How to develop a B2B content marketing plan
Content marketing has usurped traditional marketing approaches that focus on constantly pitching and promoting a product, service or brand. These days, even small businesses are devoting their marketing efforts and budgets to the creation and promotion of online content.
In 2018, the most successful B2B marketers reported spending 40 percent of their budget on content marketing.
Content Marketing Institute
That’s a seriously significant percentage. But it also represents a serious amount of content and competition.
So how do you make sure your content is seen and/or heard by your target audience? And how do you guarantee that it has the desired impact and effect? As with most things in life, success comes down to thorough preparation and planning. With a proper content marketing plan in place, you will create content that is seen and that achieves the desired result – whether that’s increasing your audience, B2B lead generation or creating loyalty.
Creating a robust content marketing plan involves several steps, all of which are equally important. It’s worth investing the time, effort and resources to completing each step and producing a comprehensive plan. The alternative is to produce ad hoc pieces of content with no coherent strategy and no consistency. And that’s what separates the amateurs from the pros!
Let’s take a look at what a B2B content marketing plan is, and some of the steps involved in creating a successful one.
What is a B2B content marketing plan?
A B2B content marketing plan is the part of your marketing strategy that focuses on the creation, management, distribution and measurement of your business’s content – whether that’s something that’s written (for example, a blog or case study), visual (an infographic or video) or downloadable (a white paper or ebook).
The steps needed to create a successful content marketing plan can be time consuming, but are fairly straightforward. Each step is relevant to any business – irrespective of sector or size. What will differ is the outcome of each stage, as no two businesses have the same audience and objectives.
Step 1 – Understand your objectives
First things first – you need to define what your business wants to achieve from its B2B content marketing. Do you want to generate new leads, and if so, are you targeting new prospects? Or do you want to generate customer loyalty and repeat business? Maybe, you just want to become an authoritative voice in your industry? This information is essential as it will inform the type of content you are going to be creating and disseminating.
Here is a list of content marketing objectives to consider:
Build awareness of your product, service or brand
Improve your SEO and search ranking
Move prospects along the buying journey
Educate prospects and customers
Cross-sell or up-sell to existing customers
Build loyalty with customers
Engage with influencers
Become an industry expert
Step 2 – Understand your audience
With so much competition in the online content space, there’s no room for generic, one-size-fits-all content. It’s time to get personal! So before you can create any content, you need to know exactly who you are creating it for and what their biggest issues are.
The truth is, people couldn’t care less about what you sell. In a B2B world, people care about their own problems and how they are going to solve them.
It’s very likely that even within your prospects and customer categories, you’ll have different audiences. For example you might have prospects that are aware that they need your product or service, and are actively looking for it. Another prospect might not even know that your product/ service exists and therefore your job will be to demonstrate how you can help them.
If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth investing the time in conducting a comprehensive buyer persona exercise. This is basically where you profile your customers and prospects to understand as much as you can about them. If you can, include their age, sex, salary, type of job and position, as well as where they shop and what they buy, their likes and dislikes, their challenges and the reasons they might or might not need your product or service. Then you can really start to create content that’s relevant and resonates with them.
You can make your buyer personas as detailed as you like but we prefer to use short, visual personas. For example:
45 years old
Marketing Manager of a growing software company
She is ambitious, confident, straight talking and doesn’t have a lot of spare time
She knows the potential of content marketing but doesn’t have the time to create content or manage a plan. She wants an expert to set everything up, run with it and show her the results.
Step 3 – Understand what makes your business unique
Understanding your Unique Selling Points (USPs) is another important step in the content creation process. Your content needs to clearly identify what makes your business, and its product or service, different or better than its competition. It’s important that you can clearly define how it solves peoples problems. By defining your USPs you will understand why your product or service is worth buying. These salient points may become content topics in their own right. The messages certainly need to be woven into all the content you are creating and pushing out.
Step 4 – How can you help your target audience?
The next step is to take each ‘buyer persona’ and consider how your product or service will benefit them, solve their issues and generally make their life easier. The content you create is not going to sell to them directly, but will focus on helping them and educating them. By doing so you are building credibility in your sector or space. Your aim is to become the voice of authority and to gain their trust and loyalty.
You need to create a list of original, high quality and relevant content ideas (topics) that will resonate with your target audience/s. Here at Brightly we like to work around the concept of pillar pages and topic clusters. Pillar pages are web pages that cover a general, broad topic. We then create clusters of relevant content that go into more detail on specific core topics. These clusters link to the pillar page and start to work together and grow together as a network of content.
