“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”Sun Tzu
These timeless words of wisdom from Japanese strategists, Sun Tzu, can be applied to the current state of content marketing. Have you noticed all the noise?
While content marketing is now arguably the most effective and cost-efficient B2B growth strategy in your marketing arsenal, more than half of these businesses surveyed stated that they don’t have a content marketing strategy set in stone. This means most companies are winging it!
B2B marketers can do a lot of great things using several different content options like blogs, videos, and podcasts, but as Sun Tzu said, you will likely create more noise than results without a content marketing strategy.
There is no excuse not to have a content plan. Creating an inbound marketing content strategy is not hard, but it takes time, experimentation and commitment to follow through.
In this guide, we will share strategy fundamentals and take your planning one step further to focus on a strategy designed for faster growth. Ready. Set. Let’s go!
Content Marketing Strategy versus a Content Strategy
First, we need to clear up some terminology around content strategy and content marketing strategy. While most B2B companies will often use these terms interchangeably (which is fine in our opinion), there are some nuances between the two that are helpful to know.
When we discuss content strategy, it refers to the overall management of all the content your company produces. Think of all the communications materials that you create that demonstrates who you are and what you offer. So when you talk about content strategy, you are talking about the thinking and process to create, publish, and manage.
Content marketing strategy is a subset of your content strategy. The purpose is to market your company by finding, attracting and engaging with your audiences, including potential, and current customers. Your content marketing strategy focuses on ways to use content to grow your business, and it is tied to the bottom line including increased revenue, lower costs, and loyal customers.
We will focus on developing your content marketing strategy—which is less about the operations and creating the materials—and more about the plan to grow your revenue using content.
Foundations of a Content Marketing Growth Strategy
Not all content marketing strategies are created equal. The conventional wisdom is that content marketing is effective, but it takes a long time to see results. While there is truth to this notion, your content marketing does not need to be exclusively long-term.
For both long-term and quick growth strategies, the foundations of building your content marketing do not change. The difference is how you approach each step along the way.
For example, when you set your content goal, you can aspire to be a thought-leader which is a strong long-term idea. Or, you can focus your content on driving people to a product page for a conversion.
In an ideal world, you would do a little of both. But how you balance the two is important. Let’s go through the steps to develop your content marketing strategy with an eye toward a solid foundation with tactics for faster growth.
5 guidelines to building a high-growth content marketing strategy include:
- Know your audience + find customers
- Your company’s positioning + messaging strategy
- Set content goals + tie them to growth KPIs
- Choosing your content channels + promote them
- Measure + optimize your content strategy
1. Know Your Audience + Find Customers
Is there a difference between your content audience and your customers? Many times company’s make the mistake of creating content for an audience that will never become customers.
Growth-oriented businesses (like yours) choose content audiences that are most likely to become customers. While this sounds like common sense, most companies don’t do the hard research to identify their customers. Instead, they often envision a customer who they want which is not always who will buy.
If you already have customers, great! Use them to start profiling who they are and what they want. Break down their demographics like age, income, and location. Then layer on their business pain points, motivations, and other psychographic info.
Go a level deeper by getting customer feedback. Surveys are an easy way to gauge your customer satisfaction, while also gathering key audience intelligence for your content marketing.
7 Survey Question Examples for Customer Feedback and Insights
- How would you describe yourself in three sentences
- What is your favorite part of our product?
- How would you describe your buying experience?
- What are you trying to solve with our product?
- Why did you choose us over the competition?
- What do you like most about our [product or service]?
- What is your greatest concern about [product/brand]?
Once you have identified your target audience and thoroughly research their interests and business pain points, the best way to bring them to life for your entire team to be on the same page is through buyer personas. These are detailed profiles that include useful information about the target so all your content creators know who they are talking to and what they need to convey in each piece of content.
You can create your buyer personas with this neat tool from HubSpot Make my Buyer Persona.
2. Your Company’s Positioning + Messaging Strategy
While content marketing is known for its inbound marketing, it is also an excellent brand-building channel. B2B companies that position themselves with a clear value proposition and unique personality tend to lead their markets.
Content gives you multiple media including video, audio, and writing to develop your personality and deliver your differentiating message. Once you have established your brand, it is critical that you create brand guidelines so that everyone in your organization is maintaining a consistent voice and message with all of your communications.
7 Questions to Help You Find Your Unique Brand Positioning
- Who are my existing and potential customers?
- What do we offer that matters most to them?
- Do our competitors offer similar products or services?
- Why do our customers choose us over them?
- What problems does my product help solve?
- What makes us a better choice over our competitors?
- How is our brand’s personality different?
Of course, your content strategy should balance establishing your brand with driving new leads. Content that generates leads starts by providing value. How is your content helping your audience win?
When it comes to your content strategy, keep in mind that you are also competing against other content creators beyond your direct competitors. B2B business has a lot of crossovers, so be sure to analyze your content competitors as well. How are you different? How are you providing more value than them?
