In order to develop an effective content marketing strategy, you will need to firstly identify your target audience and what kind of content they would find useful or interesting. Once you have a good understanding of your target audience, you will need to come up with a plan for creating and distributing engaging content that will reach them. This will require some creativity and strategic thinking, but if done correctly, your content marketing strategy will help you to achieve your business goals.
You may have heard things like "We could write a blog article" or "We haven’t published anything on this blog in a while, so we could be writing about our new product features." In particular, this is common for B2B companies who started content marketing for the wrong reasons:
- It's new and it's shiny
- "inexpensive" way to generate leads.
In the best case scenario these companies had an initial direction for creating content. This was in the form of an editorial calendar, internally known as "content strategy", but over time they simply lost sight of it. The result was that content was just posted, without a clear direction. This often leads to statements like "We've tried content marketing before, it didn't work for our target audience." This is usually a statement made by the sales team.
This article will explain why an editorial calendar should not be considered a strategy. It also explains why it is important to have buy-in from all stakeholders in your company, and how alignment of sales and marketing should be part of any content strategy.
What is a content marketing strategy?
A content marketing strategy describes how content will be used in different departments within the company, and what corporate goals it will achieve. However, it isn't a static document that is put on the wall of the marketing department. It also defines the roles played by each department. It is important that all stakeholders are aware of and accept the content strategy. We cannot stress this enough: if one department doesn't fully buy in, it won't work and it's a waste of money.
What should a content marketing strategy include?
A "content marketing strategy" is a strategy for creating useful and coherent content as part your inbound marketing. It's not a one pager, because a content strategy also includes many other steps, work materials, and strategies that build upon or complement it. They include:
- buyer personas
- customer journey
- SEO strategy
- Topic research/content audits
- Content Distribution Plan
Goal and purpose
A content marketing strategy should cleary explain its goals. It must include the relationship between content and the company. While goals like sales, growth, etc. must be modified regularly, a content strategy is more static. It includes the overall purpose or the long-term vision of a company. This sets the direction of your content. Furthermore, it is important to define the purpose of content in relation to achieving your business goals. Put differently: how does content contribute to your business success?
Target group definition
Who do you produce content for? Although this question may seem like a no brainer (for the customers, duh!), it can be a difficult one to answer for many companies. Are you using content to reach customers about a particular product or service? For all your products? Do you want to be a thought leader in your industry? Do you want to reach your customers at a certain point on their customer journey?
You can create content for different target audiences: prospects, existing and potential customers, marketing professionals, and general enthusiasts. Each target group is determined by the company's goals and purpose.
In this context, the creation of buyer personas is a crucial step. To create suitable content for your target audience, you will need buyer personas once you have identified your target group.
Different content is required by customers or users at different stages of the buyer's/customer journey. In the awareness phase potential customers focus on their problems and learn about them, while in "decision" phase they can choose between solutions. Once they become customers, it is about "retention" or customer loyalty. It's also about advocacy (e.g., recommendations), with more content than any other phases.
The content roadmap outlines how you will attract your audience and guide them through your pipeline. You should also include major campaigns and topics, and show how each content is built on the other.
We recommend a customer-centric approach to content creation and follow the "They Ask, You Answer (TAYA)" approach. A TAYA content strategy includes, among other things creating content on specific topics (usually referred as "Big 5"):
- Prices and costs
These topics are especially useful for answering customers' questions and to build trust. The sales should use this content extensively during their selling process.
One important aspect of this approach is that sales assigns customers to consume certain content at different stages of the sales process. This is done to make sure that customers are more informed, that sales cycles are shorter and that bad leads t disqualify themselves as quickly as possible. This method also includes the use of video content as well as interaction between text, video, and other media.
Context is the key, content is important but content is not the only thing that matters. Your content roadmap, editorial calendar respectively, is the heart of your content strategy.
An editorial calendar will allow you to share information for all stakeholders you have. You can find many templates and tools online for creating editorial calendars. However, we're using Trello to manage our editorial process.
Without measurement, a content marketing strategy doesn't make sense. An obvious choice for measuring a content marketing strategy is how many customers it helped winning. To that end, you should track the buyer's journey and measure KPIs. Here's a list of KPIs that you can use:
- Each funnel stage's conversion rates
- Click rates and conversion rates for CTAs/landing pages
- Traffic Sources and Count
- Click-through rate
- Average position in search results
- Number of contacts created from scratch
- Sources for newly generated contacts
- Keyword growth
- Content count: How many articles were published for which purpose?
What other factors are important to consider when creating a B2B content marketing strategy?
You must ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the content strategy and understand it. Even if you have the best strategy in the world, it doesn't matter if everyone supports it!
1. All players buy-in
A Content marketing strategy can be a company-wide or cross-departmental strategy. You need to have the right people to write, distribute content or control it in order to create the relevant content.
Sales, customer service, and marketing are the most important players. Make sure to build understanding, establish goals and commitments, and ensure everyone is on the same page by holding workshops.
2. Alignment with sales tactics
Ask yourself, if sales also adapting their strategies and using content during the sales process? Are salespeople sending follow-up emails with links and white papers, or using video guides or whitepapers to prepare clients for appointments?
Correct use of content in sales (keyword: assignment-selling) requires training and monitoring. So plan regular training sessions with sales and have feedback conversations.
3. Internal Accountability
Experience shows that most inbound marketing projects and content marketing initiatives fail when the responsibility for content creation is outsourced. While this may seem like a cost-saving solution for the short term, it will lead to a rise in content costs over the long term if the strategy is scaled up. Having an internal content manager is the solution to this problem. This person is responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the content strategy.
How often should you adjust your content strategy?
Many companies plan their content strategy over a period of a year. This is a good idea, especially if your goal is to gradually increase visibility in search engines using content clusters. oOwever, the (corporate) world is changing faster than ever and the goals are shifting. You don't have to create a new strategy for each small change. As a rule of thumb, we recommend planning for one-year and then reviewing quarterly to determine if the strategy is in need of adjustment. This quartely cycle not only allows for flexibility but also provides a stable output that can be continually analyzed and improved.
What tools are needed to implement a content marketing strategy?
It's easy for people to get lost among the thousands of marketing tools that are available. Based on our experience you will need:
- Content management system (CMS): We use WordPress.
- SEO and analytics tools: We use Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Matomo Analytics.
- Project management software: We use Trello for our editorial calendar.
- Video hosting service: we use Youtube and Vimeo.
- Software for managing paid ads: We're working with LinkedIn, Faceboo and, Google Ads
How can you make sure that your content strategy really works? A content marketing strategy that makes a difference depends on the buy-in of relevant actors. These include marketing but also all those who are involved in the content creation. A good content strategy clearly identifies the tasks of all departments and players within the company, especially sales. Therefore, your have to explicitly state the goals of your strategy and communicate it to everyone in the organization. Explain what higher purpose it serves, what target groups are - well - targeted, how much work will be put into it and how the success is measured.
Content is crucial in positioning brands, building a reputation for expertise and building trust between customers and companies. Get in touch with us and learn how to implement a content marketing strategy for your business.
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