An Update To Content Marketing Best Practices

content marketing rules
content marketing rules

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.

That’s why I outlined effective content marketing strategy steps and a  content marketing framework anyone could follow then and now. The main rule of content marketing continues to be:

Give buyers engaging, compelling, thoughtful stories and they will gladly give you their attention, respect, and business.

Quick Takeaways:

  • 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:

  1. Start with defining the business case for content marketing.
  2. Define your target audience and their content needs.
  3. Document the process you will use to plan, create, publish, and measure content creation.
  4. Use an editorial strategy that starts with keywords your audience uses and groups them into common themes.
  5. Map content to each stage of the buyer journey.
  6. Build a content marketing destination that attracts interested buyers to your website.
  7. Optimize the conversion paths for any new visitors
  8. Distribute your content to all the channels your audience uses.
  9. 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.

content marketing best practices

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.

Source: InsightAgents, UK

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.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

19 thoughts on “An Update To Content Marketing Best Practices

  1. Absolutely excellent intro, especially on understanding the new buyer here.

    Like an awful lot of marketing, it is focused on the greenfield relationship.

    In a company like SAP and indeed most larger ticket items companies, this totally new to you customer is rare.

    Often the task is building on an existing relationship to widen the product offering, it can be making people realise you also do this, in others it is getting back in after a past failure. It can even be following individuals when they move.

    How can Content help with this? Are there other things you would do as well?

    1. Thanks Peter, I think all companies have to balance the marketing mix (time, money and effort) between loyalty, upsell and cross-sell programs after the sale and on efforts to drive net-new customers. Content can help both because you are adding value before the search for a solution even begins. If the content is produced and delivered in the ways outlined here, it will be helpful, will assist in building trust in the right solution areas and earn more sales. but it starts with content that is ultimately helpful.

  2. There are many important elements in this work…I do think that as part of creating engaging content, we need to focus more on showcasing expertise within the company. Help buyers see the personality and experience of the individuals that make up the brand. This helps build confidence in the buyer and helps them create a lasting relationship vs. a transactional one.

    1. Thanks Cara. I think you are right and this one is tricky. Because you want your thought leaders to produce content that shows their expertise without sounding too much like a sales pitch. You have to strike the right balance to gain attention and trust and it is pretty tough to do in my experience.

  3. Some great points Michael. No doubt that the new BtoB buyer provides many significant challenges and opportunities for us as marketers. As you mention in the earlier comment, we need to balance the marketing mix from a time, money and effort perspective as well as providing highly engaging content in order to be successful. Dell’s whitepaper provides super insight into the new rules of content marketing.

    There is also a significant divide today between the larger companies that have the resources to produce (and leverage) high quantities of created content, versus those “smaller” organizations that must rely to a greater extent on curated and aggregated content (https://tinyurl.com/mgtmwvg). Marketers at both types of organizations will need to get more innovative at using their own content as well as tapping into high quality content from other sources through content curation strategies. Leveraging curated content will not only help from a resource perspective, but it will enable greater engagement with buyers who demand exposure to more independent views and other perspectives…..and if we as vendors don’t provide this exposure to them, they will most certainly go elsewhere.

    1. Great point Michael. There are challenges in organizations of all sizes and we need to understand the differences. Having been at both large and small organizations, I can tell you content is a struggle no matter where you are. We all need help so thanks for chiming in.

  4. I agree – the bottom line is – it is all about telling stories. That is why I would strongly advise bringing in ex journalists to help with this – marketing expertise alone is no longer enough!

    1. Thanks Lucy, I agree we need journalists and journalistic-minded marketers. but I would argue that good storytelling has always been a valuable asset for the successful marketer and business executive. Steve Jobs was a master storyteller. So are many successful business owners.

  5. Excellent post Michael. Can’t help but agree with Lucy on her comment about journalists, also. One of the most important things for marketers to get to grips with when embarking on a content marketing strategy is to thoroughly understand the problems that their prospects face. This means being able to ask the sales teams and existing customers the right questions, and accurately interpret their answers. It’s quite easy to be lazy at that stage, and skip to the “fun” part, i.e. producing content, especially if interviewing is not a strong point of the marketer.

    1. Thanks William, what you said is so true. It’s just to easy to focus on creating stuff and checking the item off your to-do list and not really spending the time listening to your customers and sales people.

  6. The real issue is that the proportion of people who read longer content like entire books, whitepapers, etc was always smaller. There are people who skim books and people who read them from cover to cover. But get the right audience, and not only will they read it but they will read much more intently and in my unscientific study, yields a higher percentage of people who’ll take action IF you tie the content to an action.

  7. Nice post, Michael. As Kuldeep says, the amount of people who read long copy is always smaller. So, all the more reason to re-purpose it for those of us who like to skim.

  8. The article summarizes the aspect of content marketing and the importance of content for your business as well… I would say that businesses in order to grow in popularity and their business would need to promote themselves with some great contents online.

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