We are a Hubspot partner and they have created this neat video to explain how pillar pages and topic clusters work.
Our advice would be to get the white board out and have a really good brainstorm. Start by taking each buyer persona in turn and identifying what broad topics they are going to be interested in. Then think about how you can break that broad topic down into smaller, more detailed pieces that will answer their questions, solve their problems and inform/educate them. For example, if you have stumbled across this article, you may have been searching for answers to questions like:
How to create a B2B content marketing plan
B2B content marketing templates
B2B content marketing best practice
Examples of a B2B content marketing plan
B2B content marketing case studies
You get the picture.
At this point it’s worth taking a look at what content already exists across your organisation. Try carrying our a content audit. It is very likely that there is content that has already been created that you can repurpose to fit in with your new content calendar. You may be surprise just how much material is already hanging around in electronic or hard copy format. Here are just a few examples:
Content from proposals
Step 5 – Map out a content calendar
Once you have defined your topics, it’s time to diarise them. Whether you create a quarterly, six month or twelve month content calendar is up to you. The important thing is to know what content is being created and when. If you’ve got it planned and in a calendar, it’s far more likely to happen. But bear in mind, your calendar needs to be flexible. Projects that you want to feature as a case study might not be approved at the allotted time, and there will also be occasions when special topics (such as new legislation that needs to be promoted) needs to be slotted in.
Your calendar should also allocate responsibility for authorship/creation and approvals, as necessary. Unless you have an internal powerhouse who is the voice of all authority (which is very unlikely) then your marketing department is likely to need to identify people within the organisation who can help create the content, or at least provide the relevant information. If a piece of content is in the calendar then at least the appropriate people have advanced warning that their services and time are required to help create it.
Step 6 - What content will you create and what formats will you use?
As we’ve already discussed, content can be produced in a wide variety of formats. What formats you choose will depend on your objectives. For example, do you want to capture sales lead information and therefore does it need to be in a downloadable format? It will also depend on your audience and how they like to receive information. For example, are they short on time and prefer a quick video, or do they like to receive information by personalised email? Finally, it will depend on your budget.
Here is a list of B2B content examples to get you started but there are many more:
White papers and thought leadership papers
How to guides
Free demos or trials
Free tools to help plan or manage activities
You can read more about content ideas for B2B lead generation here.
Step 7 – Where will it be published?
It’s worth giving some thought as to where the content can be promoted. This encourages you to think outside-the-box and maximise the potential of everything you create. We’re not just talking about posting something on your website and then making sure it’s pushed out across your social media channels (although that is important!). There are plenty of other ways to maximise use of each piece of content. For example, if you’ve created a B2B blog or thought leadership paper, is there an online industry publication that might be interested in publishing it? Or can you push out content that’s on your website via email campaigns, newsletters or even in partnership with someone else? These need to be carefully considered and included in your content plan. Here is a list of content promotional route to consider:
Your email lists
Cross promoted alongside other content you have
Within your email footer
Your social channels
Get staff (or even your friends) to share your content, they might have big social networks.
Engage with bloggers and influencers
Paid social promotion or content boosts
Step 8 – How will you test and measure success?
As you’ve probably gathered, there’s quite a lot involved in creating a successful content plan – and that’s before you’ve invested the time and resources in creating the content itself. That’s why it’s essential that you know what’s working, and what’s not. An important part of your B2B content strategy therefore needs to involve analysing the results of all your efforts. The best content marketers constantly evaluate Google Search Console and Google Analytics (or their chosen tool) to understand which channels and types of content are achieving their desired objectives.
A lot of organisations have been dabbling in content marketing for quite some time, but without any formal structure or plan. Investing the time in creating a robust content marketing plan will not only ensure continuity, but consistency in message and tone. Content marketing success derives from creating content that is not only easily found and accessible, but that makes your target audience sit up, listen and take action. This is very hard to achieve when creating content on an ad hoc basis. Giving it proper thought and planning, and then measuring success will not only save you a huge amount of time and effort, but will drive results and place you way ahead of your competition.
Download our Content Marketing Plan Template
We are happy to share our content marketing Excel spreadsheet template for you to use. The template includes:
Content marketing plan to list and organise your content
Ideas list, collate and share content ideas
Basic content calendar
Keyword research template