The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nowhere is that truer than in content marketing. Content marketing best practices might change with the winds of technology. But, their basic principles stay the same.
I’ve been covering Content Marketing Best Practices for more than 10 years! And one thing has remained constant in all those years, content marketing is still hot, growing, and working for the brands that use it.
Back then, content marketing strategy certainly favored the B2B marketer. The tug-of-war that waged between sales and marketing teams dominated the B2B conversation.
New platforms had just emerged, giving content marketers a wealth of ways to get their messages out. The only problem? There was little strategy and lots of one-off campaigns.
Give buyers engaging, compelling, thoughtful stories and they will gladly give you their attention, respect, and business.
- The best practices of content marketing, like those in other industries, change over the years.
- For B2B content marketing, new strategies require new thinking and new approaches to implement.
- B2C content marketing too can benefit from many of these new best practices.
What Are the Most Effective Steps to Content Marketing?
10 years ago, many B2B content marketers were still product-focused rather than focused on the customer and their needs. And while we have come along way, we still see brands struggling with the true meaning of content marketing.
We have learned over the years that content marketing and product marketing can co-exist and even support each other so that both achieve business goals.
Continuously creating engaging and effective stories is the single most important element of effective content marketing. It all comes down to the art of brand storytelling and activating your employees to deliver effective thought leadership. And here are the 9 steps to do just that:
- Start with defining the business case for content marketing.
- Define your target audience and their content needs.
- Document the process you will use to plan, create, publish, and measure content creation.
- Use an editorial strategy that starts with keywords your audience uses and groups them into common themes.
- Map content to each stage of the buyer journey.
- Build a content marketing destination that attracts interested buyers to your website.
- Optimize the conversion paths for any new visitors
- Distribute your content to all the channels your audience uses.
- Measure your results against the business case you established in step 1.
So what are the new best practices in content marketing and how do they influence this step-by-step approach to content creation and distribution?
Account-Based Marketing and Customer-Focused Content
Finding the right customers to target and drawing them in with information that helps them solve problems should be the foundation of any content marketing strategy.
However, with the advent of account-based marketing (ABM), sometimes a little product information can help your sales team carry the account over the finish line.
The way ABM works goes like this. Your content team creates valuable content that can help your target customers – let’s say a whitepaper or an e-book.
Those decision-makers who respond to the content’s call to action receive even more in-depth content. But this time, the content targets each decision-maker’s concerns.
For example, the head engineer might receive information about how your new widget can increase her manufacturing process’s efficiency by 30 percent. The chief accounting officer, who noticed that the manufacturing process for one of the company’s main products has bled red for a year, receives content showing her how using your widget has increased revenue for a similar company. And so on.
With high-value prospects, ABM has proven to boost a company’s ROI. 84 percent of all B2B companies who use ABM have discovered that their ROI has increased. 42 percent of them report a significant increase in ROI.
For B2B companies, that’s a game-changer. It’s a new guideline that needs to become part of any B2B company’s content marketing arsenal.
When you do implement ABM, take Dell’s advice and go a step further. See to it that you support the prospect’s internal teams that will put your solution to work. Provide them with all the information they need to make using your products and services a breeze.
Partner with Sales Teams to Create Engaging Content
Account-based marketing – or any B2B content marketing, for that matter – doesn’t work unless your sales team is on board. High-value content depends on answering the right questions.
And who knows better your prospects’ questions than your sales team? When you listen to the objections prospective customers give them, you can create content that resolves those issues.
Take that a little further and milk your subject matter experts for ideas as well. Your engineering team and your development team, as well as sales, can become a rich source of information to add needed details.
When your content answers the questions prospects ask your sales team, you’ll likely see outstanding results. Not only that but when you break down the silos that divide your teams, you’ll discover a wealth of content ideas from all across your company.
Even though we defined our original best practices for B2B content teams, many of them have always applied to B2C companies as well. Providing helpful information rather than blatant product promotions to potential customers is a good bet no matter who you’re selling to.
Use Stories to Capture Hearts As Well As Minds
In fact, the new content rules go even further down that road. The 12 Immutable Laws of High-Impact Messaging, for example, emphasizes that stories are the best vehicle for brand messages.
We would agree. Stories that take potential customers along a journey intrigue them.
When you make the customer, not your product, as the story’s hero, you become part of their team. As they seek to conquer whatever challenges they face, your product goes with them. It’s the sword that slays their personal or corporate dragons.
Use Internal Brand Champions to Spread the Word
Even truer today than it was seven years ago, empowering your teams to post content around their areas of expertise yields amazing results. Employee-created content receives more engagement and more shares than those blog posts that took you forever to research and write.
That’s not all. Leads you get from such content are seven times as likely to result in a sale.
Repurpose and Distribute on All Channels
As true today as it was in 2010, this content rule might not be shiny new. However, many of the ways you can repurpose and distribute have grown to new levels. Here’s only one example.
Back then, for instance, podcasts were rare. Only companies with costly equipment could take advantage of this content channel.
That’s changed. Just go to one of the popular podcast platforms. Then you’ll see companies small and large with successful podcasts. Mobile apps, vlogs, and webinars have exploded, along with traditional blogs.
As for distribution, there are so many content marketing platforms that can help you not only distribute content. These platforms can also create customer personas, plan, segment your audience, collaborate, schedule, create, edit, post, test, and analyze the results.
Emphasize Quantity As Well As Quantity in Content Marketing
Seven years ago, we were just coming off a wave of keyword stuffing that made some marketers’ posts almost unreadable. Even worse, among those of us who knew better, clients would still beg us to write stuff with keywords popping out of the text like a Whack-a-Mole game.
To ensure that content attracted readers, Google and other search engines adjusted their algorithms to discourage keyword stuffing. Along with that welcome upgrade, content marketers preached the gospel of quality alone.
However, statistics began to pop up that indicated that quantity mattered, too. Of course, quality is a vital ingredient in your content strategy.
So is quantity. Those numbers show that companies that post 8 to 16 posts a month enjoy a massive uptick in inbound traffic.
As in up to four times as much. When you publish often, with consistent quality, you, too, can get that kind of traffic.
So here’s a visual to help you achieve balance:
Putting these new content marketing best practices to work for you can change your marketing game forever.
If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today – and generate more traffic and leads for your business.