Back in November, we had the opportunity to attend and speak at the One North Experience Lab – an annual gathering of over 70 professional services and B2B marketers to talk all things digital. The theme, Digital Working in Concert, integrated all kinds of digital marketing thinking, including focusing on the biggest marketing buzz-phrase around: content marketing. After the conference, we distributed a survey to hear more about how B2B marketers value content marketing.
Not surprisingly, when asked “how important is content marketing to you in your marketing efforts,” 85 percent responded “Very Important.” Also not surprising is that nearly 80 percent of respondents said they will spend more on content marketing in 2016.
What may be surprising, however, is that in a national survey of B2B marketers conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, only 38 percent say they do content marketing well. Takeaway? There is a lot of thinking and work that has to be done if all of this content is going to be created and shared.
So what makes good content marketing? Going back to the theme of the conference, Digital Working in Concert, your content needs to be integrated within your overall marketing communications strategy and planning, inside and out. It’s not a separate silo, developing and pumping out useless content. Valuable content needs to be woven into your strategic thinking, persona development and buying cycle research. And it needs to be valuable, relevant and consistent over time to be powerful.
Here are 10 quick tips to get you thinking in the right direction.
- Have a purpose. Every organization needs to stand for something other than making money. Your content strategy and plan needs to feed off of that purpose of why you are in business.
- Develop a content mission statement. Clearly articulate why you are developing, procuring, sharing and promoting content.
- Get buy-in. Get executive buy-in and sponsors for your content marketing strategy and activities. It can be a challenge, but well worth your time and investment for the long-term success of your efforts.
- Develop an editorial calendar. Once you have all of this in place, create your calendar of what you are going to write and when you are going to publish it. Think like an editor and plan your content out six to twelve months in advance with themes, storylines, events, holidays…etc. Of course, you need to be flexible, nimble and opportunistic as the year progresses, but the discipline of developing an editorial calendar is part of a great foundation.
- Have patience. Good content marketing doesn’t happen overnight. It can take 18-24 months to really prove out what you are trying to accomplish. Even then you need to be of the mentality that you are constantly testing and trying to make your program better.
- Think like a publisher. You must believe and act like a publisher. And your publisher mentality needs to push you to develop valuable and relevant content over time, consistently.
- Be authentic. Be real. Be transparent. Follow your purpose. Stick with your content mission. Respond quickly and respectfully to comments and questions. Show your audience you are listening.
- Tell great stories. If you follow these steps, you have undoubtedly uncovered the hundreds of stories that you can develop, collect and share with your audiences. Tell them in an engaging, real and emotional way. Use impactful words, powerful visuals and motion. Make your stories come to life.
- Promote. You need a well-thought out plan to promote your content through external, internal and social channels. Spend money to reach targeted audiences on social channels and search eyeballs. Ongoing SEO is important. Do it.
- Engage your internal advocates. Don’t forget about your employees. Employee advocacy programs and platforms can have a huge impact on leveraging the great content that you are already creating into the networks of your most important people who have influence.
Long-term planning and small, impactful steps can be done simultaneously as you navigate the ever-increasing role content will play in your marketing efforts. Content marketing will bring on challenges for your organization, but also great opportunity – great opportunity that can showcase your brand and provide measurable results. So it may not be surprising, but great to see that 85 percent of respondents say content is very important in their overall marketing mix, and that 80 percent will be investing more into it next year. Let’s just strive to improve on what we are doing so that more of us think and know we are, in fact, doing it well.
Why is content marketing so important in today’s market? Read John Simpson’s post on targeting today’s self-directed buyer.
If you're curious to hear more from me on content marketing, check out this video: John & George: Content Marketing and One North.