4 steps to a customer-led, goal-driven B2B content marketing plan

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Two recent articles B@BNN published called Is Content Marketing Dead and Content Marketing’s Day of the Dead have been part of a larger discussion of how B2B content marketing has evolved over the past two years. At the same time models of success are emerging that can be emulated.

Content marketing is effective, but it’s not easy to plan. If it isn’t strategic, based on corporate priorities, it won’t get the right results. Without focus on customer needs, it won’t get attention. Here’s what to do.

This is a drawback with any marketing program, but for content marketers it is particularly fatal. Why?

  • Producing excellent, useful content can be costly and 80 percent of it is not read, according to Sirius Decisions. The primary culprit is content that is not interesting to the audience and created based on internal priorities (product launches, sales needs, company events)
  • A customer’s bad experience with one content asset generally means they will not engage with more
  • The Law of Content Attraction: content developed to appeal to everyone will appeal to no one. But strategic content targeting needs of a specific persona or segment will attract that segment. Without that strategic audience focus and research, the likelihood your expensive content will miss the mark is high.

Beyond those drawbacks, a non-strategic content marketing program misses one of the biggest benefits of content marketing: context data. When properly planned and set up, a well-structured, strategic content marketing program can not only generate leads and other interactions for years, but they can also generate a great deal of usable contextual data about content interactions, who is interacting, what content performs where: in other words, the elusive marketing context, pre-purchase behaviour data that every marketer seeks.

Here is what you need for a strategic, focused, customer and corporate-aligned B2B content marketing plan that will generate great data:
  • Ability to talk to 10 customer
  • Sales and corporate goals and objectives for the year
  • Calendar of company/line of business events for the year
  • Editorial calendar template
 Here are the 4 things you need to do:
  1. Get your customers to tell you about their information needs when researching or buying products and services in your industry. Ask to talk to ten customers (five if you can’t get ten). Ask them their 3 biggest information needs related to your product/service/industry. When you have a list of 10-20 information needs, prioritize and rank and plot the top 12 on a calendar: one theme per month.
  2. Match each information need to a persona and create a content asset plan for each channel where you are active, based on each persona. (Note: content assets should supplement and complement other digital marcom activities ).
  3. Align the calendar and content to corporate/business unit/department timelines and priorities. How many leads/appoinments/conversions do you want to generate and when. Consider everything from events to opt-ins to This is the most delicate part of the exercise: some topics will be high priority to customers and not a priority to the company (and vice versa). Assign measurements.
  4. Finalize a measurable annual content marketing editorial calendar — based on customer priorities and company objectives, broken down by persona and content asset.

It’s important to take the steps in this order or customer priorities do not get prioritized. If enormous gaps are exposed between customer goals and company priorities, you’ll have a tough time executing a content marketing program (and you probably have bigger challenges than that).

Without the corporate alignment to goals, you may attract attention but it may not be the kind that supports business results. Generating leads for a product that is going to be discontinued is not only a waste, it’s an avoidable problem. And while it should be obvious, your content marketing strategy will only be effective and funded long term if it supports business outcomes.

Can this type of planning work in large enterprises? Yes. Each departmental or product — based calendar can roll up into a larger plan that can be supported by corporate programs and vetted to support corporate goals. And that’s how a corporate pilot can also be scaled. The editorial calendar itself is a great starting measurement framework and by looking at content asset performance, it will become clear where to invest and in what type of content over time. Look at data monthly and revisit the program quarterly and make changes based on data (and don’t be paralyzed by it; here’s how!)

Photo courtesy Nicola, Flickr

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Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans

President at B2B News Network
President, @B2BNewsnetwork (launched Nov 2014). Content, community and analytics obsessed. Inventor @squeezecmm. Past chair, @itac_online @whiteribbon
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