Content marketing is one of the most efficient B2B tactics to attract and convert relevant audiences. But creating engaging content can be overwhelming, especially if you are writing content ad hoc, without following a process.
Putting together a content strategy and calendar is no easy task: what topics do you choose to address, which ones do you prioritize, what formats are the best?
The answer to all these questions becomes clear when you go back to who your business is really serving: your customers.
Understanding your buyers, their pain points, challenges and most common objections as well as their information needs at each stage of their buying journey can give you a clear roadmap.
Having this roadmap in place, you can easily decide what content you need to build and how to move your visitors and leads further down the marketing funnel.
Why you need a content strategy
But before we dive in, do you really need content that much? And a content strategy to guide your content writing efforts?
My answer is: take a look at your top three competitors. Do they have a company blog? How often do they publish new articles? Do they publish long-form or short-form content?
Chances are that the top-performing businesses in your industry are doing an amazing job on the content front.
Content will help you in a few ways:
- Rank higher in search results: with search engines becoming ever more sophisticated in translating user intent, it’s impossible to rank for your target keywords by relying on presentation webpages and a few ad hoc articles
- Educate your audience: in the B2B world, in particular, you will need to spend some time educating visitors about your solutions before you’ll make a sale
- Position your company as an expert: when you educate through content, you’re the master on the topic; and we all want to buy from experts who know the ins and outs of a solution
Having a strategy in place will help you make the best out of your content creation effort.
How to build the right content strategy
Let’s take a look at how you can approach content creation in a simple, yet effective way.
Start with creating buyer persona profiles
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are meant to help you understand what needs and challenges your ideal customers are trying to solve, what objections and fears they have when they make a purchase as well as what questions they typically ask.
Your entire website, including the blog articles, should be built around clarifying all these issues.
If you don’t have a buyer persona profiles just yet, don’t worry. Building them is not as complex as you might think. Set time aside to speak to your sales team, your client-facing or operations team and most importantly, with some of your current clients.
What you’ll want to cover during the buyer persona interviews:
- What problems do your ideal customers face that makes them seek solutions similar to yours?
- What goals are they trying to achieve?
- What makes them successful in their day to day role?
- What objections do they have during the sales process?
- What are their most frequently asked questions?
- And more subtle aspects such as what fears keep them from making a purchase
Here is what one of our buyer personas here at Stoica.co looks like.
Putting together all the new information you’ve learned about your ideal customers, you should be able to extract a few core topics to build on.
Define the journey for each persona profile
Now that you have the buyer persona profiles (you can have one single profile or several, depending on your specific offering), how will you use them? It’s time to introduce the buyer’s journey!
Buyer’s journey essentially refers to the stages a customer goes through from becoming aware of a problem (awareness stage) to considering different solutions (consideration stage) to making a purchasing decision (decision stage).
Image source: HubSpot
It the awareness stage, buyers will look for content that to help them answer:
- How can I improve/solve/prevent/optimize a specific issue?
In the awareness stage, your potential customers need content focused on their problem.
In the consideration stage, buyers will want to know:
- What solutions are available to solve my problem?
In the consideration stage, buyers need content focused on the different solutions available.
In the decision stage, buyers will look for:
- I need proof that X solution works
- I need product specs
Buyers in the decision stage need content focused on your solution/offering.
Defining buyer’s journey is beneficial because:
- Buyers seek different types of information across these three stages, and you’ll want to address them all. Knowing in advance what to cover will keep you organized and in check
- It’s an effective way to come up with content ideas. Instead of brainstorming and coming up with ideas based on hunches, the buyer’s journey gives you a complete image of what you need to write about
Identifying core topics
So you’ve identified core topics your buyers are interested in at each stage of their journey.
You’ll also want to ask yourself “what are the topics that I want my business to be known for?”
Say you are an agency delivering design and website development services. Two potential main topics you want to be associated with are “website development” and “growth-driven design”.
But why are core topics so important that we’ve mentioned them several times throughout this article? And how can you use core topics to create a content plan?
It’s because the way we search online has shifted. We’ve moved from inputting fragmented keyword queries into search engines to using entire phases. Search is becoming conversational, even more so with the rise of voice search.
64% of people are using at least four words queries, ensuring they get the best response from a huge amount of content available.
In response, search engines have evolved from ranking results based on keywords to ranking based on broader topics and to understanding context and user intent. It’s a change that began back in 2013 with Google’s Humming Bird update.
As a consequence, marketers and SEO experts have started to adopt the topic cluster model. In this model, a core topic is tackled entirely on a pillar page. The subtopics related to the core topic are addressed in mode depth in distinct articles (cluster topics), hyperlinked to the pillar page and to one another (as it makes sense).
Image source: HubSpot
The cluster topic model has a couple of benefits:
- The pillar page acts as a content hub, thus ranking for several keywords
- The strong internal linking signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic and it will likely rank higher over time
- Distinct articles addressing related topics will no longer compete against each other in search results
Knowing the importance of core topics, subtopics and topic cluster model, it’s now time to get a bit more granular.
For each topic previously identified, it’s time to identify related subtopics.
Getting back to our example of a website design and development agency, for the topic of “website development” some potential subtopics are:
- Improving website speed
- How to select a CMS for your website
- What is the process of developing a website
- How to create wireframes
- UX/UI best practices
- Hosting services
- Advantages of working with a website development agency
Some or most of the subtopics will most likely have surfaced from the buyer persona profiles. You can additionally use content research tools such as SEMRush Topic Research tool, Answer the Public or Netpeak Checker.
You can organize all your topics & subtopics using a spreadsheet or you can use a mapping tool.
|website development||improving website speed||website development||how to select a CMS||website development||top website development agencies|
|how to increase search visibility||process for developing a website||website development agency pricing|
|improving website conversion rate||UX/UI best practices||review of website development agency|
Put together a content plan & calendar
Your next and final step is to prioritize your content creation.
We’ve already covered why you’ll want to create content for all three stages of your buyers’ journey. But how can you decide the priority of each topic and subtopic you’ve identified?
While there is no bulletproof solution, you can ask yourself a few questions to help decide:
- If you offer several products or services, which one is the most lucrative & you would like to prioritise?
- If you’ve identified more than one buyer persona, which one is your main persona? Which one is the persona that will most likely initiate the sales process and will interact with your company the most?
- What is your biggest marketing challenge? Do you struggle to attract more website traffic? Then creating a pillar page and connected articles with subtopics might be best. Or do you have a good amount of traffic coming in but very few conversions? Then adding extra conversion points to your website and offering gated content can help.
- Do you already have a blog and some content? What can you repurpose? Map out the content you already have and can still use and build on that.
Putting together a coherent content strategy will not happen overnight. But it’s an essential step that can ensure you see success and ROI with your content.
Research is a big part of coming up with a great content strategy; you’ll need to cover buyer personas, relevant business topics you want to be associated with, have a good understanding of what your business goals and priorities are.
This article was originally published on Netpeak Software.