I recently took a class on Content Marketing for students enrolled in a Master’s program in Communications and Media. The objective was to expose the students to the big picture and provide an industry practitioner’s view of content marketing in the B2B sphere. B2B content marketing is a constant revelation for even those in the industry and was even more so for these students.
What exactly is content marketing? The classical definition says that it is all about creating and distributing relevant and value-adding content to your target audience in such a way that it positively impacts your business. It has become essential for survival in today’s market conditions because the customer is savvier and more well-informed, has more options to choose from and is inundated with information. So the goal is to figure out a way for your company’s voice be heard amongst all the noise in the ecosystem.
The answer to that lies in not just coming up with creative ideas or glossy designs or smart headlines. It’s much more than that. It involves studying and understanding the market, creating a message that resonates for that market, identifying the best channels for communication, developing content assets, distributing it effectively and finally measuring.
Understand your market: Get to know the industry your company operates in and what are the trends and challenges that it has to deal with. Find out about your company’s strategy, performance, areas of strengths and so on. Extend this approach to your customer’s industry and business as well. In fact, go ahead and develop buyer personas of your target audience. How does this help a content marketer? It gives a clear view of what you are dealing with, what your plus points are, what the customer’s pain points and should give you insights into how to speak in a language that the customer will appreciate.
Develop a relevant message: Armed with an understanding of the market you are operating in, you are in much a better position to develop a message for your target audience that they can actually relate to. Ensure that you can substantiate your message with solid proof points. Don’t forget to check if your competitors are saying something similar – you don’t want to adopt a “me-too” approach.” Once you arrive at this, stick with it for a year and then go through this process again.
Identify channels for communication: Again your understanding of your buyer and the buying process becomes critical to figure out which channels he uses to collect information and get advice from. It usually is a mix of online and offline channels. It’s important to identify this right at the beginning because it has a bearing on your editorial calendar.
Develop content assets: Setup an editorial calendar that will drive the content assets development exercise. Notice that content development appears later in the content marketing lifecycle – this is an important point because you should not jump headlong into rustling up a brochure or dive into social media without having a clear big picture view.
Distribution: This could involve purchasing real-estate on online and offline media, organizing events, setting up publishing schedules and so on. Now that you have determined the ways in which each segment of your target audience will be approached, this becomes easier to handle.
Measurement: With this approach to content marketing, there is a higher chance of reaching your audience with the right set of information at the right time. You should expect to report better metrics across all fronts provided you have read the market right. Continuously monitor and tweak your approach based on the metrics.
As logical as this approach sounds, most companies fail to follow it. There could be plenty of reasons behind that – lack of understanding or bandwidth or simply because you are busy flitting from one urgent requirement to the next. Whatever it is, force yourself to take a step back and go through this process. It will be time well-invested for your business.