The world has evolved. Customers are demanding seamless experiences across all touchpoints, clear communications and personalised content. The quality of your marketing planning and the strategies you employ are more important now than ever before.
If you don’t bake these elements into your plans, your content marketing won’t connect. And your customers will walk.
But when you get it right, your universe expands, your leads increase and more of your contacts move through your sales funnel, transitioning from prospects to opportunities and sales.
As a B2B marketer, there’s no doubt that when you plan and manage your content strategy effectively, you’ll make a big impact. When your numbers look good, you look good. And at a time when marketing budgets are being closely scrutinised, the bigger you can boost your ROI, the more you can realise your own potential.
Here are some of the content marketing planning best practices that will allow you to manage strategy and improve your market position.
#1 Seek input and define your goals
You need continuity in your planning, but you also need to move with the needs of your customers. It’s a combination of a solid pre-planned framework and a set of campaigns and tactics that are designed for flexibility.
Make sure you align with the larger goals of your company. Get input from directors before you begin, and reacquaint yourself with your company’s mission statement, objectives and vision. Above all, don’t just add extra budget to last year’s plan.
The world is a far different place to what it was even a year ago, so what worked before won’t necessarily give you the same results.
It’s also a two-way conversation. As well as your content marketing aligning with company objectives, those company objectives need to align with the changing needs of your audiences. Have these conversations with your directors and make sure the wider company stays on focus.
#2 Know your audience
Your business begins and ends with your customers. A key reason behind the failure of many products or services is that businesses don’t always correctly identify their customers’ pain points. Or they don’t effectively communicate the benefits of what they offer to their audiences.
Either way, if you don’t connect with potential customers’ needs or don’t solve a vital problem in their lives, then you’re in trouble.
- Has the world changed since my buyer personas were created?
- When were my buyer personas last revised?
- Have I received input from real customers?
- Am I missing any key verticals?
And if you’ve yet to create your buyer personas, now’s the time. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of being able to identify and act on the needs of your audiences. Buyer personas make this possible. They must be at the heart of your marketing planning.
Not only will your buyer personas tell you what your customers need from you, they’ll tell you how and where to communicate with them. This is the place that you evaluate your channel selection. They’ll also reveal any emerging market trends.
#3 Audit your competitors
Developing your competitor analysis strategy should be a process that interconnects with your content marketing planning.
When you understand your competitors, you can identify what differentiates you from them. And when you overlay this information onto your buyer personas, that’s when the marketing magic begins to happen.
Taking a close look at the competition forces you to evaluate your strengths more objectively. It may also form the basis of a repositioning exercise, allowing you to capitalise on any weaknesses in your competitors’ offerings.
#4 Plan the bigger picture
First, set your bigger picture marketing goals, then build campaigns to achieve them. Don’t try to work in reverse. It sounds obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the detail and forget what you’re aiming for.
Rather than thinking ‘I need an automated email campaign with six stages this quarter, two webinars and a social campaign that drives traffic to the new mini guide landing page’, begin with how much ROI you need to deliver. Then look at how many conversions you need in order to achieve that figure. Then look at conversion rates, how many people you need to hit and how many times. Work backwards from your end goal.
Begin with the overall marketing strategy, drill down into the digital marketing strategy and end with the specific tactics. All this should be available by dissecting previous plans, exploring what worked and what didn’t. Although things will have changed, it’s a good place to start.
Make sure you’re working SMART, too. It almost goes without saying, but everything you set out to do needs to be:
- Time bound
Always keep these five measures in mind.
#5 Maintain fluidity
When you’ve set your plan, it should focus predominantly on the next 12 months. But some elements may extend into the next 18 to 24 months. And that’s fine. Sometimes it needs to work that way.
Not everything can be packaged into a 12-month timeline. Sometimes elements fall beyond that timescale. There may be an emerging event that’s happening in four weeks’ time. It’s too late to focus on it now, but you need to have next year’s date flagged, otherwise you’ll miss it again next time.
B2B marketing is a dynamic and ever-changing field. Some of your tactics and strategies may have to change mid-flow. But without measurement, you’re not going to know what’s working for you and what isn’t.
That’s why it’s also worth taking a look at Growth Driven Design (GDD), which is a cost-effective, data-driven way to measure website results quickly.
#5 Iterate with Growth-Driven Design
With GDD, once you’ve built your marketing strategy and messaging, you can reconfigure and regularly tweak your website to continuously improve the performance and returns of your digital marketing.
Benefits of combining GDD with your marketing planning include:
- It’s cost-effective
- Quick to implement
- Allows you to make the right changes
- No more long lead times on website changes
- Drives traffic and generates leads immediately
- Continuously accelerates and improves results over time
It’s worth putting GDD at the heart of your marketing planning. The cycles of regular measurement and improvements are an ideal underpinning for your wider marketing strategy. And they don’t shift focus from your goals.
If you’d like to incorporate GDD into your marketing strategies, need some help with digging deep into your personas, or you’re looking for a strategic partner to help you on your journey, just give us a shout and we’ll help you explore the options.
Working as a Digital Marketing Consultant since 2004, Lee helps SMEs win more business through developing effective digital marketing strategies. He is a dedicated Liverpool FC fan, dog lover and loves long country walks (and a cheeky pint) with his dog, Banjo. Do you publish content yourself, or need content for your own website? If you’d like to collaborate on anything at all, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.