Content Strategy

Post written by Bob Alvin, CEO, Chairman, and Founder of NetLine Corporation.

With all the buzz surrounding B2B content marketing, I’m sure many a Marketing Executive has been asked, “What is your content marketing strategy?” And if you have not been asked yet, then I’m sure you will be soon. But you don’t have to be afraid to say you don’t have one, because surprisingly many do not. Most don’t even know where to begin or how to set the priority.

What is Content Marketing?

I’ve found that buzzwords often take on a life of their own, and once everyone is using them (in a variety of ways), the true meaning of the word can be lost. Going to the source (aka Wikipedia), “Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.” This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc. Content marketing is focused not on selling, but on simply communicating with customers and prospects. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering consistent, ongoing valuable information.

I agree that content can build branding and thought leadership with clients and prospects, but I can’t necessarily agree with the statement “Content marketing is focused not on selling.” I think this somewhat contradicts the previous statement about “publishing content in order to acquire customers.” While content marketing can absolutely help in the areas of customer retention and loyalty as well as brand awareness – at the end of the day marketing objectives are measured in ROI. And the best way to show ROI is by selling. ;-)

What is a Content Strategy?

Now to the question of “What is a content strategy?” Once again, according to Wikipedia, “Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content — written or in other media.” How many are now saying to themselves, “Okay, I generate a lot of content, therefore I guess I have a content strategy.” Well, if the purpose of your strategy was to just generate content, then congratulations, sounds like you were successful! But if your real purpose was to “acquire more customers,” did you achieve your objective? Not sure?

Consumption Does Not Equal an Endorsement

There have been many studies published touting the ever-increasing consumption of content online and even newer studies talking about the increase of consumption via mobile. So if you are generating a lot of content and you have had success in getting an audience to consume your content, then at least your content isn’t going to waste. However, is this audience of any value to you or your company? Are they real prospects or ‘tire-kickers’? If all of your future clients came to your website and consumed your content your job would be done. The truth is, in a world where organic traffic is a highly sought after and competitive arena, you need to utilize other methods to get your content in front of your target audience.

Multi-Channel is Multiple Times Better

As part of your content strategy you need to include the target audience you are trying to reach. These are the people who could potentially wind up as customers for you – now or down the line. While a single channel such as a website will help, a true content strategy needs to take multiple channels into account: email, blogs, social, and mobile to name a few. Your target audience consumes content in a variety of forms from a variety of sources, so how do you get your content to them through channels you don’t directly control? The answer is content syndication. Content syndication allows you to get your content in front of a multitude of different audiences – Audiences you would typically never be able to reach by other methods.

Not All Content is Created Equal

Having worked out where to distribute your content, you also need to align the type of content you create to your sales lifecycle. The goal of your content strategy when it comes to the sales lifecycle is to move your prospects through the funnel. I prefer the Awareness, Evaluation, and Purchase model – but of course feel free to use whichever model suits your organization best.

For example a piece of content that is broadly applicable to an industry – “Ten Tips to Make Your Blog Unforgettable” – is going to generate a lot of interest, but at a shallow, Awareness level. This is opposed to a prospect watching a product demo video where the prospect is much closer to making a purchase decision. You need to develop content that will interest your prospects at each stage of the funnel, and treat them accordingly. A sales rep’s time will typically be wasted on a prospect at the Awareness stage and where marketing automation tools and lead nurturing programs come into play. Again, your content strategy needs to address every stage of your content marketing initiative – from development to lead management.

Is it All Worth It?

Given the level of complexity a true content strategy can entail – there is the temptation to ask, “Is it worth it?” In a recent study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and NetLine Corporation found that 85% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers are either majorly or moderately affected by online content from B2B marketers when making vendor selection and purchase decisions. In other words, content does affect buying decisions! Many businesses are already creating content, so why not take the necessary steps to make the most of your investment.

In closing – Create a content syndication strategy. Develop the right content, distribute your content to the right audience; develop a lead management process, and set your expectations appropriately. Then you’ll be able to answer the question, “What is your content marketing strategy?”