A recent Ascend2 study asked 375 marketing, sales and business professionals about the tactics they use to generate demand. Both content marketing and email marketing came out on top as THE most effective lead generation and lead nurturing tactics. Even though marketers continue to focus on content marketing, according to the study nearly half (48%) ranked content marketing as the most difficult to execute. In fact, in the 2015 B2B content marketing benchmarks released by the Content Marketing Institute, only 35% of marketers indicated that they have a documented content strategy.
Why is it so hard? Because content strategy requires lots of pre-planning and organization before the process even starts, including content mapping, persona development, etc. Marketers are required to work with multiple internal partners to develop a strategy and finally assemble a team for content creation. Every single step is time-consuming and requires personnel and budget resources that are not always available.
The thought of creating multiple pieces of content may be daunting, but remember, more is not necessarily better. Oftentimes, one piece of good content can be dissected, used and reused throughout the lead nurture journey. The most important aspect of content strategy is to make sure efforts are synchronized across all communication channels. This is essential to ensure the same message is carried all the way throughout your campaign and your customers can easily find relevant information no matter where they look.
How can this process be simplified for lead nurturing?
A great starting point is to think about content strategy through the lens of “Who, What, When, How, Where”.
- Who: develop different personas based on both firmographic and behavior data, in order to understand different customer pain points. Studies have shown 89% of prospects prefer content specific to their industry, whereas 49% prefer content targeted to their job function.
- What: conduct a content audit to identify what materials are currently available on different channels. Analyze content gaps by mapping available content against each persona along the lead nurture journey
- When: gather at least one stakeholder from each department that manages or generates content and form a content editorial board. The editorial board should meet quarterly to determine key themes, initiatives and the content calendar.
- How: fill in the gaps by identifying content themes based on common denominators between customer pain points, product expertise/value proposition, and upcoming product updates. For example, think about the pain points a new feature or functionality can address and use this as a basis for your campaign theme. Content themes should be user-centric and highlight solutions.
- Where: determine content format and channels of distribution within the context of the holistic marketing plan, in order to maximize the utility of the content piece. For instance, if someone from your organization is scheduled to present a content theme at an upcoming conference, extract memorable quotes from the speech to create social media posts. At the same time, create a complimentary eBook to be leveraged as a lead nurture asset, and to develop an Executive Summary to be handed out at future events.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Another method to help streamline the content strategy and planning process is to incorporate the Agile method. Agile software development method utilizes smaller, cross-functional teams and is rooted in adaptive planning, evolutionary development, continuous improvement and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. The Agile method has been adapted across various business functions, far beyond just software development, including content development. By implementing the Agile method, even small teams with few resources can be made flexible enough to tackle content creation efficiently. For more information on leveraging the Agile method in content strategy, click here.
Finally, depending on your organization’s flexibility, it may be worthwhile to consider outsourcing some of your content needs once the themes and the channels have been identified. Outsourcing can be helpful in multiple ways. On the one hand, outsourcing could alleviate some of the resource limitations your organization is facing. On the other hand, by letting your team work alongside partners, they can learn content creation by example.
Having the right content is key to successfully implement any marketing communication campaigns. When relevant content is delivered through the right channels, the results can be tremendous. In 2012 DocuSign reached 127% of their target in the first half of the year, after implementing 36 automated email nurture programs to deliver targeted content to prospects. With a systematic approach to planning and strategic thinking, you can take your content from interesting to impactful.
 Kramer, Shelley. Content Marketing Effective for Lead Gen But Most Difficult Tactics to Execute [Study]. Nov. 7, 2014
 Pulizzi, Joe. New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy. Oct. 1, 2014
 Griffis, Gigi. Why DocuSign Is the Best Content Marketing Brand of 2013. Nov. 12, 2013