time to set up a web app, to help you efficiently distribute content!
Later and Buffer are great, especially for social media as they will publish your content directly onto social media platforms. Besides their compatibility with social media channels, they also work as general scheduling tools offering push notifications when posts are ready to go live.
This brings me to measurement, You have developed a set of KPIs and a measurable metric of success outlined in your SMART goal, which will make measurement a breeze!
As you post content, you should be systematically checking your analytics and KPIs to see where areas of improvement are needed and where you’re finding the most success. Use these findings going forward when creating new content, and do not be afraid to access relevant older posts to revive them using the new findings.
Trust us when we say, you need a documented content marketing strategy. It will help create seamless, well-curated posts that are coordinated to retain old and attract new audiences.
As more posts go live and your marketing content grows, your SMART goals will change and your strategy may need tweaking. Always remember: growth leads to change, embrace it!
You’re now armed with the six steps to take in creating or revamping your content marketing strategy. By following these steps, your content marketing ROI will increase, but you can take it to the next level by downloading our free B2B marketing strategies guide!
This guide offers you strategies for building brand awareness, generating more leads, developing a strategy, and it includes many personalizable templates.