Content marketing: 9 steps to get started

As Econsultancy’s recent Funnel event demonstrated, the b2b space has embraced the massive potential of content marketing to attract and engage new prospects. Indeed, 9 out 10 b2b organisations say they market with content, according to Marketing Sherpa (2010).

 Content marketing: 9 steps to get started

At Sticky Content, we’ve been helping organisations market with content for 15 years, because we’ve seen time and again that what gets people engaged is not empty marketese but useful information. So here’s our 9-point plan for taking your content marketing to the next level... 

  1. Map your content marketing to your overall goals: To begin with, as always, your marketing goals need to be mapped to your overall strategy. What are your overall business goals? What’s your brand positioning? Is there a particular product or service you want to focus on? Is there a particular audience segment? Where do you need to do better in the engagement cycle? Then you can start thinking about how content marketing can support your objectives. 
  2. Identify your niche of expertise: If you're a b2b business, your organisation is likely to have specialist knowledge in some fairly niche areas. Sharing that knowledge in an accessible and useful way is what content marketing is all about. So ask: what do we know more about than anyone else? 
  3. Listen to your customers: It’s not enough to know stuff that no one else does – there’s has to be a market for that information too, and it has to be packaged in a user-friendly way. So use all the tricks you have at your disposal to find out what your customers want to know more about. Keywords, web analytics, email feedback, market research, social media monitoring, insights from the sales team... it’s all valuable data to help you generate content ideas. 
  4. Identify your subject experts and make their lives easy: Once you start generating ideas, your subject experts can provide the raw data for your marketable content. But your experts are not necessarily marketers or writers, and providing information for content marketing is not likely to be top of their to-do list. So do whatever you can to make their lives easier. Give them a list of questions to think about, or a form to fill in. Show them examples of what the ideal final output will look like, to get them closer to the kind of content you need. Record them so they don’t have to write stuff down. The expert need only speak his or her piece (literally if it’s a video); the marketing team can take care of writing up, editing, formatting, design and all the rest. 
  5. Choose strong formats you can use time and again: Online, there are lots of tried-and-trusted ways of packaging content into engaging formats that are both easy to create and interesting to read. Buyer’s guides, top tips, webinars, video, case studies, Q&As, How Tos, checklists, technology briefings... you can adapt some of these well-known structures or invent your own. Go for formats that you can imagine using again and again. 
  6. Stick to an editorial schedule: Now that you’re taking publishing seriously, you need to act like a proper publisher. Have an editorial team, for whom content marketing is part of their job description. Put in place an editorial calendar, to schedule the flow of content in a way that is both timely (factoring in seasonal and topical triggers) and realistic (factoring in constraints like sign-off process, available resource and technical limitations). Cultivate relationships with quotable experts. Above all, make sure you stick to your schedule – it's better to start off under-estimating what you can achieve and build from there. 
  7. Make sure your content is both searchable and sociable: As well as thinking of web-friendly formats to structure your content in, don’t forget seo and search. Make sure your headlines, tags, links and descriptions are all Google-friendly, and write engaging titles that you can imagine people wanting to retweet or share online. 
  8. Keep the ideas coming: Once your content starts getting noticed, people will expect to see a regular flow of new material. So make sure your team is always on the lookout for ideas. Encourage the wider business to submit ideas too. Emerging trends, useful stats, new angles on old favourites... the more ideas you come up with, the better the quality of the content you will eventually create. Some may get used straight away, some may get put aside to fill a gap in the schedule further down the line.
  9. Test, measure, refine: Once you’ve been content marketing in earnest for a while, you can start to measure and reflect on the effectiveness of your output. Schedule regular editorial review meetings to see what can be learned from past content for the future. Take a long hard look at what works and what doesn’t, and think about how to do more of the former and less of the latter. Seo traffic, users stats, enquiries, acquisitions, retweets, page views... use whatever metrics are available, always making sure that you assess your findings in the light of your original goals.