Whilst 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, only 42% say they’re effective at it. Meanwhile, content production is the biggest challenge for 44% of marketers.
Effective content marketing is content marketing that’s engaging. That engagement attracts strangers, converts visitors, closes leads, delights customers, and ultimately creates promoters. But creating the kind of content that is engaging is a struggle for almost one in two B2B marketers.
The value of a checklist in such a scenario is that it helps those who are struggling to improve. It acts as a frame of reference to ensure you don’t get off track. It helps you to plan properly and gives you an anchor. Ours is specifically for brands and marketers who are already creating content, and who invest in larger-scale initiatives like cornerstone content or research projects, but who still struggle to make them engaging.
This checklist will help you evaluate whether you really have got all of the elements of creating relevant and valuable content down and help you to take your content marketing to the next level. Use it when you start a new project, reference it again once planning is underway, and again toward the end for a last check. It can also be shared around your department or with other project stakeholders to keep everyone on the same page.
Part 1: ideation
The secret to engaging content starts with good ideation. This is the critical planning phase during which topics, goals, executive support and processes must be determined. Here are the essential considerations:
Audience. Am I bearing in mind my audience?
Though it sounds straightforward, documenting the intended audience of your content marketing strategy or project is a must. The reason is that it dictates both topic and tone. When it comes to topic, the more senior your audience is, the more you have to consider the level of sophistication and nuance that would really engage and interest them. What are the topics that matter to them? What do they regularly read to enhance their knowledge base and expertise? Deciding on the right tone for your content during the ideation stage is also essential. The difference between having a more informal or professional tone will influence the kind of brand reputation you’re looking to build and will create a lasting impression.
Remember: consider both topic and tone that are right for your audience.
Future-proofing: Is my content future-proofed?
Generating creative and future-proofed ideas from the outset is critical to producing the kind of content that engages readers over the long term. One savvy tool for exploring and refining topics is to use keyword search tools like Buzzsumo or Google Keyword Planner to investigate the current landscape of specific topics and what buzz or chatter surrounds them. This helps to answer questions such as, “does my concept have longevity? Does it relate to a current or growing business problem? What’s missing from the conversation?” It’s also important to remember that longevity and creativity also have a technical side. The current best practice of SEO means that from the very start you must ensure you have the technical expertise for due diligence on writing h1 tags, alt tags for images, ensuring good metadata, and generally for optimising your content for living online.
Remember: use the tools at your disposal to ensure you’ve picked smart ideas.
Credibility. Have I ensured my content is credible?
Setting up your content for credibility is essential to engagement. The top priorities are to ensure independence and to create an angle. Ensuring independence means that your content isn’t focused on you — it also doesn’t position your brand as the solution to the business problem at hand. The focus must be on providing honest, real information that is there to educate and to be helpful. Credibility also comes from putting into place strong editorial and journalistic principles. Good journalism takes an angle or viewpoint — and while many brands find this difficult, research confirms that audiences actually prefer it when a piece of content raises the quality of discussion by forming an opinion.
Credibility also comes from getting the right experts involved, whether that’s in the form of quotes from academics, or research and data from reputable bodies, or invaluable skillsets from freelancers and agencies — 64% of marketers are now outsourcing writing (TopRank Blog).
Remember: make sure your content isn’t about you, and that you’ve invested in expertise.
Part 2: creation
The creation stage is the part during which the path to engaging, successful content is cemented. This is when you are actually working on the content itself and also planning for its digital and social success by carefully considering formats and visualisation.
Length. Is my piece too long or too short?
Don’t be afraid of longform content. Despite the advent of digital and social media, senior-level executives in particular enjoy longer, more detailed reads. Longform content also gives you the ability to create one larger piece, such as a cornerstone initiative or research project, and then use it to inform other pieces or create smaller ‘snackable’ chunks to use across the editorial calendar — in fact, almost 60% of marketers repurpose content 2 – 5 times using existing assets (LookBook HQ). Remember, if the focus is on engagement, it’s worth doing your homework on the best possible length for your topic of choice.
