Producing high-quality content consistently is hard. It takes time, a fair degree of effort, and a crystal-clear vision of what you’re aiming to achieve.
Faced with growing pressure to do more with less, it’s no wonder quality can sometimes suffer.
According to CMI’s research, 56% of B2B content marketers will spend more on content creation in 2019, however, only 27% of those marketers consider their content marketing to be successful. You read that right – marketers are investing more in something they are only getting limited value from. Why is that?
It’s not because content marketing doesn’t work; we know that it does. But faced with the pressure to feed a growing number of channels, support sales teams, drive thought leadership and brand positioning, marketers create more and more content without always having the framework to bake-in quality at the start.
5 steps to bake-in quality content
Quality starts with good planning. As the old adage goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”; this truth applies to content marketing, too. Whilst acknowledging there’s a broader framework to developing a comprehensive content strategy, for this article we’ll focus in on just a few important steps.
Know your audience
Most organisations have several key personas, but haven’t always fully defined them. We know relevance is the number one driver of content engagement, so the first step to creating quality content your audience will engage with is to know who you’re talking to.
Having detailed personas will help you understand your audience at an emotional and motivational level. This is arguably more important for B2B marketing, where long and complex sales cycles are common:
“It’s a mistake to assume that longer periods of consideration push emotion out of buying choices. If anything, they can give deeper emotions more opportunity to work their influence. The more we weigh up our options for a decision with major consequences, the more we need our emotions, our instincts and our memories to help us to make a choice.” LinkedIn – EMEA Blog
If you haven’t already built out rich buyer personas, it’s an exercise worth investing in. It’s also worth realising that not all personas are equal. You may have 10 personas in your business, but knowing which ones contribute the most to business growth and prioritising on that basis is key to success.
Define your purpose
It’s not enough to know your audience; you need to understand how your brand can best provide value to them.
What areas does your organisation excel in? How does it differentiate? Identifying the areas of intersection between what your brand does well, and what your audience really values will give you the foundation for the content you need to focus on. From here, you can create meaningful content pillars to put boundaries around the themes your content supports.
Prioritise stages in the customer journey
Now that you have a clear picture of who your audience is, your priority personas and where you can best add value, it’s time to understand the customer journey; specifically the areas in that journey where people are getting stuck.
Growing business isn’t always about putting more in the top of the funnel. Sometimes, reducing friction through the funnel can have much more impact. Is the research or consideration phase where your audience is confused by choice and struggling to get the information they need to make informed decisions quickly? Well, that’s where you should start.
Once you identify the points in the funnel where your audience is getting caught, you can focus your content efforts on creating valuable resources to help answer the critical questions they have, mitigate any risks in moving forward, and better position your brand as a credible source.
Answer critical questions
So, how do you identify the right questions to answer through your content? Using the plethora of information available from your own business is the first place to start – this is where you’ll find the insights particular to your customers that can help you solve their sticking points.
Focus first on these two key areas:
a) Sales and customer service: have conversations with people in the businesses who are closest to customers. Sales and customer service teams are often at the front line, having daily conversations with prospects and customers about what they need, their concerns, and competitor offerings. Marketers need to be across this rich source of insight and make sure it’s used to inspire new informative content.
b) Mine analytics: whether it’s your website data to understand the pages visitors are engaging with (or dropping off from), or your social media data to work out where the chatter is, the analytics already available across your various channels can help provide the insight to fuel new content ideas to reduce friction in your customer journey.
Plan for atomisation from the start
Scale requires efficiency, and the best way to create content efficiency is to plan how your ideas will come to life from the start.
Consider how your content idea can be used across different channels and formats; by understanding the audience, your focus and how you add value, you can develop a content planning framework which enables you to think more broadly about how to execute the topic ideas you have. Is it a blog series that can be repurposed into an infographic or video? Is it an informative white paper that could be broken down into smaller assets for key platforms?
The temptation can be to dive in and start creating before planning. But mapping out your ideas from the start means that you can develop a connected content ecosystem. Planning from the beginning has other benefits too; more efficiency means more cost-effective content, helping your budget go further.