10 Steps to Launching Your Company’s B2B Content Marketing Program
As one of the fastest growing segments of digital marketing, content marketing continues to gain momentum in 2019. Regardless of what you sell or who your buyers are, quality content that educates, engages, and impresses your buyers is good for business.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, an impressive 89% of B2B companies use content marketing to drive engagement and growth. If your company is still part of the 11% who doesn’t – or you’re ready to scale your current content program – you need a solid plan to better integrate content into your marketing mix.
Building and managing a well-executed content marketing program takes time, budget, and careful planning. If you’re ready to get started, read on. Our 10-step guide to launching your content marketing program will help you launch your program and delivering content to your buyers.
What’s Included in this Guide
Step 1: Customer and Competitor Research
Step 2: Strategy Plan
Step 3: Buyer Targeting
Step 4: Content Mix and Channels
Step 5: Discover Your Brand Voice
Step 6: Start Writing
Step 7: Add Design and Imagery
Step 8: Create Your Content Calendar and Resources Plan
Step 9: Post, Send, and Share: Get Your Content Out There
Step 10: Measure Your Results
Step 1: Customer and Competitor Research
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 90% of top-performing #B2B #content marketers put audience’s informational needs first. When it comes to content, B2B buyers are highly customer centric.
Understanding your customers’ needs and how your buyers consume content is paramount when it comes to building an effective content program. The first – and most commonly skipped – next step is to talk with some of your customers. Only an estimated 42% of B2B content marketers actively research their audience by talking to their customers.
It’s easy to fine what Google search volume is for specific keywords related you’re your product, but understanding your buyer’s specific needs and interests can help you figure out exactly what you should be writing about. Plus, most of your customers will appreciate you reaching out to get their opinion.
When speaking with them, here are a few questions to ask about:
– What their most urgent business needs are (even if they don’t relate specifically to your product)
– What topics they are currently researching and learning about online
– What their top, most trusted sources are for business content.
Next, move on to your own Google searches. Start by compiling a short list of what you believe are the most likely keyword searches run by individuals searching for a product or service like yours and start searching. There’s a lot of great content out there and content exploration will provide a nice sample of what’s being published currently.
Finally, look at what your direct competitors and leaders in your industry are currently publishing and sharing. Read a few of their recent blog posts and see what’s trending on their LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social accounts. If those companies have a strong following and take a research-based approach to content development, chances are that a lot of their content is relevant for your buyers as well. You can also run a competitor keyword search to see where they rank.
By going the extra mile before with your content research, you’ll be a step ahead of the curve when it comes time to content development.
Step 2: Strategy Plan
As with all marketing, good results begin with the good strategy. Even if you’re starting small, it’s a good idea to put together a concise strategy document that offers a unified road map and includes your goals, mission, and brand positioning statement. As with any marketing initiative, if your strategy document is well thought out and strong, the road map to success is clearer and easier to follow.
What to include in your content marketing strategy doc – Your strategy plan explains what your company does, how it helps solve your customers’ needs, and how your content will address those needs. Just as your company and service is unique, so too is your content and how it informs your target market. Include the following sections in your strategy doc:
Your purpose and goals – Start by detailing exactly why your launching your content program, and what you expect to achieve from it. Try to include both tactical goals and strategic goals. For example your tactical goals could include 1) educating buyers about a specific product, 2) Generating web leads on your website, 3) improving Google search results for your business, or 4) building your email list.
Alternatively, a strategic goal could be to build credibility with your buyers. Wondering if credibility and trust is important? 96% of succesful B2B content marketers say that their audiences view them as a trusted resource! (link)
Your editorial mission statement – Next, write your editorial mission statement, which is a statement or paragraph about your specific approach to delivering content to your customers. A good editorial mission statement should explain:
– Who your target audience is. For example, you want to target chief marketing officers of in the consumer products industry. Or, you want to target partners and office managers of law firms.
– The type of content that will be used
– How your content will provide value to your specific audience.
Don’t worry if you haven’t included each specific objective – you’ll have more opportunity to add more specific objectives and KPI’s later in the planning process.
3. Buyer Targeting
When first starting the content development process, it’s easy to think big and there’s a tendency to try to be all things to all potential customers. But when it comes to content marketing and your target market, a more effective approach is to focus on your specific, real world targets and their exact needs.
Start by identifying your top 1 or 2 target audiences – There are a couple reasons for this. First, your buyers have specific needs that you can solve. Your content helps explain how you do that. Second, if your goal is to become a trusted source, expertise is usually specific, not general. And last, but certainly not least, your buyers will fine you online using keyword searches. If you’re writing about disparate, unrelated topics when you start, you’ll lessen your content’s impact on Google search.
