It’s now abundantly clear that content marketing is a core marketing tactic for many companies. Research by the Content Marketing Institute suggests that nine out of ten B2B companies are using content marketing in some form.
Developing a content marketing program is a significant undertaking for any company. Not only does it require the creation of new content resources and the implementation of new marketing tactics, it also involves a fundamental shift in the philosophical approach to marketing.
When I’m talking with clients about implementing a content marketing program, one question that always comes up early in the conversation is: “How do I get started?” I always answer this question by saying that the first step is to develop a content marketing strategy and plan for the business. That answer usually leads to a second question: “What should be included in a content strategy/plan?”
A complete content marketing plan will address numerous issues and contain significant detail, but at the most basic level, a content plan must answer three fundamental questions:
- What issues or topics will the content resources address, and how will the resources be made relevant for potential buyers?
- What digital and/or physical formats will be used for marketing content resources?
- When and how will content resources be published, distributed, or otherwise brought to the market, and how will they be promoted?
Like the proverbial three-legged stool, the answers to these three questions define the core elements of your content marketing strategy and plan. What makes these three questions particularly critical is that they apply both to the overall content marketing plan and to individual content resources. In other words, every time you contemplate the creation of a new content resource, you need to determine what issues it will address and how it will be tailored for a specific target audience, what format will be used for the resource, and how the resource will be published, distributed, and promoted.
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Of these three questions, the first is by far the most important. One of the biggest content marketing mistakes that I see companies make is allowing format, rather than message, to drive the content development process. Marketers sometimes say, “We need a white paper [or an eBook or a Webinar],” rather than, “We need a content resource that communicates message X to audience Y.” If you want to create an effective content marketing program, think messaging first, and then format and distribution.
I’ve published several posts at my blog that discuss how to make content messaging more effective. In case you missed those posts, here are the links:
- Content Marketing Basics for 2013 – Compelling Value Propositions
- Content Marketing Basics for 2013 – Buyer Personas
- Content Marketing Basics for 2013 – The Content Audit
- Why Provocative Content Works Best for Acquiring Leads
- What It Takes to Make Marketing Content More Compelling