Lots of marketers think that great content marketing just “happens;” that “if you build it, they will come” – if you just set up a blog or make some podcasts or publish some articles, the sales leads will inevitably follow. The truth is that even though it’s easier and cheaper than ever before to create and publish content, it’s also become more difficult to break through the clutter and attract the right audience that’s really going to make a difference for your business. The best content marketing comes from careful planning and a focused strategy.
Before you start investing time and resources in content marketing, you need to decide what the foundation for your content marketing is going to be. You need to give some consideration to where and how you want to build your audience. You need to figure out what your content marketing is supposed to accomplish. The world of content marketing is a vast online stage – and you need to figure out how and where you want to try to step into the spotlight.
Here are a few key strategic questions to ask as you build a foundation for your content marketing:
1. What is the overall “mission” and focus of your content marketing? Simply put: Why do you want to do content marketing? What is your company’s unique voice and value proposition that you can offer as a content marketer? For example, maybe you want to offer a forward-thinking analysis of your industry. Maybe you want to offer pithy commentary about the biggest mistakes and opportunities and lessons you’ve learned in business. Maybe you want to share the success stories of your customers. There’s more than one “right answer” to this question, but you need to know (before you start creating content) exactly “why” you want to add your voice to the online content arena.
2. What do you do best? What can you and your company rightfully consider itself to be an “expert” in? And how does this expertise translate to content marketing? How can you translate your technical expertise into good stories and helpful advice?
3. What do your customers want to know about? Some of the best content marketing is a sort of “reverse engineering” where you seek out the questions and problems that your customers are asking about, and then find ways to answer those questions and solve those problems via content – even if it’s not directly related to what you sell. For example, you might discover that people are finding your website by entering certain questions or search terms into Google. Just by targeting these keywords and writing blog articles to “answer” the questions being posed to the search engines, you can start to attract a bigger audience and cultivate a reputation for expertise in these specific niche areas.
4. How can you make your content entertaining? One of the underappreciated aspects of content marketing, especially in the B2B marketing realm, is that content doesn’t have to be boring and technical – in fact, it’s often to your advantage if your content is a bit edgier and amusing. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon your sense of professionalism – but don’t be afraid to use some humor, some color, some authentic human personality, and creativity as part of your B2B content marketing. Look for inspiration from pop culture, sports or entertainment – for example, I’m working on an article right now (for another publication) called “Lead Generation Lessons from ‘Better Call Saul.’” There are many ways to think creatively and come up with some content that’s actually fun to read. Ask yourself: Would people miss seeing your content if it were gone? How can you build a relationship with your audience where people actively seek out your content?
Before you start creating content, give some thought to these strategic questions that will help guide the direction of your overall content marketing approach. Ideally you will be able to build a solid foundation for your content marketing.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales at Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the B2B sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.