It’s a sad fact many businesses have invested significant resources in producing content and seen little return. Without a clear structure moving from content strategy to content plan, the process is destined to fail.

Content marketing is hard. Generating an appropriate ROI is hard. The spray and pray approach is unlikely to work. There needs to be a plan and structure.

What Are You Trying To Achieve?

What is the main problem you are trying to overcome? What are the main issues holding you back in your existing customers? Are you perceived as a ‘me to’ type supplier? Are your competitors perceived to be better at ‘X’ or ‘Y?’ Is that perception justified?

What are our competitors doing? What are their strengths and how can you neutralise them?

What are your advantages and what makes you stand out as a credible supplier? How can you build on that foundation?

Identify who (what groups) you are trying to reach and why. What is the message you are trying to deliver? What’s the balance between new and existing customers? How can you help your customers overcome the challenges they face?

With target groups and messages in place, identify how customers make purchasing decisions. Who is involved in those decisions and what is their influence? What are their needs? How can you make an impact? Your sales and customer service teams should provide much of the information you need.

Take a step back – What is the goal? What obstacles to progress do you need to remove? This process is not easy and it takes time and effort. Sometimes it involves facing some brutal truths, but it is an essential first step. Miss it, or fail to give it the attention it deserves and everything that follows will fail.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve, break it down into time-limited objectives. Only then can you get to strategy. The how we are going to do it and how content fits into that process. The content strategy must be in place before moving on to the content plan.

Look carefully at the returns you can expect. What can you afford to spend? Who is going to do the work and who will manage it? These are all important questions to ask.

The Content Plan

Remember, there are two types of content. One for SEO, the other for customers and prospects. What follows deals only with the latter.

With the target audience identified and a firm understanding of the challenges to be overcome, it is time to move on to the content plan. What are the objectives, and what type of content is best to achieve those objectives? Who will produce those key pieces of content and in what order? Remember, no one person or department can do it alone.

With the key pieces of content dealt with, it is time to move on to secondary content. Working with sales, customer support and anyone else who works with customers, identify:

  • Where are the customer pain points?
  • What are common objections?
  • How can we help them use our product or services?
  • What are common questions?
  • What smoothes the purchasing decisions.

How can you help customers and prospects understand the potential problems with technology/products? Think through what can go wrong and try to preempt the day it happens. Help customers understand the shortcuts lower price competitors take and the potential implications.

At all times try to think through what is the best content format. Is it text, or video? Would it be best to cover an issue in a webinar that customers can either attend or download later? Are there any speaking opportunities at conferences or exhibitions?

Assemble this content into a plan covering what will be delivered and when. It may seem like an overwhelming task but a significant amount of content may already exist. Many companies in B2B markets create a mass of content for internal consumption.

Market research reports, product qualification reports, internal sales training guides, responses to customer complaints, reports on product failures and more. Obviously, some information will be confidential but much can be repurposed.

The plan should identify what we do and in what order, who is responsible for what? What is the desired outcome of each piece of content and how are they interlinked? How does content fit in with other marketing activities such as exhibitions and events?

When there is a plan its purpose and desired outcomes must be communicated internally. Unflinching management support is vital.

Every plan needs flexibility. Think through what could come out of the blue to knock it off track and, in general terms, how will you react.

In theory the process is simple. First, you need to decide what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there – your strategy. Then, you need a plan to make it happen. The problem is people and their priorities get in the way. The content plan needs support and ongoing commitment.

Download our free B2B Content Marketing – A Different Approach to learn more.


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