Embrace the 3 Stages of Content Marketing to Make Your Results Take Off

Everything has stages. Rocket launches, careers, and life to name just a few. So why wouldn’t your content marketing efforts? I mean it’s (hopefully) not a question of what is content marketing or whether you should do it. The issue now is how to get results. And if you don’t look at content marketing as a process with stages… then don’t be surprised if your results never take off.

So what are the stages of content marketing?

The good news is there are only three stages of content marketing to worry about. The bad news is that each is hugely important to getting it done right.

Stage 1: Content Planning

We marketers keep hearing the phrase: “marketers are now publishers” (or something like that) over and over again. The only problem is that real publishers have editors, editorial calendars, and a staff of writers. B2B companies that are trying to do content marketing? Not so much.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt an editorial mindset when crafting your content. As a matter of fact, you must. So go ahead and start acting like an editor. Or said another way, before you (or your staff) bang out the next blog post, first answer these questions:

  • What are the main topics you’ll be writing about? First create content covering three to five topics that are highly relevant to your prospects, and that fit in with your product or services offering. For example, our friends at PunchTab produce content for their Get More Engagement blog about loyalty, social media, multi-channel, and gamification. Then come up with ideas and stories that keep you focused on making your content interesting to readers (remember, it’s not about you… its about them!).
  • What’s the right mix of content that you’ll need? You want content for each stage of the buying process: awareness, consideration, evaluation, and purchase. For example, blog posts and white papers are great for awareness while case studies, customer testimonials, and analyst reports work best for the consideration and evaluation stages. And don’t forget to include a call-to-action with each piece of content you create!
  • How should you prioritize the different types of content? Make sure and build an editorial calendar (spreadsheet) that lists the topics, content types, keywords, dates, call-to-actions, buyer stages, and the person responsible for developing the content. Want to learn more about editorial calendars (since they’re so important)? Here’s a good post on the topic.

Stage 2: Content Development

Now that you have a good sense of the content you need and when you need it, the next step is to get that content developed. Generally speaking, here’s a way to think about the different approaches to creating the content you’ll need:

  • Created content: These are the blog posts, white papers, case studies, webinars, videos, etc., that you and your team (including outsourced talent) are responsible for creating.
  • Curated content: This is essentially other people’s content that you repurpose by adding your perspective in the form of an opinion, short intro, or summation. Examples of good content to curate include industry reports, headline news items, expert interviews, and key influencer blog posts.
  • Contributed content: This is content that you actively solicit from thought leaders, influencers, customers, and employees. Over time, this can turn into an important source of blog content… so tackle the tasks for building a community of regular contributors as early as possible.

How to get started? Identify the content your team needs to create as the anchors of your editorial plan. Then look to supplement that with curated and contributed content (both are especially great for blog posts and fueling your social media conversations).

Stage 3: Content Distribution

With content in hand, it’s now time to get the word out. Think of this stage as the “marketing” in content marketing. Just keep in mind, if you’re not good at this stage then your website better get a ton of traffic, otherwise, few prospects are going to taste the fruits of your publishing labor (and that’s a path to becoming disillusioned with the whole content marketing thing!). So where should you focus your marketing efforts?

  • Email list: No brainer. Leverage your in-house marketing list to promote your content. Hopefully, you’re already pretty good at this.
  • Public relations: Have a great PR firm on retainer? Now’s the time to turn them loose lining up interviews, by-lines, and press releases to talk about your content.
  • Social channels: Right about now you’re wishing you invested more time in building your Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog into a channel filled to the brim with prospects and key influencers. (No time like the present!)

Approach your content distribution efforts like any other marketing campaigns: What are your campaign goals? Who is your target audience? What are the best channels to reach them? How do you track and measure the performance of your campaigns?

Now it’s your turn.

Which stages of content marketing do you still need to master?

Let us know!

(P.S., Want to learn more about how to fix your content marketing? Read: Struggling with Content Marketing? What to Do Now)