It takes two to tango, but in the dance between B2B buyers and sellers, it’s now buyers who lead.
That means inbound marketing–getting found online through search engines and social channels–has become an essential part of your overall marketing strategy. And it makes a well-planned and executed content marketing strategy even more important.
As Ardath Albee (@Ardath421) wrote in a recent post, “With inbound marketing, we’re working to attract prospects to our content through the optimization of search and the use of social media. Without the content, there would be no inbound marketing.”
Step 1. Developing Buyer Personas
Both search and social media are driven by the person who needs or wants information. So, in addition to ensuring that your content gets found by your prospects, you need to get inside their heads and give them what they want, when they need it, in the way they want to get it. My colleague Lauren Goldstein provides some great tips in her post, “How Busy B2B Demand Generation Marketers Can (Still) Use Personas.”
Step 2: Mapping the Buyer’s Journey
But getting found is just the beginning of a B2B marketing relationship. In a recent rant about inbound marketing, Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe) wrote, “If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.” To ensure that your content will move buyers all the way to the goal line, you need to consider their information needs throughout the entire buyer’s journey–from discovery to advocacy.
Armed with your persona insights, you can map out that journey by determining what questions each player in the purchase decision process needs answered to progress to the next step or stage of their journey.
That journey can vary significantly based on role: A technical researcher will be most heavily involved in the consideration stage and will want detailed information about product specs and benefits and implementation information, while a strategic decision maker may initiate the buying cycle but then be only minimally involved until there’s a recommendation on the table.
Step 3: Conducting the Audit
The next step is conducting the audit, using a spreadsheet with an inventory of all the relevant content assets. I like to organize the audit spreadsheet by persona and stages/steps of the buyer’s journey. This makes it easy to identify gaps and to select appropriate content to use in campaigns.
For example, if you have an email nurture campaign targeting technical influencers in the late discovery/early consideration stage, you can select from the content that is mapped to that persona for that stage of the journey–and plan a logical progression of content that helps those buyers move from one step to the next.
It’s also helpful to include the questions from your buyer’s journey in your spreadsheet for reference, so as you view each asset you can see which questions it might address.
Here’s a partial snapshot of how that mapping might look:
In addition to the persona and buyer’s journey mapping, your audit will include the vital statistics for each asset (title, URL or filename, content type, source, date, etc.), as well as qualitative assessments such as quality and relevance, and insights about distribution channels and opportunities for repurposing. Other attributes could include:
- Vertical industry
- Geo/localization needs
- Distribution channel (website, email campaign, social media, etc.)
- Campaign or program usage
- SEO keywords
- Content management system tags/metadata
- Gated or ungated?
- Auditor comments/notes
Step 4: “Gapping and Mapping”
Once you’ve assessed all your content and completed your audit spreadsheet, you should analyze the gaps between the content you have and the content you need:
- Do you have content for each persona at each stage of the buyer’s journey…or do you have an overabundance of sell sheets without anything compelling to prompt early-stage conversations?
- Do you have different content types to suit different format preferences…or are most of your assets long-form white papers that must be downloaded before viewing?
When planning your ideal content portfolio you should consider how it aligns to your business goals and objectives as well as your buyers’ information needs and preferences.
Step 5: Content Development and Distribution
Now that you know what you need and where the gaps are, it’s time for the fun part. Depending on your budget and staffing resources, you may not be able to fill all your gaps–at least not all at once. So prioritize which are most important and start there.
An editorial calendar (another spreadsheet!) will help you map out when you’ll complete each new piece of content, as well as who is responsible and when and where it will be distributed. Michele Linn, Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute, has some great tips for creating an editorial calendar.
Has inbound marketing changed the way you approach your content strategy? Are you auditing for the buyer’s journey? What tips do you have? Add your comments below or tweet me @carmenhill.