Content marketing work hasn’t slowed down – and it’s not likely to anytime soon.
Yet content marketers have adapted admirably to constant disruptions and changes in direction.
Many of you have explored newer content platforms (metaverse anyone?). Many have built a presence on new channels like Clubhouse and those that have entered the mainstream like Discord. And some have experimented with content formats like NFTs and pushed the envelope in AI, AR/VR content experiences
What’s even more impressive? Two-thirds of B2B marketers say they made these strides without additional budget resources or team support, according to CMI’s 2022 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.
We’re all doing more with less. A new year is a great time to flip that script. So, I’ve pulled together a collection of tips and resources that will help you do less heavy lifting and get more value from your effort.
Get your strategy in order
Success rarely happens through shortcuts. But it can occur through a reliable process followed by the most successful B2B marketers: They create – and document – their content marketing strategy.
Your content marketing strategy should detail three key pillars:
- Why– the marketing and business goals and the reason to create content as opposed to other marketing techniques
- Who – the audience to serve, including who they are, what they need, and their customer journey
- How– the unique brand mission or story, what sets your content apart from what else your audience might choose
Start with a simplified strategy and refine it over time. Zero in on your top-priority content marketing goal by asking these questions:
- What business need are we struggling to achieve through current marketing initiatives? For example, if the challenge is lead or demand generation, the goal could be to build the brand’s authority in the marketplace or accelerate the conversion path on your website.
- How big is this need? How will addressing it help drive our goals? If you aren’t sure, compare the business value from each target market. If one drives more revenue or incurs more conversion costs, it’s likely worth focusing your content on the more successful market’s needs.
- What is the differentiating value? Why is it more important to invest time and money in content marketing than in other marketing?
- What is our ideal outcome with this process? What will it do for our business if we succeed?
Then, ask these questions to develop accurate personas to guide your content:
- Who is the audience? What are their defining traits and distinguishing characteristics?
- What roles do they play? What does their typical day look like?
- What do they need to accomplish? What informational gaps stand in the way of reaching those goals?
- Where are they in our funnel? What information do they need most to help them reach the next stage?
- Why would they care about our company as a product/service provider?
Go to the source for more details: Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 3 Steps
Map out your content operations
Content marketers are expected to collaborate on constructing, implementing, and administering a framework to manage content operations across the enterprise.
Cathy McKnight of The Content Advisory offers these suggestions for building that framework and simplifying how content gets created and managed in your organization.
Articulate the purpose of your content. Your purpose explains why your team creates content – think of it as the North Star guiding all your efforts.
Define your brand’s content mission. Do you intend to use content to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Can you clearly communicate your mission? Do you have a unique voice or value proposition? Answering all these questions will solidify your content mission.
Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective way to communicate goals and milestones to be achieved. Each objective – an overall business goal – usually encompasses three to five quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Checkpoints ensure the ultimate objective is reached.
Organize your content operations team. With OKRs set, people need to get the work done. What will the structure look like? Who will report to whom? Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized-but-supported structure, or something in between?
The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization. Use the sample org chart below as a reference: At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.
Formalize a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards. You also need to ensure all content stakeholders across the organization are willing to adopt them.
Create efficient processes and workflows. Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes – including how each type of content is generated from start to finish. You may need to do some leg work to understand:
- How many ways is content created and published?
- Who is involved (internal and external resources)?
- How is progress tracked?
- Who are the doers and approvers?
- What happens to the content after it’s completed?
Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, allowing for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests. (See below for more details on how to map that core workflow for your business.)
Cathy offers this model for approving social content, organized into three tiers – the request, the production and scheduling, and the storage and success measurement:
Deploy the best-fit technology stack. Many organizations grow through acquisition, inheriting duplicate components within their content stacks. Do an audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can.
Get more from the source: How To Build a Content Operations Framework (and Why You Need One)
Document your workflow details
Creating a detailed and documented content marketing workflow gives structure to your processes, visibility into collaborative dependencies, and execution efficiency.
A content marketing workflow structures your processes and provides visibility to collaborative dependencies, says @HANDLE
For example, content teams get tons of requests for content from across the enterprise and are tasked with coming up with ideas to fulfill them. If your team doesn’t have a reliable way to collect and call up those ideas, it will be impossible to track them.
Workfront’s Raechel Duplain suggests documenting these aspects for greater efficiency and effectiveness:
- Identify who needs to be involved in content requests and ideation. Consider where requests and ideas are coming from. Include the key members of your team and relevant stakeholders and subject-matter experts in other departments.
- Create a central location or repository for requests and idea submissions. Require that all content requests and ideas be submitted in a standardized fashion to one place. You could create an email alias that goes to your team lead (e.g., [email protected]), an online form that auto-populates a shared spreadsheet, or a cloud-based solution. The repository should serve as the place to prioritize and select content for production.
