The end of the year is upon us and we’re all in planning mode. It’s time to get strategic for next year. If content marketing is a new piece of your marketing plan next year, the task of developing that strategy may feel somewhat daunting. We usually associate strategic plans with a big beefy PowerPoint. If you need to present your strategy, then go ahead and make those beautiful slides. Personally though, I’m most strategic when I dig into a spreadsheet. Because I’m able to pull all those strategic decisions into one document - who, what, when, where and why.
Who will develop it?
As we consider the strategy for a content marketing plan we often focus on what the content will be rather than who will develop it. That decision is sometimes the one we think the least about. Here’s scenario #1: you can afford to hire a partner, you do your homework and hire a smart B2B inbound marketing agency. Done. Or maybe you fall into scenario #2: you’re not so lucky, budgets are tight, so you and your marketing coordinator have officially added one more thing to that impossibly full plate. Then there’s scenario #3: in your business there’s just no choice. It’s unrealistic to find an external partner with the same intimate understanding of your business and customers that your team has.
So you you hire that great B2B inbound agency, and they deliver their first draft of work and man, it’s just wrong. They just don’t get it! Well, it could be worse, because the company in scenario #2 just pulled the team together to get volunteers to contribute to the blog, and the silence in the room was...awkward. (I can’t believe you’re surprised. You really thought the team would be all about it?) So what about our friends in scenario #3, you ask? We all know that the trusty marketing team are the most creative ones in the building. They’ve done good work, but if you twist anyone’s arm they’ll admit...maybe they’re a little dry, or repetitive, and the whole content marketing thing seems slow going. Let’s face it, we aren’t all blessed with the gift of long form writing. (Hey now, don’t judge. I’ll admit I’m no Faulkner...)
Good content takes time to develop. Internal resources that are working on content marketing are taking a good chunk of time away from something else. You think those little video blogs will be super quick and easy? Think again. Creating good content also a skill. The strategy here is establishing a system to divide and conquer to deliver the quality content that your audience expects. A strong content strategy will leverage internal insights beyond the marketing team. Your product, sales, finance and operations teams all bring important perspective that could be worth sharing.
What content will you create?
Most folks know that a content marketing strategy is important to guide decision making about the “what”. What tactics? What topics? What length? What tools? Without a doubt, these are all of valid questions that are difficult to answer because there are so many paths your business can pursue.
To guide this strategy, just exhaust all of your sources:
- Ask leadership - What are our business goals and how will content marketing best support them.
- Ask sales - What questions do our customers have?
- Ask your team - What is our unique perspective? How can we best inform our audience?
- Ask your customers - What challenges are they solving for in their roles right now?
This may not sound especially sophisticated, but ultimately, if you are just about to begin a content marketing program the most strategic decision you can make is to just hurry up and start. Once you begin pushing new content live, use your metrics to learn and adjust as you go. Try as you might, whatever you do in year one won’t be nearly as smart as what you do in year two. So get that first awful video blog out of the way. It’s your destiny.
When will you share it?
Going back to my strength as a writer...I need to quit it with the cliches, but here’s another for you: timing is everything. This is especially true for content. Your customers are likely looking for different types of information at different times of the year. Understanding that cycle increases the chances that your content will be discovered and shared. And you get brownie points for showing that your business really understands their business. Growing website traffic, converting leads and enhancing your brand is what this content thing is all about.
The other thing about timing is that it’s important to stay current, and make sure that your timely content can be found. Content Marketing Institute wrote a great article about how This American Life get’s the right content to the right people at the right time. And as you are looking at the content plan for next year, don’t forget about existing materials that you have when it comes to a refresh. Update older posts with the latest insights to stay relevant.
Where will it live?
For most businesses, most of the content will live on the company’s website. While it’s true that getting more traffic to your website is what it’s all about, a stronger plan extends into other channels as well.
- Are there digital or printed industry publications that you could develop content for? For many B2B businesses, public relations is not a major focus. But now that you have a library of smart content, this is a great opportunity to grow your network of influencers.
- Could you take that white paper and turn it into a presentation to share at a conference? Many industry associations also host monthly webinar series, which are a great way to wet your presentation chops.
- What about vendors you frequently work with? Could you cross-promote by developing content for each other's websites?
- Is LinkedIn a big portion of your social media strategy? Do your customers frequent Medium? Although it’s great to get traffic to your own website, sharing material on other platforms is a great way to grow your audience. There are some who would argue against duplicating content on multiple platforms to avoid getting dinged by Google, but others who assert that every blog post should be crossposted to LinkedIn and Medium.
Hopefully, since you’ve committed to content marketing, you already have a clear understanding of why you are doing it at all. Beyond that though, it’s important to understand why your business is different and how that translates into the content that you will create. The why is the unique perspective your business brings to your industry, and what motivates the people who make up your team.
As you consider that voice, don’t be afraid to be human. According to AdAge, getting personal is one of the big trends of B2B marketing this year. So as much as it saddens me to say it, the “why” isn’t something that lives as a column in your spreadsheet–but go ahead and put it someplace right up on top. Because ultimately it should be driving every strategic decision you make.