Six Steps to a Winning Content Strategy

Since so many people know and understand Franklin’s quote, why is it that centuries after the phrase was first recorded so many organizations still do little more than pay lip service to planning? 

Take content marketing for instance. Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs’ B2B Content Marketing 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends-North America uncovered the alarming fact that of the 93% of B2B marketers surveyed who engage in content marketing, only 44% say that they have a well-documented strategy. 

That means that 56% of marketers are unintentionally planning to fail. Finding time to make a content marketing plan, though, can be difficult because it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

To help ease the burden on busy marketers and overworked executives who don’t have time to start from scratch, we’ve put together this short guide to developing a winning content marketing plan. 

Steps 1 & 2

STEP 1 – Start by Asking Yourself Three Key Questions

Why are we doing this?  – To have any chance of success, first you need define what you are trying to accomplish in the first place.

  • Do you want to spread brand awareness? 
  • Do you want to improve SEO and increase inbound web-traffic?  
  • Do you want to increase the effectiveness of email marketing? 
  • Do you want to create warmer conversations for your business development team?
  • Do we want to do all of the above?

To be clear, this is not just a discussion for marketing. The best content marketing plans are those that have full buy-in and participation from the sales team. 

Are we in it for the long haul?  – By its nature, content marketing is something that will grow in effectiveness over time. Creating a few blog posts and putting a whitepaper up on your website is nice but will have limited long-term impact.  Doing the same thing consistently over a long period of time is another story entirely. 

Do we have the budget to feed the machine? –  A good content marketing strategy requires a never-ending stream of new material. To keep that stream moving you need, planners, writers, editors, and graphic designers, as well as a team with the tactical expertise to distribute the content to all appropriate digital channels.  If you aren’t willing to budget the dollars necessary to do it right, why do it? 

STEP 2 – Start Sharpening the Axe

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 

Abraham Lincoln

Once you have complete buy-in on goals, long-term commitment, and budget allocation –all of which should be documented and included in your plan – it’s time to get a bit more specific. 

Answer the following questions: 

What is unique or different about what we are selling? Who is our audience? 

  • By market
  • By vertical
  • By role

What are their needs and frustrations?

  • By market
  • By vertical
  • By role

How does our product or service fulfill those needs/eliminate those frustrations?

  • By market
  • By vertical
  • By role

What are typically the biggest perceived barriers to a sale? Look at your answers to questions 1-5, then ask yourself, what related content themes can we focus on that will educate, inform, entertain, and otherwise pique the interest of our identified prospects and customers

  • At the lead stage –suspect > prospect > marketing qualified> sales ready
  • At the account stage – known attributes
  • At the opportunity stage – known attributes, verbally expressed interest

Step 3

STEP 3 – Keep Sharpening…

Just as an axe grows dull with time, so does content. Take a fresh look at the aforementioned questions at least once a quarter so you don’t miss out on evolving trends. Question six – the actual content themes you want to cover will likely be the most difficult.  

Here are some suggestions for coming up with fresh themes:

  • Hold a brainstorming session.  Include participants from other departments. Talk to your sales team.  Are there any questions or concerns that come up repeatedly in conversations with prospects? Write down anything and everything. All you need is a starting point.  
  • Pay close attention to the content being produced in industry magazines and blogs and take notes on any theme relevant to your product.
  • Check out what the competition is doing, and weigh if similar strategies would work for you. What areas are they missing that you could deliver?
  • Use social media tools to listen in on industry chatter. Follow influencers on Twitter. Join industry LinkedIn groups