- Detail approvers and reviewers. Before work starts, know who needs to approve topics, such as the sales team, internal subject-matter experts, or executives.
- Determine the sequence of work. In the ideation stage, map out what needs to happen in what order – brainstorm ideas, cull ideas, submit ideas, fill out a content brief.
Get more from the source: How To Document Your Content Marketing Workflow
Distinguish your brand with content
The content landscape is crowded, noisy, and competitive. How can a brand get noticed?
The first steps involve analyzing the content in your market:
- Take inventory of your competitors’ content. Catalog each content medium and site, from articles to videos on and off their website. Each content type gives insight into the level of investment, formats enjoyed by their audiences, and the range and relative importance of topics and keywords.
- Evaluate quantity and quality. Take stock of the number of media and channels used and the publishing frequency on each. Look for trends in engagement – shares, comments, etc. – to understand how well the content is performing.
- Tag and analyze content topics. Do a micro-analysis of each content piece. Tagging and analyzing the topics of individual assets can surface content marketing gaps.
You’ll end up with a master spreadsheet of your competitors’ content marketing strategies deconstructed. Looking at a combination of the quantity and quality by topic will reveal areas to stay away from and gaps to fill. In other words, you will create a map that shows how to differentiate and win with your content marketing.
Get more from the source: How To Do a Competitive Content Marketing Analysis
Vet your ideas for viability
Sometimes the problem isn’t coming up with great topics and ideas but knowing which ones are most worth executing. A system for prioritizing projects helps you avoid wasting time on content that isn’t likely to help drive your goals.
First, see if your idea has legs with this four-question content vetting process from Stacker’s Amanda Milligan:
- Is it something your audience wants? Does your idea fall into those curiosities or concerns heard by a sales representative and a customer service representative (if applicable)? You can also do keyword research to see if your idea addresses a question people are asking.
- Has the idea been done? Often, figuring this out can be as simple as a Google search. But don’t just look for direct matches – check related keywords and associated ideas. You might be able to pivot and find an even more interesting approach.
- Does the idea align with your marketing goals? Every content piece should have a primary and secondary goal: helping prospects understand your offering, converting visitors, building backlinks and brand authority, and so on. Your goals can overlap, but make sure the primary goal shapes each piece.
- Will the idea elicit a reaction? For audiences to care, your content should provoke a response or emotion or help them achieve some satisfaction. Will your idea inspire them or help them overcome an obstacle? If the answer is no, the resulting content isn’t likely to matter to your customers. Move on.
Make better decisions about video
When face-to-face communication paused, video swept in to fill the connection gaps. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every situation.
Consider the intended message and interaction at the start of every video project. Those intentions should factor into all creative decisions. Answer these questions to ensure you’re making the right choices from the start:
What is the primary goal for your video?
- Customer service: Do you want to distribute information or technical assistance to customers who have purchased your products?
- Brand awareness: Do you want to generate initial interest in your brand or increase awareness of its offerings, vision, and values?
- Sales enablement: Do you want to generate demand and leads or help the sales team generate revenue?
- Thought leadership: Do you want to promote your executives’ subject-matter expertise or generate new business partnerships and opportunities?
What level of participation will you provide?
- Do you want to create a collaborative dialogue between your brand and the audience?
- Do you want to offer your brand’s unique perspective on a topic?
What is your tolerance for risk, and what’s your desired level of control?
- Is it critical to deliver a fully vetted message, or is there room for spontaneity and creativity in your delivery?
- Do video scripts need approval?
- How will stakeholders react if your video isn’t polished and perfect?
- How skilled and comfortable on camera are your presenters?
What do you want viewers to do while they watch? After they watch?
- Do you prefer to create a passive or active viewing experience?
- Can viewers react and respond in real-time, or should they follow up separately?
With these criteria determined, you can match your goals with the most appropriate video experience. Use the graphic below to help:
Get more from the source: How to Create the Right Video Experiences for Your Brand
Choose content distribution channels wisely
Some content distribution decisions work better for some content goals than others.
To increase your potential for success, develop a channel plan with a clear understanding of the pros and cons for each and how strongly they align with your audience, brand voice, and goals.
In our latest guide on content distribution, we outline some of the top factors to consider.
Evaluate each channel using this checklist to decide which is the best fit:
- Audience characteristics: What audience are you most likely to reach on this channel? Does this match your target audience or personas?
- Rules of engagement: How often is this channel’s audience be open to hearing from brands like yours? Are specific topics off-limits? Do they want lengthy, text-based content, or are images and videos better fit?
