Here’s a harsh reality: Most SMBs have little to no idea what they’re doing when it comes to content marketing. Only 28% of B2B organizations consider themselves in the “sophisticated” stage of content marketing maturity.
Many have put together teams and some even have an idea of what successful content marketing looks like. But being truly successful (or testing and failing enough to begin to understand what success even looks like) requires a certain degree of consistency. And consistency requires a plan.
It makes sense; teams don’t hit the field without a plan. Teachers don’t teach without a plan. So why should content marketers attempt to hit their goals without one?
Answering the Who, What, When, When, and Why is important to setting up a digital content marketing strategy (aka a plan) that works.
We’ve touched on the WHO and WHY in previous posts about creating audience personas and documenting content goals. This article dives into the other three questions to help you complete the foundation for a solid and winning digital content marketing strategy. Bonus: you won’t have to Monday morning quarterback your content marketing program ad infinitum.
WHAT can you offer to your target audience?
Action Item: Create a Content Calendar
A content calendar can help you get organized and plan ahead. We always recommend planning 6 months out, even if just loosely. Obviously, things change and different topics, themes and news can become relevant on a whim. That said, it’s always good to have evergreen content ideas you can focus on to keep the content wheels turning.
A content calendar is a way to unify your content and topics and build out a multi-channel, multi-media strategy. It’s an integrated planning tool to help you create powerful campaigns. It’s also a wonderful way to keep people on the same page.
There are many ways to organize a content calendar. You can download our content calendar template here as a starting point and mold it in a way that works for your organization. If you have SEO goals, it can be a great place to outline focus keywords for each content piece.
Checklist for Generating Content Ideas
- Check Google Analytics to see which of your already-published blog posts are performing the best. Generate new content from those topics
- Use tools like BuzzSumo to see real-time data across all social networks and identify hot topics gaining traction in industries of interest.
- Test topics via social media
- Look at social shares and other engagement metrics to see which topics are popular
- Create blog posts and other content from the most popular topics
- Check out what competitors are producing content about
- Recreate your own content based on what seems to be performing well for competitors
- Map content to industry events, holidays or other seasonal nuances
- Conduct keyword research to get both short and long tail keywords
- Leverage Answer the Public to generate content ideas
WHERE will you promote/distribute/amplify content?
Action Item: Build a content promotion, distribution, and amplification plan
Once you create audience personas, you should have a firm grasp on where your target audience’s content consumption preferences. Where you promote, distribute, and amplify content should follow accordingly. This information can help you explore potential changes needed for your website and overall digital content marketing strategy. It helps validate that you’re providing the right content to the right people at the right time.
For example, if you find that your target audience spends a lot of time researching industry trends on blogs, you need to be sure you a) have a blog, and b) that it is set up for SEO success. If your audience spends the majority of its time researching on LinkedIn, be sure to set up a company page. You may also want to consider publishing articles on the platform from the personal account of one or more company executives.
Each channel has different objectives, particularly for B2B companies that have a longer sales/engagement cycle. It can be helpful to map out the objectives for each channel and where they fall into the buyer’s journey. Consider product pages, landing pages, social platforms, email, and blog posts, to start.
Checklist for aligning channels and messaging
- Identify specific goals for each channel
- Identify tone/voice for each channel
- Determine if there are main CTAs/messages for each channel
- Define which channels speak to which personas
- Establish ownership – who is handling the content on each channel?
- Define timing – how often should you publish to each channel?
The last point drives us into our next section: timing.
WHEN do you expect to hit your goals and how often will you publish content?
Action Item: Align strategy with execution timeline
This section is twofold and requires you to look internally and externally. The first question to be answered is: How quickly do you expect to see success as you’ve defined it in Part I. As a follow-up to that, you’ll also want to consider the ramifications if you do not see your defined measures of success within that timeframe. Will the project come to a screeching halt? Will you scrap the current strategy and start from scratch? Or will you make adjustments and tweak based on results from analytics and measurement?
The latter of those options is ideal, but it’s important that everyone within your organization be on the same page when it comes to this question. If buy-in from management is required to get your content marketing program off the ground, you need to set — or understand — clear expectations for next steps if you don’t meet initial projections.
Secondly, you need to determine timing of execution. Timing is impacted by a number of factors, including urgency to see results, resources, bandwidth, etc. It’s an important consideration as part of your overall digital content marketing strategy.
Checklist for Defining Timing
- How often will you publish to the blog?
- How often will you post social media updates?
- How often will you check social media platforms and respond to outstanding questions/issues/concerns/praise?
- How often will you produce premium content (white papers, case studies, etc.)
- How often will you conduct webinars?
- What is the ideal day of the week/time of day to publish to each channel?
- How frequently will you send email newsletters or trigger lead nurture emails?
- How often will you run native advertising?
The what, where, and when above should help you solidify your plan as well as make it actionable. The end result should be some consistency as well as a fine-tuned machine that can help you hit your goals. For more information on building a complete digital content marketing strategy from start to finish, download The Definitive Guide to B2B Content Marketing.