Remember: longer pieces can give you more opportunities for engagement.
Format. What formats are best for my content piece?
B2B marketers use an average of 13 content formats and tactics (TopRank Blog). It’s a believable stat with the myriad of options available – however, 58% of marketers believe that original written content is the most important format available to them (Social Media Examiner). That being said, it’s imperative to plan for multimedia content projects that span the bridge of print and digital. It’s best to select one or two primary media for the consumption of your content (such as a printed whitepaper or book form plus a dedicated landing page with long-scroll online) and plan your content accordingly.
Don’t forget about mobile optimisation. The formats you choose will also impact how you commission the content for the project itself — consider whether data needs to take precedence over analysis, or whether there will be a long video component that needs to be prioritised over any commentary. Refer back to the matter of engagement and consider what would be more helpful and practical for your audience.
Remember: prioritise one or two formats, and consider the value of original written content.
Visuals. Have I incorporated strong visuals to enhance engagement?
When it comes to increasing engagement with content marketing, visual aids are the top specified asset: According to Hubspot, “colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%”. Visuals can include video, illustration, photography and data visualisation, but quality is an important consideration. Headshots and poor stock images, for example, won’t do much to enhance your piece. But illustrations, charts or images that further nuance the discussion or that simplify an idea are a big value-add. Even designed pull-quotes are effective at breaking up the editorial on a page. It’s important to bear in mind ratios of text to images and to aim for image-rich content. The inclusion of good editorial design is also important — your content should use cross heads, bullets and numbers to chunk content to help pace the reader through your piece.
Remember: including high-quality visuals is the number one way to increase engagement.
Part 3: execution
Taking your content ‘live’ involves a number of important considerations, from analytics to promotion. This is the step during which engagement itself takes place.
Promotion. Have I structured a multi-platform campaign to get this out there?
Step one for promotion is to have a dedicated landing page for your content piece, with tracking and analytics properly applied. Ensure that all communication or sharing of your piece brings visitors to that one page, and that there is an option to capture their data if that’s important for your success metrics. Having one landing page also ensures that, over time, the longtail success of your content is possible.
Ensure that copy is also drafted for other important business platforms such as LinkedIn, where a couple of key Pulse pieces from senior individuals who have contributed to the project (such as academics or research leaders) will support the piece’s engagement and distribution. If your project has involved other brands, even in small doses, such a research bodies, contact their media teams in advance to see if they are willing to share the piece themselves. Lastly, ensure your data is well segmented to prep email campaigns and that your preference centres are working.
Remember: have a dedicated landing page for your content piece.
Shareability. Have I set up this piece to be easily shareable?
Now is the time to create a supporting plan for social media — ensure you’ve got an appropriate and pithy hashtag to support the piece if your brand is active on Twitter, and get your team to draft some pre-written copy that multiple stakeholders with bigger followings can use the week the piece goes live. Go through the piece itself and add in options for readers to share small sections such as quotes and charts. If it’s in line with your brand guidelines, open a section for moderated comments on your piece.As many brands use social media to help measure engagement, you need to give yourself every chance of success.
Remember: pre-write copy to make sharing simple on the day of launch.
Part 4: last stage questions
These are the questions you should ask before you go live:
+ Have we provided something valuable, or have we just talked about ourselves and our products?
+ Have I set up a pathway to success in terms of the process, milestones, group involvement, the right skillsets, and the signoffs?
+ Have I made my main ideas and takeaways clear? + Is this visually appealing and engaging?
+ Did I stay on brand in terms of message, voice, tone, language, and channels of distribution? + Did I establish success metrics and goals?
+ Would I read and enjoy this piece?
Unlike other lead generation tactics, content marketing represents a high-quality value exchange, in which you give prospects helpful or thoughtful information. But staging it correctly, and putting into place the right evaluation criteria, is essential to success. It’s important to be realistic but ambitious, and using a checklist to keep you on track as a well-tested method for getting what you want out of your project.