- Communication style: Are your tone, voice, and style a good fit on this channel? Could conversations of a sensitive nature put your brand at risk?
- Brand resources and capabilities: Do you have the right resources to engage consistently? Are you prepared to listen, respond, participate in existing discussions, and start conversations?
Explore paid opportunities to extend your content’s reach
With organic reach on social media in sharp decline, search trends shifting due to privacy regulations, and other algorithm changes complicating the playing field, consider amplifying your content’s power with paid promotion.
Take advantage of more strategic, subtle, and immersive means, such as:
- Native advertising: Rather than disrupting the reader’s editorial experience, native ads align with the tone, format, and topical focus a reader would expect to find on the third-party site.
- Branded content: Branded content works by partnering with relevant publishers your target audience trusts. This technique can take a more immersive, sensory-driven approach to storytelling, making the experience more entertaining, valuable, and memorable.
- Paid search: Pay-per-click ads or other sponsored listings appear near the top of search engine results pages (SERP) when consumers search for information relevant to your content.
- Influencer marketing: Enlist the assistance of strong voices in your industry – people who have the ear of your target audience – to help bring your content to their attention. But exercise caution with influencer campaigns. Some questionable practices can keep your business from achieving optimal results.
- Paid social media promotion: Boost your content’s reach further and faster by building paid promotional campaigns around your strongest content assets and special features on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms.
Prepare online influencers
If you want today’s social tastemakers to amplify your content’s reach, you need to supply them with all the tools they’ll need. Here are some to-do items for each collaboration:
- Make sure your influencers’ channels make sense for your audience.
- Provide your company’s social media guidelines and style guides so they know which conversations are appropriate and which topics should be avoided.
- Outline your evaluation process, including the performance benchmarks and tracking tactics, especially if you tie their compensation to traffic/engagement milestones. (You’ll find more details on metrics in the ROI section below.)
Then, empower your influencers to meet their commitments – and equip your internal content team to reap the benefits of their evangelism:
- Detail the program’s goals and the role of the influencer to help them feel more vested in the collaboration.
- Create a pre-event briefing outlining key terms of engagement such as relevant topics and keywords, target timelines, project deliverables and requirements, and even starter ideas.
- Draft social media messages the influencers can pop into a post and publish.
- Craft eye-catching graphics, charts, screenshots, and other sharing-friendly image files.
- Develop trackable URLs/codes for easier performance measurement.
Get more from the source: How to Turn Influencers Into a Powerful Content Force
Optimize existing assets
Your content has been published and promoted, but do you know how well it’s performing? Did it help achieve your marketing and business goals?
Ann Gynn suggests creating a dedicated performance review process to help provide the answers. Here are her tips on how to develop one:
- Create a standard report format that contains the content’s details (topic, headline, keywords, format, distribution platform) and a column or two for metrics that connect to your content marketing goals.
- Download those metrics at the appropriate time (every metric-related goal should have a timeframe).
- Compare the results to the goals.
- Share the report with all stakeholders.
- Identify which content achieved its goals and which did not.
- Determine which topics to repeat, repurpose, or promote further (and which to avoid).
- Compare analytics reports from quarter to quarter and year over year to identify trends and troubleshoot ongoing issues.
Get more from the source: Want More Method and Less Madness? Check Your Content Operations
Recycle high-performing assets into evergreen classics
Once your most successful content assets are identified, explore ways to optimize their reach and impact, reinforcing your brand’s value in the minds of your audience. One effective technique is to repurpose and reuse those assets, so they can be discovered by new audiences and resurfaced for anyone who may have forgotten them.
Choose one of these recycling techniques based on the asset’s current performance and its potential to serve a new purpose on a different platform or in another format:
- Republish it: If an asset’s value hasn’t diminished, but its performance has slipped, simply republish it (making sure to replace any outdated information).
- Repackage it: Deconstruct your long-form content – blog posts, white papers, and e-books – into smaller, modular assets. They can be combined with other relevant information to form a new piece that might attract different audiences.
- Repurpose it: Like repackaging, repurposing involves deconstructing your original assets into individual pieces that form a new conversation. The message remains mostly intact – it’s just tailored to suit a different purpose or platform.
- Syndicate it: You can partner with news sites, trade media, and other like-minded mass media outlets that might be interested in republishing your content on an ongoing basis. Syndication can take several forms (both paid and unpaid), and you’ll likely get some added link juice in the deal.
Get more from the source: Content Distribution: Everything You Need to Know Right Now
Accomplish more without doing more
You don’t have to work round the clock to make an impact in content marketing. These tips and ideas just scratch the surface of ways you can work smarter and accomplish great things. Explore the linked resources on this page and the articles I drew from for even more ideas.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute