Launching new content can be a daunting challenge. Content Marketing Institute reports that 58% of B2B Marketers in 2020 rate their organization’s overall level of content marketing success as only moderately successful. Perhaps you know what you want to accomplish and communicate, and you have the team in place to make it happen, but you’re not sure how to start. Before you begin writing content, it’s important to define a clear content strategy and create a framework that can be referred back to during production. Here are the four steps to take before launching new content that will help you start on the right foot and achieve success early on.
1. Define Your Buyer
An alarming number of organizations are still relying on perceptions of their buyers from years past. Understanding your buyer is an ongoing exercise that marketers should practice before each new content strategy engagement. Many factors contribute to the ever-changing definition of your buyer, and that needs to be accounted for before you can start a successful strategy. Traditionally, marketers operate on role-based buyer definitions, but it’s time to start taking a more attitudinal approach to personas. Marketers need to conduct first party research with their company’s prospects, customers, salespeople, marketers, etc. and then validate this information by conducting third party research. The questions to ask include:
- What are my buyer’s pain points?
- Who do they work with, who influences them?
- What trends are affecting them today?
- How and where do they consume content?
- What does a typical day in their role look like?
- How do they measure success?
By asking the questions above, you can use the answers to create developed personas. Attitudinal based personas provide an opportunity to better target buyers based on pain points and measures of success rather than on the simple facts of their job title. This is a critical step to take before launching new content. By skipping this step, you risk creating content that your audience doesn’t even care about.
2. Map the Buying Process
While you’re getting to know your buyer, it’s equally important to understand their buying process. When and what are they researching? What triggers make them transition from a passive buyer to an active buyer? Who is involved in the decision-making process?
Your map of the buying process should include each stage of the funnel – early stage, middle stage, and late stage – and it should account for multiple steps that may be within each stage. For example, the early stage portion of the buying process may include two steps: research/thought leadership and compelling event. The first step – research and thought leadership – represents a passive buying stage when the buyer is simply staying on top of industry trends and best practices and may not yet be aware that they have a challenge. The second step – compelling event – represents a trigger that causes the buyer to more actively pursue a solution.
By defining these stages and steps – and they may be different from persona to persona – you have a road map that can act as the base for your strategy before you launch new content.
MILESTONE: Once you’ve defined your buyer and mapped their buying process, you can start creating a content model that positions content relevant to each persona based on where he or she is in the buying process. It will look like this:
Here you see that we’ve conducted user research and defined Persona A. Then, we’ve mapped Persona A’s buying process and aligned it to the stages of our funnel. From there, we can create content offers that fit within a given stage of the buying process and remain relevant to the needs of Persona A. As Persona A moves through the funnel, they will receive content relevant to both their attitudinal needs and their position in the buying process.
3. Audit and Analyze Content
Once you’ve completed the critical work of defining your personas and mapping the buyer journey it’s time to start creating content. That means you have to get up close and personal with the content you already have. Does it align with your current buyer definition and buying process?
The more mature the company, the more likely it is that you have a surplus of content floating around the website targeting ghosts of personas past. Start by looking for content that is no longer relevant to your buyer. Perhaps the content is outdated, speaks to old trends, or doesn’t align to new business goals. This content can be retired, or simply not a point of focus in your new strategy.
While mapping your content gaps, it’s equally valuable to analyze the current performance of your content ecosystem. This will give you an idea of what is performing best, what themes or topics you can expand on, what’s speaking to your buyer, and what’s not resonating like you thought it would. Use your reporting tool to look at the following:
- SEO Performance
To get to this level of insight, particularly stats on ROI, you need to incorporate the right reporting and tracking methods into your content strategy from the beginning and not leave this step as an afterthought.
4. Plan for Measurement
If you struggle with assessing content performance, it’s probably because the plan to measure performance wasn’t put in place to begin with. But if you don’t evaluate its effectiveness, how do you know your content’s value? Often an afterthought, being able to measure success is something you need to prepare for before launching new content.
Content Marketing Institute reports that while 80% of B2B marketers use metrics to measure content performance and 65% have established KPIs, only 43% measure content marketing ROI. Knowing about engagement and SEO is great, but what’s better is understanding the impact of content on sales growth. Imagine knowing which content offer is contributing to the most closed won opportunities and being able to put an ROI number on your content marketing efforts.
So how do you get to that point? Start by asking what KPIs are important to you and your business. Then, figure out the metrics that will best report on those KPIs and the metrics that will help you understand the impact of content on sales growth. But most importantly, you have to be able to know how you’ll measure those metrics.
The answer to “how” is multi-channel attribution modeling. Ideally, you already have tracking programs in place and your content is already being tracked with scripts living in your CMS. This gives you access to your current conversion rates. To put it more simply, follow these steps:
- Create tracking programs for your content
- Track content performance with ETL data using Python and/or SQL commands and then load it into a database for analysis
- Develop and apply an attribution model to distribute each content offer’s contribution to revenue. For more information on how to do this, check out this blog post.
- Compare content production costs with channel investments to come to an ROI metric
With that information, it is then possible to accurately compare performance against the content marketing budget and determine ROI.
Set for Success
By following these four critical steps before launching new content, you are now on your way to a successful content strategy that promises buyer engagement and ROI success. With clearly defined personas, buying processes, content gaps, and measurement KPIs, your marketing teams are able to stop running random stop-and-start campaigns and start making the critical shift from tactical demand generation to strategic demand marketing.
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