Thanks to online research, buyers are a lot smarter now than they were even a decade ago. Today, there's simply no excuse for being an uninformed buyer. But, by the same token, there's no excuse for failing to educate potential customers even before they become leads.
The overwhelming majority of B2B marketers understand that content marketing is the best way to do that; unfortunately, only 12% of B2B marketers describe their content marketing strategy as a high-performance engine.
What's holding B2B marketers back? B2B marketers are overwhelmed: Two of the top three content marketing challenges relate to content production, according to the most recent content marketing study by MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute.
The challenge is understandable. A marketing department, regardless of size, isn't the same thing as a content production team.
Where to begin?
1. Develop your roster of in-house subject matter experts
Content marketing material is distinct from sales and advertising material in various ways. A key difference is that good content marketing educates your audience on relevant topics rather than relevant products; that's important because your focus needs to be on the audience as opposed to the customer (a relationship that will come later).
So how do you educate your audience? Start by identifying educators, often called subject matter experts (SMEs). These are people within your organization, but they often operate in different silos; sometimes, they don't interact at all.
It's great if you can bring your SMEs together for a brainstorming session; but if you can't, put your journalist hat on and interview them individually.
Ultimately, you want to achieve two things at this point: a list of content ideas, and a sense of who can create that material.
2. Start small
Now you know what you want to say and who inside your organization will say it. One common piece of advice is to next create an editorial calendar to organize content production, workflow, and distribution.
I can't recommend a calendar enough, but I urge you to keep the entries to a minimum at first. Think of it as crawling before walking. Content marketing isn't simply another marketing task, it's a discipline unto itself, and there's frequently a learning curve.
So, rather than laying out a heavy six months of content, plan for a lighter schedule that runs for a quarter. You'll want to re-evaluate after a quarter anyway, plus a lighter schedule in the early going will reduce the risk of fatiguing your team and allow you to focus on developing analytics reporting so you can tie your work to business goals.
As for the individual tasks on your calendar, the same crawl-before-you-walk advice applies. Content can be as simple as a tweet or as complex as a video. Ultimately, a successful content marketing operation should be able to tackle both and everything in between.
But if content production is new to your team, it's a good idea to stick to smaller tasks that can be completed in days, rather than months; otherwise, you'll burn out your team on one incredibly daunting mission.
3. Play to your strengths, especially at the beginning
Depending on your industry and your team's particular skill set, you're going to have certain content production strengths and weaknesses. The best thing you can do is play to the strengths, especially at the beginning.
An organization with strong writers, for example, should focus on producing articles and blog content; or, if your staff has graphic design skills, pictorial content is a good place to start.
But you don't have to think purely in terms of job titles. A manufacturer of farm equipment, for example, might have an amateur filmmaker on staff; that person doesn't need to be Steven Spielberg to produce a two-minute Q&A with one of your subject matter experts about the challenges of farming in arid climates.
If your team is like mine, you probably have more than a few jokers in the office, in which case you might want to task them to come up with some brand-safe tweets and memes that take a lighter tone on industry topics.
4. Plan for content 2.0
Eventually, your content marketing team will learn to walk and even run. At that point, you may need to tap external resources, especially if you're looking to increase the production value of your content. Services such as Visually, 99 Designs, and Tongal, to name a few, specialize in aggregating freelance creative talent, from graphic artists to filmmakers. Depending on where you're located, you might also find talent locally.
But whether you scale up to content marketing 2.0 with in-house resources or freelancers, the basic premise remains the same: In content marketing, you have to give value to get value, and to do that effectively you need to share your knowledge with your audience in a way that is compelling, accessible, and consistent.
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