Persona Development – With a clear understanding of your target audience, it’s time to develop personas. Your personas are detailed descriptions of real-world buyers within your target audience. Each persona includes a range of attributes and variables, such as the individual’s roles, responsibilities, buying habits, and business needs or challenges. Feel free to adapt your persona to your specific scenario.
For example, If geography or company size is important, include it. What matters is that your persona represents a real world scenario as it relates to your business.
Buyer Intent – Because the buying process is dynamic and occurs over time, the persona development process needs to into account the buying cycle and how buyers self-educate prior to making a decision. To do that, include your buyer’s intent and the stage of the buyer cycle for each persona.
Is that individual in the early stage of the research process for a multi-part service (information intent) or are they moving toward purchase and comparing specific feature of product (transaction intent). Intent is about the “why” and “when” in your persona’s decision making process.
Keep in mind that your persona may evolve during the buying cycle. By mapping out your buyer’s journey from start to finish, you’ll be able to capture the full value of persona based targeting.
4. Content Mix and Channels
As you move through the research and targeting segments of your planning, you’ll learn a lot about the content landscape and how companies go about reaching their audiences. Depending on how you ran your searches, you likely viewed a range of content on the web, social media, and video.
Most companies with established content programs start with content on their website and blog, which serve as their content home. From there, the blog content is distributed across social media and any other content channels you have established. But while blog content may be your core content hub, social channels still serve to distribute a range of channel unique content – often short form or repurposed content – that doesn’t belong on your blog.
If you have an established customer email list, consider how to utilize your content through email marketing. Email remains one of the most common ways to deliver content, with an estimated 87% of b2b companies who have content marketing programs using email (followed next by educational content at 77%).
Ultimately, the types of content you decide to produce will depend on your target market, where your buyers are active online, and your internal capability. If you see a market gap a new YouTube channel or podcast in your area of expertise, look deeper at that opportunity. You may not know at this point the optimal mix of channels and content types. Experimentation and testing of audience response are an ongoing part of the analysis, particularly as your trying to scale your program.
5. Discover Your Brand Voice
Before starting to develop content, consider how you want to position your company and how you’d like to be perceived by your buyers. Your brand voice refers to the way you tell your company’s story, including your content style, creative, and way you position your ideas. In a sense, it’s your brand’s character delivered through your content.
What are the benefits of keeping your style formal, structured, and concise? How would casual, lighthearted work with your audience? What type of brand voice feels authentic to you and your brand? What would be the most effective way of maintaining your audience’s attention over time?
By creating a brand voice that’s unique to your company – and using it consistently over time – you’ll be able to more effectively engage your followers. When you have an authentic brand voice, your content will have a higher impact and boost results.
6. Start Writing
Finally, the writing begins. With your research complete, personas built, and brand voice established, it’s time to start developing content.
We recommend you get started with the writing process before finalizing your content calendar and complete content development plan. There’s a good reason for this. Assuming your handling writing in-house, there’s a high likelihood the writing process will take longer than projected – especially at launch. For that reason, before finalizing your full publication plan, it’s a good idea to start writing first.
Deliver value to your audience – What you write about will play a big role in how your content is received and your campaign results. If you want to grow an audience, you need to deliver value. Sure, you also want to keep things interesting and engaging. But for most companies, that means writing on highly relevant topics that inform, educate, and somehow help the reader.
Here’s a tip to help you select your first article titles and topics: Use one of the following types of high impact articles types:
5 steps to achieve Objective 1 – To educate your reader on how to do or achieve something (just like this blog post does).
Why you need to be doing XYZ right now – To inform your reader of something they need to be aware of and take action.
The top 3 examples of ABC – Everyone loves good examples that show the best of the best of anything in an easy to ready fashion.
How my company accomplished Goal 1 – If you’re company has an impressive accomplishment worth talking about, this post type is for you.
Find your inspiration – We all need inspiration to help us through the creative process. Try to source 2 or 3 high quality writers that inspire you and provide you with your own ideation.
If you’re not sure where to start, just take a look at some of the most shared articles on Medium, LinkedIn, or even professional publications like Harvard Business Review. Make sure to look at the ideas, structure, and style of writing to understand what make them effective.
7. Add design and imagery
One way to stand apart from the crowd – apart from great writing – is to add some eye catchy images to your articles. A lot of times, a good image and articled title is enough to get people to click and see what the article is about.
Fortunately, there are a lot of good sources, such as stock libraries and infographics to help you out. Here at Optimyz, we like to create custom images, illustration, or original artwork because we’ve seen how it can drive more traffic.
