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The popularity of content marketing as a strategy for generating B2B leads and nurturing relationships has grown significantly in recent years. And with stats like this, it’s easy to see why.
According to the Content Marketing Institute:
- Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, yet generates more than three times as many leads
- Businesses that master it can experience up to 7.8 times more website traffic
- Content marketing generates higher conversion rates
Despite these reported benefits, it remains an area which many B2B marketers don’t yet fully understand or use to the full. So, what does it take to get to right?
The secret of great content marketing
- Knowing it’s about more than just having a blog
Simply having a company blog and posting something regularly is not content marketing and it’s unlikely to do anything to help your lead generation efforts. Content also doesn’t just mean the written word, it can be anything from videos to infographics, Slideshares and webinars.
- Being relevant and of value
Effective content marketing is about creating and sharing relevant content that adds value. It’s about understanding your target audience, what information they might want and need at each stage of the buyer journey, and how best to deliver it to them.
- Having a plan
As with any other marketing tactic, you need a plan and targets to be aiming for if your efforts are to lead to any results. No single piece of content should sit alone, it needs to be part of a structure that has been worked out to capture, nurture and qualify the right type of leads.
- Using buyer personas
Detailed buyer personas should sit at the heart of your strategy. You cannot expect to land sales if you don’t truly understand who your potential customers are and what might influence their purchasing decisions. The more comprehensive and factual your buyer personas are, the stronger your content marketing will be.
- Using data to inform your buyer personas
Forget brainstorming and making lots of assumptions, the answers could be right under your nose. Dig deeper into your own customer database, email lists and website data to better understand who is interacting with what. Go beyond top level demographics and try to glean some psychographic insights about your potential buyers too (things like personality traits, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles).
When 60% of buyers are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it, being relevant and adding value is essential if you want to create content that converts.
The more specific you can make your content to your buyers and the challenges they face, the higher the chance they’ll engage with you.
Why do you need to set goals?
Goal setting is an important step in the process, yet one survey has found 80 percent of small business owners don’t keep track of them.
Far from being simply a tick box exercise and going through the motions, goals are key for helping marketing teams maintain focus and keep things on track. Plus, they will give you targets to measure your activity against, so you can see how successful you are being.
The most common content marketing goals for businesses centre around:
- Lead generation
- Lead nurturing
What are SMART goals?
To work, goals need to be specific and considered. In short, they need to be ‘SMART’.
If you’ve been in business a while, then you’re likely to have come across the concept of SMART goals before. While there are a few variations, one definition that is often quoted is:
Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Timely
The idea is that by thinking about each of these elements for any goals you set, you’ll be creating far more powerful and effective targets to aim at.
Here, we’re going to take each one of these elements in turn, to give you some ideas about how you might apply the thinking to your content marketing goal setting.
How: Add detail and avoid ambiguous terminology
Any goals you set need to be specific. Just saying ‘generate more leads’ or ‘drive more web traffic’ won’t help you. Be specific about what you want to achieve and what success will look like.
Be careful to avoid using terminology that is too broad. Terms such as ‘increase engagement’ are very woolly and open to interpretation. Instead, break it down further - what do you actually mean by engagement? What behavior/s are you hoping to see more of? That is where your true goal should lie.
How: make content marketing measurable against broader business goals
Make sure your content marketing goals can firstly be measured, and are secondly measurable against the broader business goals. What are the goals of the business? And how can your content directly impact on them?
Having clear and measurable content marketing goals in place from the start will help guide you, so you only create content that delivers the results that really matter to your business.
A quick note on measurement - accurately measuring the impact of marketing activities is seen by many marketers as one of their biggest challenges. The good news is, there are now more and more solutions emerging that can help. Check out these blogs for more ideas on this:
- What sales and marketing KPIs should you measure and why?
- KPI reporting for B2B sales and marketing
- The issue with proving content marketing ROI
How: check you have what you need to achieve your goals
Setting attainable content marketing goals is about recognising whether you have the tools, skills and knowledge you need to achieve them. If you don’t, then it’s just not going to happen.
You do have options, however. If you spot a potential hurdle, then consider:
- Is there specific training that would benefit the team?
- Can you call on the expertise of an external expert?
- Could certain technology and software assist you?
This is particularly important when you’re a growing company. You may be able to handle certain activities really well when you’re small, but as you get bigger it can become far more difficult. Marketing automation is one thing to look at. There are also lots of tools that can assist with social media, monitoring and posting.
- Top social media monitoring tools and when you may need them
- The digital tools every B2B needs in their life
- The must have lead generation tools for small teams
How: understand the constraints you’re working within
There’s a big difference between being ambitious and being unrealistic. Setting impossible targets will not help you and can, in fact, be very damaging for team morale.
You may want to go all out with your content marketing, but you also need to understand what the constraints are that you’re working within. For example, some elements of the process are likely to be out of your hands – such as approvals and how long they may take. Equally, setting yourself up to have to work all hours of the day and night, is just not going to happen! It may be possible, but it’s not realistic (or good for productivity in the long term).
If you’re not sure what is going to be realistic to achieve, then make sure you’ve thoroughly evaluated your current position. If your goal is around web traffic, look what has been happening in recent months and use that as a baseline.
How: define timescales for your marketing activity goals
Set a deadline for achieving each of your goals. This will help you to plan your time and check things are on track (not put off, and put off till they end up never happening!).
Start with an end goal and work backwards, so you effectively create a road map for getting to the result you require. Have an annual goal that you then break down into quarterly, monthly and daily goals – or whatever timeframe works for you. This will also help you monitor how you’re doing on any given day.
While effective goal setting is not as simple as it first sounds, it will be worth all the effort. Don’t be surprised if it takes practice and a bit of refinement to hit on those goals that are going to be challenging, but ultimately achievable.
The main thing to remember is that setting goals is one of the best ways to retain focus and get you the results you want.
The advice we have included here may have looked at content marketing, but SMART principles can be applied to any goals. And for more inspiration, there’s some great advice from real marketers in this blog by Kissmetrics.