Content planning: Lessons from the B2B leaders [research]

10 November 2017

What do the leading content marketing exponents in financial, professional services and technology firms do differently when it comes to content planning?

Last year we published the Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey, which unearthed some real surprises in how C-suite executives view and use thought leadership content. This year’s survey ‘Best practice content marketing: Lessons from the leaders’ examines whether those messages are getting through to the firms trying to engage with them.

The answer is ‘Yes’ – but only for some.

From the 150 financial, professional services and technology firms we spoke to, the leaders clearly stood out in terms of effectiveness – and this is the first blog in a series looking at what the content marketing leaders do differently – across planning, creation, distribution and measurement.

Best practice content planning

The best content marketing is a mix of art and science: the art of creating compelling content must sit alongside the science of rigorous planning. So what truly sets the leaders apart when it comes to content planning?

1. They document their strategy

We’ve been banging the drum for documentation for years, so it was no surprise to find in our most recent research that 85% of leaders have a documented strategy for content marketing, compared to only 50% of others. Leading industry body, the Content Marketing Institute, agrees has consistently found those who document their content strategy:

● Are far more likely to consider themselves effective

● Feel significantly less challenged with every aspect of content marketing

● Believe themselves more effective in using all content marketing tactics and social media channels

● Can justify spending more of their marketing budget on content marketing

Your content marketing strategy should hold your ‘why’ at its core – articulating business goals, audience needs, content, channels and measurement – documenting your strategy doesn’t have to be onerous.

You could create the perfect, multi-page tome, detailing business and channel plans, audience personas and content maps, your brand story and everything in between – or you could get a key points down on a one-pager to help guide you as you develop. Consider the ‘who, what, why, when, where and how’ of your content, and make sure you include testing and learning, too.

2. They use content for a variety of means

Leaders use the content they create more extensively than others, averaging 5.5 uses as opposed to 4.2. Most marketers will include objectives in their content strategies, but leaders better understand that they need to create content with a specific purpose in mind.

Leaders are almost twice as likely (92% vs 55%) as others to rely on content to reinforce that clients have made the right decision to use their services, for instance. They know that developing content to help facilitate relationships equals informed and engaged customers and prospects.

Content is firmly embedded across leaders’ business development cycles; it’s part of building brand awareness, helping clients to discover solutions and communicating competitive differences. Their content marketing strategies extend beyond single-use pieces to consider the full customer journey.

3. They understand their audience

Clients want partners that help them make better decisions. Leaders get that and are more likely to use content to keep clients informed of emerging trends and give them an edge over their competitors. Others, though, are more likely to believe clients want to use branded content to just compare providers.

This sales-minded and transactional view of content reinforces a previous Grist survey of professional services firms where we found over one-third (36%) of marketers either ‘tend to write what the practice wants to write about’ or just ‘don’t know’ if they are creating content their clients would want to engage with.

A deep understanding of your audience should form part of your content marketing strategy. Developing personas to provide a clear idea of who you are creating the content for will enable robust decisions to be made, with a more successful outcome.

4. They involve stakeholders early

It’s easy to produce content in silos, assuming you know what’s best for your target audience, but leaders know that getting more stakeholder groups involved can help the content planning process.

Consider bringing in your internal PR and comms teams, research teams, and sector or department heads to align content with overall company direction. Get sales, SEO and social teams involved in topic generation – after all, they are the ones who know what clients are looking for.

This will also alleviate another issue uncovered by the survey: 13% of people in the ‘others’ category don’t know how they’re supposed to use the content being created, and that’s not a good thing.

5. They work with external partners

Leaders also know that silos can extend beyond company walls and are more likely to enlist external help, such as industry experts.

More of them also use content marketing specialist agencies to help drive strategy, planning and creation; leaders have a more developed relationship here than others, with 85% using an agency and believing the partnership to be successful. Finding the right partner is crucial.

Content marketing agencies can, in fact, help alleviate many of the challenges highlighted in the survey: they can bring expertise in both topic generation and content creation that you may not otherwise have access to, and they can help to supplement your own resource, helping you to scale up your content efforts, test success, and make your content marketing strategy an organic document, always pushing forward.

What else can you learn from content marketing leaders? Download the report here.

Best Practice Content Marketing - download CTA

 

Author: Andrew Rogerson

Andy is a co-founder of Grist, and account director for many of our professional services clients. His recent projects span the full range of marketing communications, including integrated content marketing programmes, web development, thought leadership and video. Prior to founding Grist, Andy was marketing director at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London and New York.

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