If you haven’t heard of inbound marketing, you could be missing out on one of the biggest value-based marketing methodologies there is — which means you aren’t generating the revenue you could … which means slower growth … you get the idea.
Inbound marketing is a business strategy for attracting consumers by providing relevant information and interactions. While outbound marketing bombards the audience with things they don’t always like, inbound marketing creates interactions and addresses challenges that your audience already has.
How do you do that?
With a well-crafted content strategy.
Developing a content strategy is crucial to the success of your inbound marketing strategy. Without a content strategy, you’re left with bland, uninteresting, and cookie-cutter marketing messaging that time and again have been proven to be ineffective.
Today, we’ll walk you through how to develop your own winning content strategy to take your inbound marketing to the next level.
What Is a Content Strategy?
A content strategy is a plan to achieve the company’s goals and objectives using content.
Content is the cornerstone of your marketing messaging. It can include things like blog posts, articles, infographics, videos, testimonials, case studies, white papers … the list goes on and on. A content strategy is a way to figure out what aligns with your brand and what will engage your target audience.
Although business objectives may vary widely across different organizations, the purpose of your content will likely only have one goal: stimulate interest in your products or services and increase new business.
What Is “Content”?
Since content can cover such a wide variety of mediums, channels, and topics, it’s best to think of content along the lines of digital marketing, which typically consists of four core elements:
Information: What is the substance of your message? What are you trying to get across to your target audience? Your information may be factual, practical, entertaining, or some combination of the three.
Context: What is the content supposed to help you and the reader accomplish? Who is the target audience for this content? Why is it being published and why would the user want to consume it?
Medium: What channel are you publishing the content on and how does that influence the overall message? Examples of channels include things like your website, blog, social media, and email to name a few.
Form: How is the content presented? Is it written, graphic, audio, video, or some combination? How will the user consume and interact with the content?
Each of these core components should be considered when setting out to create content and a content strategy.
But what is it all for?
Why Do You Need a Content Strategy?
You’re certainly aren’t creating a content strategy for no reason. So why is content marketing important to inbound marketing and the growth of your business? Let’s take a look at some of the primary reasons you need a content strategy:
Demonstrate and Establish Expertise
Creating good content is an opportunity to position your brand as the foremost expert in your industry. Customers will respond more favorably to a brand that is the thought leader in their specific niche. Use your content strategy as an opportunity to showcase your exclusive knowledge and expertise.
People trust experts over amateurs and will hire them to solve their specific problems. Your content strategy will define the best ways to build consumer trust in your brand by addressing those problems and explaining how you can solve those problems.
Improve Organic Search Results and SEO
When you create better content, search engines like Google will recognize that your content is useful to users and will prioritize your results over your competitors. Good content is the first place to start when looking at an SEO strategy.
Generate More Leads
This is obviously the big one. Your content strategy will allow more users who are unfamiliar with your brand to find and engage with you, leading to more opportunities to create new customers.
Attract Ideal Customers
Just as important as the volume of new leads is the quality of those leads. Better content means more opportunities to find users in your target audience who are in the market for your product or services.
Nurture Leads With Targeted Content
Content goes beyond awareness. Create content to generate leads throughout the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. Speak directly to users in each stage to move them down the funnel.
Create Shareable Content
Your content strategy will help you craft content that will not only be useful to your audience, but also their social circles. Turning your audience into brand advocates is one of the best ways to generate new leads.
Increase Return Visitors
Recurring content will give visitors a reason to come back to your website after their initial visit, creating a community of users. This community has the potential to become an extremely valuable asset for your brand by cultivating new advocates.
Establish Brand Authority
Your content demonstrates your ability to outperform your competitors at what you do. Your target audience knows they’ll get answers to their questions from you; all they need to know is that you’ll give them the best solution to their dilemma.
Build Website Backlinks
Your expert content will be juicy targets for other websites to link back to — establishing your industry thought leadership further. Depending on what sites link back to your content, your audience can increase dramatically. As an added bonus, backlinks are one of the main criteria search engines use to rank your site, and this will improve your SEO.
Types of Content Marketing and B2B Examples
There’s a myriad of content types you can incorporate into your strategy. Here are some of the most common examples:
Blogging is a tried and tested method of using writing as a content marketing tool. In a nutshell, blogging is when you, as a thought leader or subject matter expert, write on a frequent basis about topics that are important to your audience. The best part about a blog content strategy is that anyone can do it — regardless of their industry or niche — and it’s easy to get started.
