Rather than producing a myriad of content that cuts across a range of different topics, markets and client types, identify an issue of meaningful importance to a single type of client you’d really like to attract. Then, build a campaign around your point-of-view on that issue.
Last year, I outlined our model for developing campaign-based content — we call it the Content Marketing Wheel. It’s a very straightforward way of thinking about your content marketing efforts. The gist is this — rather than sporadically producing content across a myriad of topics, markets and client types, drive your content as a campaign designed to attract a select type of clients that represent your best business potential.
An effective campaign invests the bulk of your effort towards three activities:
- Developing a “substantive point-of-view” on a single issue that really matters to a type of client you really hope to attract.
- Producing a “body of work” that demonstrates how you create meaningful value for your clients in solving that issue.
- Marketing that “body of work” to clients at many points along their buying journey.
This post is designed to help you operationalize these three activities. It follows a recent article on Developing Your Content Marketing Strategy.
#1 — Set Objectives
As much as possible, we encourage our clients to combine broad-reaching objectives with specific, measurable ones. Here are some examples of broad-reaching objectives:
- Position the firm as a thought leader on the “business of healthcare.”
- Deepen our point-of-view on the implications of falling oil prices on the U.S. oil industry and provide actionable recommendations for clients in that sector.
- Increase client awareness of our expertise and proven experience in process improvement and lean manufacturing principles.
And, some examples of tactical objectives:
- Drive 5k unique web visitors to our website.
- Convert 4% of those visitors (250) into our opt-in email marketing list.
- Cultivate 5 high-profile speaking opportunities for market leaders.
- Generate 10 qualified business opportunities.
- Create 2-3 new projects or clients representing $XXX in client revenue.
#2 — Isolate the Audience
Generally, what comes out of a good content strategy are the markets we hope to pursue and the big picture issues we want to own. At this point, it’s important to take the time to dig more deeply into who we really hope to attract. To start, I’d suggest developing a profile of what constitutes a marketing qualified lead. This could include a mix of demographic data and psychographic data. As examples, you might hope to attract clients:
- Of a certain revenue size — Manufacturing companies with over $1B in annual revenue.
- With certain roles — Companies that employ a Chief Learning Officer.
- Operating within a specific geography — Companies headquartered in the U.S. with manufacturing operations or relationships in Asia.
- With specific experience — Companies that regularly hire outside consultants or, conversely, companies that rarely do.
- With unique characteristics — Companies that are actively in acquisition mode, have recently merged, or are in the process of leadership transition.
- With specific objectives — Companies looking to make substantial performance improvements (cost reductions, reductions in waste, increases in efficiency).
Most of these characteristics are things you can identify through data (how big a company is); others are ones you can infer based on behavior (what objectives someone may have can be inferred by what they read).
From there, drill down into the specific people you hope to attract — are you looking to engage with CEOs? CMOs? Directors of Human Resources? Facility Managers? Product or Process Engineers? Be as specific as possible. It’s easy to say we want to attract the “C-suite,” but the needs and interests of a CIO, a CEO and a CMO are all very different. Finally, you need to map all this work against your available marketing assets and ensure you have effective answers (or at least hypotheses) to these three questions:
A) What data do you have?
Do we already have a good working list of people that meet these characteristics? If not, who could we partner with to get our message into the market? Could we do some targeted list building to find them?
B) Where does your ideal client congregate?
Do we know where to find these people both online and off? Are their social spaces where they congregate? Are there events they regularly attend where we could speak or already are speaking?
C) Is the market aware of your firm for this solution?
Do they already know who we are? Do they have an existing perception of our firm relative to the content topic we’re about to pursue?
#3 — Map Your Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Before actually developing the content, I think it makes sense to map your content against the various stages of a buyer’s journey. You also need to ensure that you have a mix of the correct types and length of content to be successful. Ideally, your content should help a client do four things:
A) Become Aware
Offer just enough insight into the issue to encourage her to stop what she’s doing and, at least cursorily explore what you have to say (think tweets, blogs and short multimedia content).
Explore the issue at sufficient length so she can understand your firm’s unique point-of-view and your recommended approach (think longer form articles and research studies).
C) Become Inspired
If she believes your solution to be the right one, she needs to build the commitment needed to do something about it (whether it’s with your firm, with another firm, or on her own). She needs to see both that your remedy has worked elsewhere and envision it working in her situation (think examples and case studies).
When the time is right, your content needs to transition her into dialogue around the issue with your firm. This could include having a direct conversation with a firm leader, but it can also include a whole host of other, less threatening, options such as attending a webinar, an in-person event sponsored by your firm, a third-party event hosted elsewhere, or accepting an invitation to a specialized, one-on-one briefing of the issue. Regardless of the approach, your content needs to create the bridge between the issue and a conversation of some type.
#4 — Develop and Distribute Your Content
Conduct the necessary research (be it primary, secondary or both) to develop the firm’s unique point-of-view, translate that research into the flagship content asset, and extrapolate the details into all the ancillary elements of the Content Marketing Wheel:
Then, execute the marketing plan you outlined during development of your Content Marketing Strategy. Generally, this includes a mix of activities, such as:
- Email Marketing — Ideally, you should have a mix of corporate email (from the firm to its prospect list) and personal email (from consultants direct to their networks and individual clients).
- Social Media — Publishing content both to corporate social feeds and those of individual consultants (you can do this for them — many marketing automation platforms enable centralized sharing across a collection of individual social handles — or train them to do it on their own). Also, sharing content in relevant social groups.
- Online Advertising — Keyword-based SEM advertising on LinkedIn or Google as well as display advertising can be effective for different types of initiatives.
- Direct Mail — With so much marketing investment shifting online, low-tech strategies can often prove very effective. A simple copy of the thought leadership along with a personalized letter can often ensure the content gets into the hands of the right person.
- Personal Outreach — High quality content is the ultimate selling tool. It gives your principals both a reason to call a trusted client and something to talk about.
#5 — Review + Assess Outcomes
Often, you’ll need to provide a lag in time to evaluate the success of a content marketing initiative. Just how much will depend on the nature of your firm and the topic of your content. That said, you should start measuring the results of your efforts right away, but recognize the bigger picture objectives will need longer to take hold. Ultimately, your goal in the review stage is to figure out what worked best and what didn’t so you can improve your approach the next time around.
Suggested Action Items
In the next week, take the time to look back at your master content marketing strategy or a specific, larger-scale program. See if you have affirmative answers to at least 3 of these statements:
- We have clearly defined objectives that combine both broad business objectives and tactical, measurable ones.
- We have a clear definition of what represents a marketing qualified lead.
- We have a clear definition of what represents a qualified opportunity.
- We have a clearly defined process for how we distribute content.
- We have the tools and abilities to measure our outcomes relative to the objectives we set.
A quick thanks to Bob Buday for his insight on the importance of and process for developing a “substantive point-of-view” for thought leadership marketing efforts and Jeff Durocher for framing the idea of building a “body of work.”)