Your tactical content strategy should only emerge after you’ve articulated your business goals and are crystal clear on the audience(s) you plan to reach.
Surprisingly often, people undertake content creation without doing either of these things. They might say they need to create a white paper without understanding what a white paper actually is, or why it will support their strategic goals. They might start writing blog posts about random topics that may or may not support their mission.
But you are not going to be in this group because you know your goals and your audience, right?
Good. Let’s start talking about tactics then.
Where to begin? There is almost an endless number of tactics you can employ when it comes to content marketing. Generally speaking, you have to plan to play the long game. It takes time for blog posts to catch on and email lists to build.
But let’s face it, lead generation is the ultimate end game. In the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 85% of marketers surveyed said lead generation is their most important content marketing goal.
Eventually your content marketing has to contribute to your business in a tangible, measurable way – preferably related revenue and not just engagement. Over the long term, the valuable lists that you assemble should comprise the core group of people you can engage when it comes time to sell something. These lists will grow from content marketing efforts.
As you look at individual campaign assets, make sure to include specific calls-to-action that invite additional engagement. This could be as simple as adding a website address to the end of a video that someone can visit for more information.
It’s probable that you’ll have different kinds of assets in your campaign that will deliver different levels of value. For instance, you’ll probably choose to leave your blog posts open for the public to consume. This doesn’t mean they are low value, but you can use them to attract people and invite them to download a higher value asset, like a white paper, which would require them to complete a form. As you plan your campaign, map out which assets are intended to be open and which will be gated. Then you can choose the proper sequence to stage them.
Personally, I look at content marketing as an overarching umbrella that essentially means you are using content to engage your desired audience. Terms like inbound marketing and account-based marketing refer to the instruments, or approaches, you’ll use to deliver your content.
First, I think it helps to start by asking what tools you have at your disposal. Do you have….?
- A website
- A blog
- A marketing automation suite
- A customer email list
- A prospect email list
- Active social media channels
- Relevant trade groups
- Third-party publishers who reach your target market
- Internal staff and/or vendors who can execute
- A known brand relevant to your targets
- Content contributors/experts
These are all things that will carry your content to your target audience or help you produce it. You don’t have to have them all to begin content marketing. The important thing is to start where you are and understand what you are lacking. Plan to build up around what you do have.
You might have zero audience. No email list. No social media following. That’s ok. Just realize that it could take several months for your content marketing to really gain momentum. This can be bolstered somewhat by partnering with third parties and influencers in the space, but it will still take time.
Promotion will be critical. But at this stage, you must ensure that you have a platform and network in place to create, stage, and deliver your content.
Needless to say, you should have a website of your own to serve as home base. At the very least, you can create a hub there that can deliver blog posts, Slideshare decks, videos, reports, etc.
Next, you’ll want to have a way to manage email lists and deliver emails en masse to your audience. This should be the function of your marketing automation tool or set of tools, depending on your needs.
These two things are probably the minimum items you’ll want to establish if you don’t have them already.
At this point, it helps to look inward to evaluate the human resources and expertise you can apply towards your content program. This is huge. Don’t underestimate what it will take to create content for your campaign. Sure, you can outsource some of it if you have to. But your audience really needs to hear from your people about what they know and can provide. It adds a more authentic voice to your content and will not require you to invest additional dollars in content creation when you may not have money to burn.
Some people are great speakers. Some are great writers. Some see the value in content marketing. Some could care less about marketing at all. Identify who has the knowledge to contribute to your campaign and who is willing to put forth the effort it will take to make it successful. They are not necessarily the same people.
Figure out who your champions are, so you can consider the best content approaches to make their information shine.
Additionally, before you begin to create content, you’ll need to know who can create it. Will you be doing the majority of the writing? Do you have internal or external graphics support? What about audio or video? Whatever your core or extended team looks like, make sure you plan to get the talent around you that you need. I’m not saying you that you should go on a hiring binge. Depending on the scale of your program and organization, you may be able to accomplish a lot leveraging strategic external resources.
Now comes the selection of your content types. Your job here is to align your resources so your message can then deliver that output in the most compelling vehicles you can. Additionally, you need to select content types that also align with your strategic and tactical goals so you can achieve them.
Here’s what I mean.
I like blog posts. They are a great way to expand on complex topics, build an audience, maintain intimacy with that audience, and attain new traffic from search engines. They are not the best way to deliver product-related content or generate leads quickly.
Does this mean you shouldn’t do blog posts if you’re hyper-focused on demand generation? Of course not. But you should be realistic about where they fit into your overall content scheme so you can evaluate their performance properly. And you should plan to supplement them with content that can assist further down the funnel, so you can attempt to convert suspects into prospects more quickly.
At this point, you need to step back and look at the entire customer journey to decide what you need at each stage or step. Some people may not know you at all and may require high-level educational content to become attracted to your organization and get familiar with it. Other people, such as existing customers, may be more tolerant and even appreciative of a direct approach for your new service.
This post is adapted from an excerpt of The Content Driven Product Launch