Rather than feeling like just another blog post or video, a downloadable e-book feels like a genuine item of value. They take a bit more effort than a standard piece of written content, but the payoff is worth it. Put your e-book behind a lead form to capture users’ contact information and put them into a lead funnel.
A case study is a comprehensive account of a project your company completed. It begins with a presentation of a problem, continues with an explanation of what happened next, and concludes with an explanation of how the company fixed or improved something. A good case study will also provide analysis and statistics to back up claims made regarding a project’s outcomes. Use case studies to showcase how you can solve the problems of your target audience.
Templates are an excellent type of content to experiment with because they can help you generate leads while also providing value to your audience. If you have template tools to help your audience save time and succeed, they are more likely to connect with your content in the future.
Data can be organized and visualized in a more convincing way with infographics than with words alone. These are excellent content formats to use if you need to convey a large amount of information in a simple and understandable manner.
Videos take more time and effort to make than written content, but as visual marketing becomes more popular, they’ll become more important. Videos are nearly 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other forms of content, so don’t ignore this opportunity to foster engagement with your audience.
If your audience doesn’t have the time or interest to read content every day, start a podcast to help them discover your brand. Consider podcasting if you have interesting people to interview or interesting discussions to host.
Social media posts are critical for expanding the brand’s scope and providing content to your customers in the place where they spend their time. It is important to remember to tailor your content to the specific social media channel you intend to post it on. For example, Instagram is best suited for images, infographics, and videos, but Twitter requires shorter, punchier content.
How To Create a Content Strategy
Now it’s time to get our hands dirty. Follow these steps to create your own content strategy. Make sure you follow each step in order, since each will build on the one before it.
1. Set Your Mission and Goals
This will make it easier for you and your team to focus on what’s important and keep your marketing efforts on track.
Mission: This is what you want to achieve, but it’s not necessarily the end result. This will act as the bridge between where you are and where you want to be.
Goals: These are the measurable and achievable milestones in your journey to achieving your mission. These are important — make them hyper-specific so they can be broken down further into individual tasks.
2. Establish Your KPIs
Key performance indicators are the measurements of progress toward your goals. Identify what KPIs will give you the greatest insight into your content strategy’s effectiveness and where improvements can be made. They might include things like website traffic, new leads, cost per acquisition, and more.
3. Know Your Audience
Perform research to identify who your current audience is and what your target audience looks like. Demographic data will help you paint a broad picture of your audience. Once you have identified your audience, create buyer personas to guide your messaging and content to different segments.
4. Complete a Content Audit
Review all the content you have created in the past and assess what needs to be revised, removed, or repurposed for future use. Many content pieces you have created in the past may be useful for future content (with a little updating). It doesn’t hurt to repurpose old content where appropriate, especially if it was successful when originally posted. Identify any gaps in your content that represent opportunities for new content.
5. Identify the Best Content Channels and Types
If you already have a large following on social media, leverage that for the content you create. The same goes for things like website traffic or email subscription lists. The channels you identify will dictate the types of content you produce.
6. Choose a Content Management System
There is a slew of great options for content management tools. We recommend looking at established platforms like HubSpot to help manage and automate your content strategy. These tools will keep you organized and many have built-in features to streamline the content creation process.
7. Develop a Content Calendar
Set a schedule for posting content including what platform to publish it on. A content calendar will keep things organized as you create more and more content, so that everyone on your team knows what content has gone out, what is being worked on, and what is coming up next.
8. Create Your Content
The work can finally begin! Follow your content calendar and plan out what needs to be done to create the content you’re going to publish. Research your topics and then write the blogs, record the podcasts, design the graphics, and film the videos.
9. Distribute and Market
Create a content promotion strategy. Some content will amplify others, such as social media posts to promote a new blog, or an email announcing a new e-book. Remember that “perfect is the enemy of good” when creating your content. Don’t spend longer than you need to on creating your content — it’s meant to be consumed, after all!
10. Measure and Refine
Analyze the results of your content based on the KPIs you identified in step two. Identify what worked, what didn’t, and where you can improve. Content creation is a never-ending process of creation, distribution, and refinement, so do not skip this step.
Use this guide to develop your own content strategy and the results will speak for themselves. The only catch is that you actually have to do it — which takes time, energy, and effort — but it’s well worth it.
Developing content is only scratching the surface. Inbound marketing services entails search query and keyword research, setting marketing objectives, developing buyer personas, competitor research, sales and marketing alignment, and more.
To execute successful inbound marketing, you need an inbound marketing strategy. Click here to check out our full guide on developing and implementing an inbound marketing strategy.