8. Create Your Content Calendar and Resource Plan
Once your content development process is in full swing, you’ll quickly realize that creating good content on a consistent basis takes planning and resources. The more frequently you publish – and the higher your content quality – the more time your content takes to create.
While a simple, recycled blog post may not take long to put together, high quality and original articles may take 5, 10, or 20 hours to research, write, design, and edit.
Content Calendar – For that reason, you need to plan well and use a content calendar to stay organized and on time. If you’re not publishing a high volume of content, you can probably get away at first with an Excel (or Google spreadsheet) and Google calendar. Just make sure to plan and track all key details, such as author, topic, target audience, keywords, and publish data.
Production Team – Even if you’re starting small, you’ll likely need help with creating your content. Between the research, writing, images, posting, and tracking, content marketing is a multi-faceted process. Most of the time, companies begin by outsourcing at least part of the process to contractors or content teams.
If you’re looking to go full force and build a team, here’s an example set of roles:
– Oversight of strategy and content approval: CEO or Marketing Manger
– Day to Day Operations: Marketing Manager or Content Director
– Writing: Different individuals base on capacity and expertise.
– Design: Graphic Designer
– Posting and Analytics: Marketing or Social Media Manager
Whether or not you’re handing content development in house or through an agency, there is usually a fast learning curve once you start and see what works.
9. Publish, Share, and Send: Get Your Content Out There
The impact of your content is directly correlated to your ability to get it in front of your audience. Be aggressive and strategic when it comes to pushing out your content out across social media and other channels. Remember, your buyers are exposed to vast amounts of content and ads, so don’t assume that a few posts on social media will get the job done.
Most businesses will use all channels that are already active. However, with new content coming through the pipeline, it may make sense for your business to add another channel or two. If you’re not currently using Twitter or have a monthly email newsletter, those 2 channels may be worth considering.
According to the same CMI study on B2B content campaigns, email is the #1 channel for content distribution, with 87% of content marketers using email to engage buyers over the past 12 months. As well, use of video content continues to grow for B2B marketers. Even if you’ve never used video and email marketing before, take a closer look at what it would take to add one or both to the mix.
10. Monitor Results
Once you’ve begun delivering content, the next step is to track, measure, and asses the results. Of course, to be able to track, you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking your website with Google analytics and any other tools you use (see the bonus section at the end of a list of recommended softwares).
The most important engagement metrics to look at include your blog (or blogging platform) visitor traffic, time on your site, article shares, mention, and any other feedback you receive. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to set up UTM parameters on your website so that your links (called tags) are sent to Google Analytics and properly tracked. If you’re running a campaign with social, email, or paid channels, UTM parameters will help your attribute traffic to the correct source.
Voila! With step 10 completed, you’ve completed the content program development cycle and are ready to continue publishing and staying on top of your publishing schedule. To get results, you need to stay consistent, see what’s working, and use your results to guide the next step
1) Google Analytics. Always use Google Analytics to track everything. Make sure to properly track traffic movements between your main website, blog, and any other subdomains. Cost = Free.
2) Uber Suggest from Neil Patel. Formerly Ubersuggest.com and now part of Neil Patel’s seo suite of products, Uber suggest provides local keyword combinations to help you spot possible keyword targeting opportunities. Cost = Free.
3) Buzz Sumo. Buzz Sumo is a leading platform for content research, shares data, and influencers. It helps you find the best performing content based on your specific parameters. It’s an all around great tool. Cost = $79 a month.
4) Monday.com. It’s hard to get excited about managing your projects or project manager tools. But Monday.com figure out a way to make project management simple and enjoyable. While not built for content marketing specifically, it’s a great way to keep your team organized and provide total visibility into project status. Cost = $25 a month.
4) Drum up. If you’re looking for a low-cost content recommendation tool, Drum Up is worth looking at. It also can help with your content curation or syndication (with API). Cost = $15 a month.
5) Mention. If you’re looking to move beyond Google Alerts to track media mentions, take a look at Mention. Mention has real-time reporting and monitoring, including social media. Cost = Free for 1 campaign.
6) Curata. If you’re going the curation rout full steam and want to find relevant content as it becomes available, Curata is a well established option. But Curata can also help you analyze the impact of your own content. Cost = Not public.
7) Unsplash. You’re going to need some good pics to make your content impress. If you’re on a budget, take a look at the free curated images from Unsplash.
Hopefully, this post has provide you with a number of useful insights and ideas. If you’re actively looking for help in your content strategy or development, learn more Optimyz by visiting https://www.optimyzinteractive.com/engage