The hardest part of implementing a content marketing plan is figuring out what to write about. Companies usually begin in the self-promotional phase: they write about upcoming trade shows, new hires, case studies, and press releases. The content is very company-centric.
While it’s great to showcase the company culture, products, and services, it’s kind of boring stuff. It’s not likely to pique the interest of many new potential customers.
The most successful content marketing strategies are customer-centric. The content is written to teach, inspire, and motivate. Prospects find it interesting and helpful and become followers and evangelists for the brand. Good content helps companies build a following, generate leads, and increase sales efficiency.
Here are eight steps to help you start developing a list of relevant, highly valuable topics for your content strategy.
1. Put Aside Preconceived Notions About Sales and Marketing
Contrary to popular belief, content is not solely marketing’s responsibility. The entire purpose of writing marketing content is to help facilitate the sales process. Sellers have one-to-one relationships with prospects and know them better than anyone else at the company. They hold the key to topics that will engage prospects and advance the sale. Sales and marketing alignment and collaboration is essential.
2. Create Your Buyer Persona’s
In every type of writing, you have an audience. That includes sales and marketing writing. Spending time developing your buyer persona’s - I mean really taking time to think about the people who embody your ideal profitable customer profiles - is the first step in transitioning from company-centric content to customer-centric content. There are a lot of different ways to create your buyer persona’s, but here’s a worksheet we like to use.
3. Review Sales Opportunities, Wins, and Losses
Regularly conduct joint sales and marketing meetings to review the pipeline and debrief opportunities, wins, and losses. Ask questions such as:
- What problems are they trying to solve?
- What’s holding them back from accomplishing their goals?
- What triggers propelled them to consider making a change?
- What are their highest priorities?
- What questions did they ask during the sales process?
- What types of information did they request?
- Which competitors did they evaluate?
- What objections did they raise?
- Why did they choose to do or not do business with you?
The answers to these questions are the catalysts for various marketing campaigns, such as blog articles, ebooks, and webinars. Taking time to go through this information dramatically improves the quality and value of the content you produce.
4. Define the Buyer’s Journey for Each Persona
To be customer-centric, you have to understand the decision-making process your personas go through to get to a “yes” or “no.” Identify the pain points and what information the persona needs to help them make the best decision about how to solve their problems. If you’re not familiar with the buyer’s journey process, I recommend checking out this resource that explains it in great detail: HubSpot Academy, The Buyer’s Journey.
5. Get Social
Join relevant LinkedIn groups and “listen” to what people in the industry are talking about and engage in discussions with prospects and peers. Follow thought leaders and take note of content that has a higher than usual engagement rate (lots of comments or shares). Read and share articles that shed light on industry trends and their impact on the market (changes in regulation, new competition, the economy, buyer habits, etc.).
6. Perform a Competitor Analysis
Review your competitors’ blogs, resources, email marketing, and social media. What types of content are they writing and promoting? Make a special note for content that has higher engagement.
7. Perform a Content Inventory
Evaluate, categorize and organize various media that have been used to communicate with your prospects and customers. Comb through things like sales presentations, sales emails, proposals, blogs, and content offers. Tag each content piece according to the topic, buyer persona, and buyer journey stage.
8. Outline the Content Calendar
This is where the rubber meets the road. Based on the information gathered in the previous five steps, collaboratively choose the top 3-5 topics to create campaigns around, such as guides, ebooks or webinars. Then outline a series of blog topics that align with each of the campaigns. Map out the time frames, and voila! You’re done (with the planning part, anyway!).
Getting your content strategy right takes commitment and collaboration from the executive, sales, and marketing teams. You don’t want to produce content just to say you did it. You want content that’s well thought out, your readers love and find value from, and most importantly, gets results.