Marketing is an activity that requires at least an idea of what we want to achieve, how we want to achieve it and how will we check if we achieve it. With an expensive word: a “strategy”. Strategies, plans etc. are important although the results are in the hard work, execution and what we see ‘in real life’ instead of what we think in board rooms. While a content marketing strategy looks at the strategic part of content marketing in the overall marketing process, a content strategy looks at the different steps regarding content planning, mapping, execution, etc.
In this sense, a content strategy involves various components. In most cases several of them come back but here are some common questions to answer or tasks to fulfill in a content strategy.
Dissecting the content strategy
Obviously it always starts with the usual suspects as covered in defining a content marketing strategy: setting up your goals (over time: long-term, short-term, etc.), knowing your buyer personas and/or target audiences, making an inventory, mapping, planning, defining metrics, etc.
Let’s detail the content strategy a bit more with a quick list of things to do.
- Analyzing what content is needed to fulfill different business goals across the customer journey or for branding purposes (often overlapping, each touchpoint has a branding dimension as well).
- Making an inventory of existing content and other resources or pieces of information that can be turned into content.
- Setting up the proper content planning, collaboration and scheduling processes.
- Developing a narrative that takes into account the brand’s promise and unique value proposition. Link the brand with the business goal and customer intent through content. Establish the tone of voice, style (guide), etc.
- Automating specific marketing processes, often triggered, using the right content at the right time on the right place.
- Involving communities and user-generated content. Your target audiences now are publishers too and they increasingly will be.
- Planning a content strategy for different channels. OK, channels are never the priority but, on the other hand, each channel has specific characteristics, technical aspects, usage patterns, etc. Twitter is not Google is not email is not LinkedIn is not a webinar or a trade show.
- Making sure the content gets found by and shared with the different buyer personas and target audiences.
- Defining content-specific metrics and KPIs you will need to see if the overall marketing/business goals as defined in the content marketing strategy and ideally for your marketing ROI
- Creating, sourcing, aggregating, curating, optimizing content: or just getting it done using the tactics that work best.
- Defining a proper mix that fits the goals and the customer journey, regarding formats, channels, etc.
- Providing the content in different formats, each with their specific calls-to-action, depending on individual stages. Offer a variety of content types and formats. Not for the sake of it but because different segments and personas have different needs. Furthermore, if you can avoid message fatigue, several touchpoints are good, certainly also from a brand perspective. There is nothing wrong with repetition, variety, choice and multiple formats. As long as it’s relevant.
- Mapping content to pain points, questions and buying cycle. Elaborating on the buyer personas from a content strategy perspective. Look at the buyer journey but also the sales cycle (and, as opposed to popular belief, both are not aligned or the same).
- Planning campaigns in the overall marketing strategy whereby various content marketing tactics can be combined.
- Defining governance, content flows, managing content assets, storing ideas and data, etc.
- Training the people that will be invvolved in the planning, execution and follow-up.
- Closing the loop between your marketing and sales, which involves content as well.
- Looking at less typical content needs, e.g. for customer service.
- Analyzing: competitors, markets, what customers/prospects want and say, the marketing place, a baseline analysis, etc.
- Testing, optimizing, testing, optimizing, testing, optimizing,…
What a content strategy is not
There are many elements in a content strategy and this list is certainly not exhaustive, it’s rather a summary of elements that comes to mind. Note that, as far as I’m concerned, some elements, for instance regarding buyer personas really belong to what I call the content marketing strategy.
Let’s look at what a content strategy should not be.
And I kind of like the view of Arketi Group on that. I quote: “In today’s attention-challenged, ultra-segmented and over-marketed BtoB environment, the traditional approach of developing a few white papers, case studies and data sheets and blasting them out to a list of all suspects, prospects and customers, hoping to achieve the “nirvana” of a high download rate are over – for good”.
Right, blasting is pushing and broadcasting, attention-challenged means you have to get the attention in another way and over-marketed means, well, that you have to be very good in engaging your customers through content. And when I hear the word engaging (driving to action and persuading/converting, really), I think ‘ personalization’, ‘cross-channel’, ‘data driven‘, ‘triggered’, ‘ event driven’ and ‘customer-centric‘, certainly in a lead management sense.
So, what does Arketi Group think is a good content strategy? A few years ago, the company launched something called “3D Content Mapping”. It’s not really a model to define a content strategy but rather a summary of three parameters to take into account for customer-centric content mapping (and planning). Consider it as some extra food for thought before diving deeper into the different aspects of a (B2B) content strategy in our blog posts.
Three dimensions to consider in a B2B content strategy
You know what segmentation is. In general, it means that your content should appeal to prospects/customers in function of their profile, behavior, journey, personas, etc. You probably think “I am doing that” but instead of targeting people in function of demographics or job functions take it further: industry, expressed needs and challenges, past behavior, triggers, digital signals, cross-channel customer data, whatever. But, most importantly: look at the pain points, questions and concerns of your prospects.
The buying cycle/sales cycle
Let me quote the people of Arketi Group: “Today’s prospects are much more in control of the information flow, relying on trusted online resources and solution providers’ websites far more often than sales reps to identify solutions, evaluate options and develop short lists for further consideration. The role of today’s BtoB marketers in this new environment is to offer the right content, matched to the individual prospect’s level of interest”. That’s using customized content for lead nurturing, in function of your customer’s offline and digital footprints and where he is in the buying cycle.
As Arketi Group says “keep the message fresh”. But also make sure you use several content options, regarding format, channel and trigger (push, pull). Every prospect has his own preferences and in a cross-channel lead nurturing approach, meeting those should be the most obvious thing on earth. The type of content really depends on different elements in the above mentioned other two dimensions: pain points, behavior, personas, stages in the sales cycle, you name it. Arketi further developed the model over the last few years and I think it’s a nice way to look at it, certainly in B2B.
Content marketing is about offering the content to your prospects in function of their needs, desires, reading preferences etc. And, certainly in B2B, about the customer life cycle. In the end, that is customer-centricity and thus, by definition, cross-channel and multi-channel (or let’s just say channel-agnostic). Check out the video below for more on the 3-D content mapping model.