“Don’t become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.” – Zig Ziglar
If you’re in content marketing, these words of Zig Ziglar are something you might consider tattooing on your forehead. Why? Because generality breeds mediocrity and mediocre content doesn’t cut through the clutter. It adds to it.
And that’s exactly the problem with the majority of content marketers these days. The Internet is awash with content that’s without a purpose or is simply regurgitated stuff. No wonder, only 30% of organizations consider themselves effective at content marketing.
Yet, more than half of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget. Even 57% of those who are least effective at content marketing plan to increase their budget, shows CMI’s B2B Content Marketing Report 2016.
Sounds like they’re trying to fill a leaky bucket. But throwing money at the problem won’t fix it. So if you’re among the 70% who do not rate their content marketing efforts as effective, here are some best practices that’ll help you up your game.
1. Clearly Define What Success Looks Like
Without knowing what exactly you’re aiming to achieve, it’s a no brainer that you won’t recognize success if you happen to achieve it. And this seems to be a major problem with B2B marketers as CMI’s survey points out — 55% of B2B marketers said they aren’t sure what effective or successful content marketing looks like for their organization.
The idea of success will vary from company to company, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to define success through the lens of your own business model. Then, set your goals around that definition.
Which metrics to choose while setting your goals? If we go by the CMI survey, sales lead quality, sales, and higher conversion rates are the top three metrics successful B2B content marketers use. And that makes sense because these metrics can be effectively tied to the bottom line of your business, it’s easier for you to determine which tactics work and which don’t.
2. Put Your Content Strategy in Writing
The difference between success and failure of a content strategy depends on whether or not it’s documented. According to the survey, businesses that have a clearly spelled-out strategy get consistently better results from their content marketing tactics, social platforms, and paid distribution than ones that don’t.
To have a well-documented content plan, you should include the following elements:
- In-depth customer research to form the base of the plan
- Targeted buyer personas
- Specific, measurable goals for every piece of content that’ll go out of the door
- Strategies and tactics for content promotion and distribution
- A plan for repurposing content
- A clearly articulated tone of voice for effective storytelling
- A plan to evaluate, measure, adjust, and refine the strategy as you move ahead
Here’s an excellent guide from Content Marketing Institute that can help you put your content strategy in writing through a series of questions you can ask yourself.
3. Identify How to Truly Offer Value Through Content
In order to truly offer value – you need to find the “sweet spot” of where customer needs overlap with your unique offering.
First, you need to peek into your own repositories to identify those areas or skill sets where your organization has a command over. These will be things that make your organization better than any average organization in your industry. The kind of solution that only you can provide and that can distinguish you from others in your business.
Next, you should conduct proper customer research to make your content strategy focused around your customers’ needs. Talk to your salespeople, your customer service folks, and product managers to understand what prompts your customers to respond and the critical pain points they have. You could conduct online customer surveys or 1:1 interviews, ask questions on Q&A platforms like Quora to find out customer motivations and needs, their buying criteria, and so on. Breaking your customer research into a 4-level plan like this can yield better and more effective results.
Ensure that every piece of content produced has a meaningful purpose by focusing only on the “sweet spot”.
4. Rinse, Repeat, and Be Patient
Content marketing is not for those looking for instant success nor is it a one-time plan. Instead, it is—and should be—a plan we can replicate over and over again.
Once you’ve gone through one content marketing cycle, analyze what went well and what didn’t. Reuse and repurpose popular content to give it a fresh look, while eliminating the need to start from scratch.
So is finding your ideal content strategy easy? No one said that ever. But you can be sure of this—it’s an exercise that will transform your content efforts from being a “wandering generality” to a “meaningful specific.”