3. Set content marketing goals + Tie to Growth KPIs
Every sound strategy begins with a clear set of goals. Your goals will drive what and where you choose to focus your content. The reality is that you will want to achieve a lot of things with your content, but this doesn’t mean you create a laundry list of goals. If you try to accomplish too much, you will end up accomplishing very little.
Instead, choose two or three goals that are most important to your business and create a hierarchy. Think about your customer journey with the ultimate goal of gaining a customer. Since this article is focused on fast growth through content marketing, our recommended hierarchy would be something along the lines of targeted awareness > conversion to customer > recurring revenue.
- Targeted awareness is at the top of the goals hierarchy. Simply put, you want the right people to find out about your product and how you solve their pain points. You can accomplish this in a myriad of ways such as thought-leadership, education, and content partnerships just to name a few.
- Conversion to customers requires content that isn’t afraid to sell your product. That said, there is a fine line between being salesy and presenting your value in a compelling way. These types of content are more specific to your product and how it is the obvious choice — think product demos, white papers, case studies, etc.
- Recurring revenue is a content goal that focuses on keeping your customers happy. Once someone has bought into your product or service, they are yours to lose. Create content that empowers them to succeed in using your product. This can include webinars, tutorials, and newsletters that constantly reinforce your value.
Once you have established your goal hierarchy, it becomes easier to brainstorm the types of content that will work for each goal. But establishing your goals is only the first half of the task. The best goals that lead to business success are always measurable. That means assigning key performance indicators (KPIs) to each of your goals.
Here are Some Typical KPIs For Each Goal
- Improved ranking on search engines to drive organic traffic
- Content engagement (view + time on page/video)
- Increase in site traffic driven through content
- Number of mentions, shares, and comments on Social Media
Conversion to Customers
- More signups of high-quality leads through content
- People subscribing to your newsletter
- Number of demo or product info requests
- Reaching revenue targets
- Customer webinar engagement
- Video tutorial view
- Customer product reviews
- Customer churn
These are a few examples of KPIs that will help you know if your messaging and content strategy is working or if you need to optimize something. Try to keep your goals and KPIs tied to business success in terms of traffic, leads, and eventually sales and revenue.
To help you think through your goals and KPIs, you can go through an OKR exercise to get you started: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).
4. Choosing Your Content Channels + Promote
The amazing ROI of content marketing comes from your ‘owned media’, meaning your website and social media pages. Most content marketing strategies include a centralized hub for your content which is published on your owned media, such as your website.
So blog posts are usually a foundational part of your content marketing mix, and luckily blog articles are still effective and drive results. From your blog, you can launch all your other content like video, infographics, podcasts, etc.
Choosing your content types is a mix of your audience’s preferences and your own capabilities. For example, if your audience loves TikTok videos, but you have no idea how to use TikTok, you’ll need to decide if it’s a content type worth exploring.
To help you better understand which content channels work best for each goal, check out our article: 14 Types of Content Marketing to Enhance Your SaaS Playbook
Of course, after you create the content, you need to do everything within your power and budget to promote your content to reach the right people. Take a look at your website analytics to see where visitors come from, specifically social media channels. Find the places your audience hangs out, and get your content in front of them.
7 Ways to Promote Your Content
- Share content in your newsletter to subscribers who already are fans of your company.
- Post on social media communities that you are a part of, and engage in conversation.
- Target interested people directly in social media with a tool like BuzzSumo that finds users who share content similar to yours.
- Connect with influencers and ask them to promote through backlinks or mentions.
- Create guest content for other companies and include links to your other content.
- Pay for advertising on social or banner ads on relevant sites.
- Create promotional pop-ups on your website directing visitors to new content
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? You can create amazing content, but if people don’t find it, it is worthless. You need to get your content in front of people for it to work.
5. Measure + Optimize Your Content Strategy
With clear goals and KPIs, measuring your content should be easy as long as you incorporate the proper measurement tools early in the process. Most of your content performance can be measured through your website analytics like Google Analytics.
But you can also go deeper with social media analytics to understand how your content is being shared and who is sharing it. And search tools like SEMRush will help you determine if you are improving your organic traffic.
By monitoring your content performance based on your goals, you’ll be able to see where you are falling short and tweak your content to improve performance. This is not an exact science, so you will need to experiment with copy, design, and even content types to see where you can improve.
Find the Content Marketing Strategy That is Right For Your Business!
Long-term content marketing strategies are extremely effective, but they are not your only option. Content can be a major growth channel for your business if you plan properly, find the right message, and continue to optimize and tweak your content.
Your content can establish your value proposition for the long term and drive new people to your website today. It is all about finding the right balance that works for your audience’s journey. Regardless of your strategy, there is one thing that you must do!
And that is to create a content marketing strategy for your entire company to see and follow. Without that, you are just making a lot of noise.