I don't know you.
I don't know you and that makes a big difference in how I perceive you, your company and your product or service. I'm not alone in that, either. If you really want your prospective market to buy from you, you must do your level best to help them know and understand you.
Notice I said help, not make. You really can't do anything to make someone know, like and trust you. However, you can change their opinion of you from a relative unknown into a likable expert, one who has their Challenges, Needs and Interests (the CNI factor) in mind.
Businesses buy more from companies they know, like and trust.
But, you must make the process as easy as possible.
Content marketing does that. It transforms you into a likable expert in the eyes of your targeted market – other businesses.
Your marketing team should develop an effective and documented strategy for content marketing. Before we go any further, let me clarify something. Many business owners consider blog articles as content marketing.
And it's true, they are. But content marketing goes way beyond just blog posts.
Here are some other forms of content marketing that are extremely effective, ranked by the percentage of companies using them (source – Content Marketing Institute's 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report for North America):
- Social media content apart from blogs – 92% (LinkedIn is the most popular network for B2B.)
- eNewsletters – 83%
- Articles (not blog posts) on the company's website – 81%
- Blogs – 80%
- In-person events – 77%
- Case Studies – 77%
- Videos – 76%
- Illustrations and photos – 69%
- White papers – 68%
- Online presentations – 65%
- Infographics – 62% (up from 51% in 2014 budgets)
- Webinars and webcasts – 61%
- Research reports – 48%
- Microsites – 47%
I realize that the list looks overwhelming at first glance. And when you factor in other content marketing formats – both online and offline – you might flop back in a cold sweat. How is your marketing team ever going to get all that done!
Relax…here's the good news.
Develop a content marketing strategy that's effective…for you
You don't need to do all of them.
When developing a content marketing strategy, there is no cookie cutter approach. You'll design it specifically for your business's persona, your product and your clientele.
According to the CMI report, the average number of content marketing tactics used is thirteen. That means that some use more than that and some use less. Two major factors in determining what tactics to use are:
- Your product or service characteristics, and
- The CNI factor of your targeted business (challenges, needs, and interests).
For example, if your offering is highly technical, expensive or has a learning curve, then white papers, special reports, in-depth articles and case studies should definitely be included. If your product is best explained visually, videos could be part of your content strategy.
One key to developing an effective content marketing strategy is in understanding that the tactics are not the strategy. It's the unique blend of these tactics, coupled with an effective delivery system and an accurate, measurable means of tracking your ROI, that make up your overall strategy.
Be sure to involve your marketing division along with your inside and outside sales people. Your sales team deals with your prospects and customers on a daily basis. They know what your prospects need to hear…and how they like to hear it.
Tap into your sales team's knowledge and expertise.
You may want to form a dedicated content marketing division to help with these next items.
I'm a freelance writer specializing in B2B content marketing. When I talk to new clients and prospects, I always ask, "What are your goals for your content marketing? What do you want to accomplish?"
You'd be surprised at some of the answers I get. Some have no idea what to expect from CM. They just say, "We gotta have it because it's the going thing, you know."
You need some well-defined organizational goals to work a successful B2B content marketing strategy. According to research, the top three goals that other marketers have are brand awareness, lead generation and engagement. For new B2B companies, brand awareness is vital in claiming their marketplace share.
The next three goals – sales, lead nurturing and customer retention/loyalty – are enhanced by an effective content marketing strategy, taking the conversation further. Only 57% of the companies surveyed listed customer evangelism as a goal. That's interesting to me because everyone talks about conversion.
In one sense, you get prospect conversion by evangelizing them, showing them a new and better way to enhance their own businesses.
But even after you've set your goals, there's another important consideration.
Here's a sad statistic from the 2015 Content Marketing Institute's report. When the survey candidates were asked how successfully they tracked their ROI in content marketing, 89% said they were unsuccessful. 89%!
But, fifteen percent of the businesses surveyed didn't even try to track their content marketing ROI.
Sure, they had goals for their CM program. But if you can't or don't track progress, how will you know if you reached them? Tracking the ROI is challenging; but having a documented, measureable strategy gives you something to work with.
When you set your goals and determine your strategy, make sure you define an accurate way to measure results. Your strategy should be flexible enough to adjust to the results. However, you need to track it accurately before you can adjust it strategically.
But wait…there's more.
Design a targeted delivery system
Another important part of your content marketing strategy is your delivery system. Once you've started developing your content, how do you get it to your target market? Again, this should be part of a documented and tracked plan.
Your website is the base of operations for your online delivery system. But a truly effective system includes social media. Your social media networks serve up your content in front of your targeted prospects and existing clients.
Going back to the CMI 2015 report, we discover the top five social media sites that B2B marketers use. Here they are, with the percentage of marketers using them:
- LinkedIn – 94% (up from 51% in 2010)
- Twitter – 88% (up from 55% in 2010)
- Facebook – 84% (up from 54% in 2010)
- YouTube – 72% (up from 38% in 2010)
- Google+ – 64% (up 9% from last year's survey)
Although Google+ shows the largest increase over one year, LinkedIn is the major player in B2B networking. There may be several reasons. It is specifically designed for business. The new, long format post promotes greater exposure. It allows you to create content that is more effective.
I use it … maybe you should look into it as well.
While SlideShare showed a slight decrease in use, I believe it will grow now that it's a part of LinkedIn. And of course, your Google+ account comes with your own YouTube channel as well.
You see what other social networks other marketers use the most. While it may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of the next new social thing, use caution. If you spread yourself too thin, you may not cover the important ones as well as you should. And some of them are geared toward B2C, not business-to-business.
Let your readers spread the word to other social sites for you by adding share buttons.
One last thing about social media and content marketing distribution before we talk about the final ingredient in your Content Marketing Strategy. Many marketers aggregate their content in one location, using it as a hub of activity.
Not only does this keep everything handy, and easily managed and updated, but it also allows you to make sure every base is covered. Most importantly, it assists the tracking process immensely.
The last part of your CM strategy…Get it in writing!
According to the report, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than a year ago. That includes marketers who said they were least effective and those who didn't have an actual strategy.
While marketers have discovered the value of content marketing in promoting their products and services, they've hit another snag.
According to the survey, B2B marketers are finding it more challenging to find trained, qualified content marketing professionals – including writers – than last year.
Writing for the Web is different from writing for print. And writing B2B copy is not the same as writing B2C copy.
Writing effective B2B content marketing is very different from writing ad copy.
In my opinion, that's why many marketers didn't succeed in their content marketing efforts. They didn't know how and where to find qualified CM writers and strategy consultants. Often, in-house staff writers where good ad writers, but weren't trained in the nuances and use of content marketing in all its formats.
Content marketing is a powerful tool, but only if it's done right. This insider's guide explains the process of finding good writers.
Here's your homework, class
You've determined that content marketing will help present you as someone who your prospects can get to know, like and trust – a likable expert. And you realize that content marketing will allow your target market to understand and appreciate – and buy – your product or service.
So, your assignments are:
- Develop a content marketing strategy that is custom tailored for your business.
- Document your strategy so that it can be tracked, measured and improved as necessary.
- Design a delivery system that gets your message to the right people in the right way.
- Whatever forms of content you use, get it written effectively, concentrating on your reader's CNI factors (Challenges, Needs and Interests).
Then push the "GO" button and get your content marketing machine moving!