Content and thought leadership solutions offer B2B brands powerful ways to reach prospects and build meaningful relationships, but poor content strategies prevent many from reaping the rewards. Here's how to develop a strategy for high performance content that delivers ROI.
Content marketing is booming. The CMI Benchmarks Report shows that one in four marketers expect their content marketing budget to increase in in 2018. But although budgets are increasing, far from all who invest are seeing the results.
At the same time, less than half of marketers have a documented strategy for why or how they buy content solutions. The effects on ROI are detrimental. Contently reports that 411 pieces of content are created every minute. But 60 – 70 per cent of all content produced by B2B marketers never sees the light of day.
Brands that strategically incorporate content or thought leadership in their marketing strategy see significant returns. They attract 7.8 times more site traffic than their competitors. They generate three times as many leads as through traditional marketing, at 62 per cent of the cost. And they increase their conversion rates six fold.
Here, we outline how to create strategy for delivering high performance content. An effective strategy links your initiatives to business objectives, provides a compelling narrative and spells out a plan for content creation and distribution, attached to measurable KPIs.
Linking your initiatives to business objectives
High performance content delivers on business objectives and works to address pain-points an organisation is facing. Whether that’s acquiring new prospects or retaining company talent, businesses with successful content programmes start by mapping out the problem.
Understanding the issue. What problem is your business facing? What factors led this problem to develop? What will the implications be if this is not addressed? What are the benefits of finding a solution?
Identifying your audience. Who needs to be influenced in order to solve the issue? What is the ideal action this audience should take? What barriers and drivers are there to achieving this ideal outcome?
Once you’ve answered these questions, spelling them out as a problem and solution framework will make the solution actionable. “In order to address X problem, we need to Y with Z audience to change their behaviour from A to B.”
For example, imagine a fintech provider that is struggling with acquisition. Its key prospects are hard-to-reach and considering more established providers. This firm may spell out its objective by saying: “In order to grow our market share, we need to let tech buyers at ‘top 25’ consultancies experience our offer so they consider us, rather than dismiss us because of our size.”
Defining a narrative to engage your audience
Once you have defined your business objectives in an actionable solution framework, it’s time to define a narrative for your content or thought leadership solution.
This involves delving further into the pain-points that are preventing your target audience from engaging in their ideal behaviour. In the example above, this would involve asking why the audience is dismissive of the firm because of its size. Is it an issue of awareness, access to the audience or credibility? What messaging would they need to change perceptions?
In answering these questions, you’ll form the basis for an effective narrative that will impact your audience’s behaviour.
Creating an impactful content plan
Next, you can bring your narrative to life through a variety of avenues, from in-house content creation to liaising with a content agency or engaging in a content partnership. Often, having a variety of all three provides the most cost-effective and credible solutions, as independent content tends to be more trusted than branded content.
This is especially true for discerning audiences. Our research into C-suite content consumption reveals that 50 per cent of executives find content partnerships more credible than branded content.
As LinkedIn’s Joshua Graff notes, the most successful content will frequently be one or a series of ‘hero pieces’ you can then slice, dice and repurpose across different channels to achieve the best results.
Planning content distribution and KPIs
An effective distribution plan strings your objectives, narrative and content assets together. This is a crucial step for the success of any initiative. Without linking the content strategy to the wider marketing mix – such as email, social media, digital, PR and events – your content will not get the cut through it needs to deliver impact.
Mapping out a customer journey is useful to determine how to best use your assets to deliver impact. Signposting the different destinations for each stage will help reveal which assets to use where, and if budget needs to be allocated for driving traffic. In order to make the journey as effective as possible, try working backwards from the desired ultimate action and reconstructing how a prospect can best be guided towards that end.
If your aim is to drive lead generation, a distribution plan may involve placing the hero asset behind a data capture form, then focusing SEO, email and social activity to drive traffic to that form. An automated email programme can then be set-up, using additional assets to nurture the leads following the download and to re-target segments on social media.
Setting up a webinar or Twitter Q&A around the topic offers an additional way to capture leads. If there are print assets, these can be brought to events or business meetings or be mailed to key prospects for additional value.
Depending on the scope of the content programme and the number of assets, the plan lives best in a content calendar where all assets and supporting activity can be viewed together.
Measuring your KPIs and reporting
KPIs matter for two reasons: they let you show the ROI of a content initiative and they help you keep track of performance and optimise campaigns to reach better results.
If you are working towards specific targets, such as delivering a specific amount of MQLs per month, contributing a percentage of quarterly revenue or increasing website traffic by a number of unique users every year, these are great starting points.
Remember that KPIs should follow the SMART model and be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Targets often meet a few of these criteria, but not all. For example, some companies set goals to improve lead generation that are not specific enough to be measured.
This can be a particular issue when taking over a certain function or embarking on a new goal. There are many variables that can impact results, including budget, content, channels and messaging. So before you’ve started, it’s difficult to know what you’ll get back. In this case, it’s best to start with a test campaign on a small scale to get an indication of which results to expect and help you make your goals more specific.
- Always link content initiatives to your business objectives
- Tailor a narrative to influence your target audience
- Plan out the assets you’ll create and how you will use them effectively
- Set specific KPIs that help you optimise campaigns and track your success