It’s fair to say that content marketing has by now become part of the b2b marketing establishment. According to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute, 88% of b2b marketers are using content marketing in their marketing mix. However, only 32% of organisations have reached a high level of maturity and sophistication in their content marketing processes.
Unfortunately, the lack of planning and processes have a direct impact on the cut-through and impact your content marketing efforts will have.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, if you don’t plan your blog posts they will miss the spark you need to generate attention. It also often leads to what we here at the Bc camp refer to as ‘content block’ - the inability to come up with blog post topics and downloadable content ideas that seem relevant and inspiring to your target persona. While content topic generators such as Portens or the HubSpot blog topic generator can provide temporary relief, they only treat the symptoms, not the cause.
At Bc, we see content creation as a 4-step process and have outlined them in this blog post to help you light your creative spark.
“Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. It is a process; it's not random.” -Ken Robinson
Step 1: Understand your customer
As with anything in marketing, effective b2b content creation starts with a clear understanding of your buyer persona, which is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer (read more about the difference between brand personas and buyer personas).
Understanding your customer’s needs, challenges and goals is vital to develop blog posts and content offer ideas that will demand your customer’s attention. Workshopping your personas will identify what problems you can help your customers and prospects solve through content.
If you launched your company blog a few years ago, chances are that you missed this step entirely, or that your personas will need to be reviewed to ensure they still adequately reflect your target market. Just as your business and market evolves so will the needs of your buyers. For instance if you started your technology business three years ago and were considered a market disrupter, your customer needs will have evolved as the business model matured.
Step 2: Know thyself
While creative content certainly starts with your customer, developing your personal company content voice is at least equally important. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what your business stands for, you’ll end up with me-too content that could have been penned by anyone. This will not only hinder your ability to get genuine cut-through with your efforts, but also make it hard for your customers to differentiate you clearly from your competitors.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, nearly half of the most effective b2b marketers have a documented editorial mission statement as part of their content strategy. At Bc we go one step further and develop a detailed content point-of-view (POV) as part of our strategic engagements with our clients.
In a workshop environment, we help you develop your organisational POV and determine where you see your business in the industry discourse. Do you want to be seen as fun, reliable or even a bit controversial? The POV will identify your content tone of voice, generate ideas that steer you away from the mainstream, and enable your social media team to engage in industry discussions with confidence.
Step 3: Plan your content
After establishing your buyer personas and developing your content POV, you should already have a long list of creative content ideas at your disposal. Now it’s time to turn your ideas into an action plan that breaks down your content creation and publishing schedule week-by-week. If you don’t know where to start with this, our editorial calendar template might help.
One of the most important things to consider in your planning process is to address all buying stages. The most common problem we see with businesses that have already started their content and inbound marketing journey, but struggle to drive measurable results, is too much focus on one buying stage. For instance, you may blog a lot, but you’re not effectively turning blog visitors into leads. Planning your content well in advance can prevent you from falling into this trap.
What’s more, effective content planning will also help you better align your content marketing efforts with your offline marketing activity. For instance, if you are always sponsoring an annual trade show you should develop a content strategy around it to ensure you’re making the most of your investment.
Step 4: Map out your content creation and approval processes
With your planning now all done and dusted, it’s almost time to jump into the content creation process. Almost!
Before you get started, you should clearly outline your content creation and approval processes to ensure everything runs smoothly when you want publish your first blog or finally launch that weekly company newsletter. Here are some key questions you should clarify and document in advance:
- Who is the content owner? This doesn’t necessarily have to be the person creating it, but you need one person in the business who is responsible for making sure your content plan is implemented on time and can chase content creators when deadlines are approaching. You are a publisher now so you should think of your own content in the exact same way as a publisher would. And that means deadlines need to be met. Or have you ever experienced a day when a newspaper published a half empty paper?
- Who writes? Especially if your content is highly technical or complex your business experts will need to set some time aside to share their knowledge. This doesn’t mean that they have to write the content themselves, but they will need to be interviewed by a writer.
Determining who will write your content at the very start will help managing internal expectations in terms of how much time will need to be dedicated to the content creation process.
- Who has final approval authority? Understanding who has the final say when it comes to approving content pieces is vital to ensure a smooth content creation process and avoid putting a damper on creativity. There’s nothing less stifling and limiting than a content-approval-by-committee approach.Ideally you’d want to develop a model where the creative works in close collaboration with the writer. That way you can ensure your content hits all the right notes, both in terms of content depth and creativity.
If you'd like to learn how inbound marketing can bolster your b2b content marketing efforts? Download The quick-start guide to inbound marketing for technology companies today!