A successful marketing initiative starts with a well-defined strategy. And a content marketing initiative is no different.
While that may seem obvious to you, I’ve had first-hand experience with numerous marketing professionals who skip the fundamental planning steps and end up with underperforming marketing initiatives. Don’t believe me? Consider these stats from the Content Marketing Institute’s Report on 2016 content marketing trends:
- Only 30 percent of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38 percent last year. Reported effectiveness levels are greater among respondents with a documented strategy, clarity around success, good communication, and experience.
- Only 44 percent of B2B marketers say their organization is clear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like.
Whether you’re just getting started or already have a content marketing plan in place, make sure you hit the mark with the basics. Get them right, and you will be on your way to influencing your audience and producing results that will have your colleagues bowing down to you in the hallway.
To illustrate the steps, I have created a simple, fictitious example: ACME Email Marketing Corp. (ACME). ACME typically has 10,000 leads in its pipeline at any given time. For purposes of this example, a lead is someone who has called in or gone through an automated product demo. Historically, 500 (5 percent) of the leads became paying customers within 6 months.
Define the Goals
You can’t achieve your goals unless you know exactly what they are. Goals can range from building awareness or widening the prospects’ consideration factor (having your company being considered by a buyer)] to getting them to move down the sales funnel faster and purchase. Using our example, ACME wants to increase the percentage of leads that convert into paid users and also accelerate the buying process. That’s a great start, but they need to be more specific. A more useful goal would be to increase the number of leads that convert from their benchmark of 500 to 850 and reduce the time taken to convert those leads from 26 weeks to 19 weeks. (Again, please forgive the simplistic example.)
Watch out for:
- Winging it. It is tempting to say to yourself, “I’ll know it if is working or not.” Figuring out the precise goal, especially for new and different content initiatives, can be difficult. Your goal might not be right, but setting it will, at a minimum, result in better benchmarks for the future.
Create the Content Plan
Now that you know where you want to be, work out what content will get you there. Up until now, ACME has emailed prospects about once per month with some sort of marketing proposition (e.g., offer, explanation of features and benefits). ACME, together with its content partner, developed a new plan that combines information customers want to read with product-related information that will move them down the funnel. The new plan also has the longevity to be effective and reach buyers throughout the journey, including eight new pieces of content:
- Two infographics, along with brief commentary, on changing trends in email marketing.
- Two case studies that show how ACME clients have achieved terrific results with advanced email marketing features (such as A/B testing and some automated marketing).
- Three articles on email marketing best practices written by experts.
- One article on how to choose the right email provider for your business.
Set Up the Right Measurement
ACME decides to send out one of the above articles every two weeks for 18 weeks. Each email and corresponding landing page will contain calls to action (CTAs). In addition, ACME will continue to send out marketing-based emails once per month.
Watch out for:
- Producing the wrong content for the objective. ACME is trying to move leads down the funnel, not get new leads into the funnel. So producing content on the benefits of email marketing would not have made sense.
- Not creating an initiative that produces enough content over a long enough period of time. Remember: 1) it takes time to build trust (and no one listens until they trust you); and 2) your target is getting hundreds of messages a day, so repetition is key.
- Content that is too product-focused or simply of poor quality.
ACME’s end goal is well defined: 850 converted leads in 19 weeks. However it is also critical to track some other critical metrics, including:
- Email opens (among other things, what subject lines work best)
- Clicks (are the topic and email summary compelling)
- Percentage of traffic that converts
By tracking the above, the campaign can be tweaked for improvements.
Watch out for:
- Just focusing on the end results (eg, 850 leads) and not the interim steps (eg, opens, clicks, conversions). Setting up and tracking these metrics gives you the ability to make adjustments in the middle of the campaign.
Obvious? Yes. Done most of the time? Not in my experience. After all, content marketing is likely still fairly new in your organization and while we know the promise of amazing results is there, it takes time to figure it all out. If you are not sure about any of the above, give us a shout and we will be glad to share our thoughts with you.
Don’t Forget . . .
The content strategy, along with links to the content, should be shared throughout the marketing department (and possibly sales, as well). More often than not, the content can be repurposed via social media, blogs, and so on.
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