Numerous industry studies indicate a lack of written strategy is a significant detriment to content marketing campaigns. A Content Marketing Institute report discovered only 35 percent of B2B marketing teams start with a documented strategy, while 48 percent rely on verbal or implicit plans of action (1). The report found written strategies to be twice as effective as campaigns that utilized undocumented goals and procedures.
When creating a written plan of action, a B2B marketing team must keep a variety of factors in mind. By starting with a significant amount of data and a clear vision of the future, marketers can create a documented plan ready to anticipate surprises. Here are five best practices for strategy formulation:
1. Start with basics
A company must start by taking stock of the resources allocated to marketing campaigns and how the materials will lead to success. Customer Think suggested initiating strategy meetings by asking about budget restrictions, schedules and executive buy-ins (2). The marketing department must know where it stands in the business's overall infrastructure.
Employees should study the product in early marketing brainstorming meetings. A promotional team must know all the technical details of the merchandise or services they advertise, but more importantly, they must know how the business can help consumers. Content marketing shouldn't just describe a company's practices and products, advertising should herald its ability to solve pain points and increase productivity.
B2B marketing teams need to begin with end goals in mind. Each piece of content must have a specific purpose. Should social media encourage lead generation or should a mobile ad promote inbound marketing? During initial meetings, the team must create a list of expectations, variations of content and channels that could lead to the desired results.
2. Study past campaigns
A great source of data for creating future campaigns is to learn what succeeded or didn't hit the mark in the past. By analyzing previous campaigns, marketing teams can gain insight into audiences, channels and content performance.
B2B marketing teams need to study each step in the funnel of previous inbound marketing campaigns. When companies use an integrated marketing plan, they must segment data to learn how each individual channel and piece of content performed. Analysis should show if customers lost interest once they encountered web design or failed to click call to action buttons on mobile advertising. It's especially helpful when the previous strategies possessed documented goals so teams can compare results to expectations and see where divergences occurred.
Software tools that can track consumer interactions with different channels are a very beneficial investment. Certain content platforms like LinkedIn and YouTube provide users with audience metrics. An intelligent centralized data solution can create charts and graphs of performance for each strategy employed in an overall plan.
3. Formulate integrated strategy
Once marketing teams have an understanding of what the company needs, how specific strategies performed in the past and what current audiences want, they can begin designing a strategy. The initial ideas thrown around should be built on hard data but must also encourage creativity.
While new plans should focus on key content performers and product data and details that encourage conversion, MarketingProfs said B2B strategies must also account for the emotional needs of audiences (3). When planning an integrated marketing campaign, some of the content should be fun, imaginative, visually engaging or humorous. The emotional or creative goals of content should sit alongside financial information and other hard metrics in documentation.
During brainstorming, ideas should run the gauntlet between detailed educational content and striking emotional appeals. Weighing these ideas against available resources, goals and past audience performance allows marketing teams to see what type of content would best fit in each phase of the B2B lead nurturing funnel.
4. Consult Stakeholders
Marketing doesn't exist in a vacuum. During the strategy documentation phase, other business stakeholders should speak their ideas and needs for content.
Most companies are aware of the link that must exist between sales and marketing. During the historical research period of strategy formulation, marketing teams must include sales numbers in their conversations to see which lead nurturing tactics and inbound marketing content led to success. Sales teams can also communicate what data and details they find to be most persuasive when interacting with potential clients.
Business 2 Community said marketing employees should share their goals with sales teams, customer service representatives and internal experts (5). These team members can provide advice from their expertise and look out for success and mistakes when they know what content should achieve.
Seek professional advice
A B2B Marketing team could partner with a digital marketing agency that specializes in certain channels or promotional goals. It's best to seek expert advice early, before companies spend resources and time on less informed strategies.
Having a written strategy makes it easy to communicate with a third party. When businesses know exactly what they want from social media channels, web design and email marketing campaigns, a B2B marketing agency can focus consultation on finding solutions for those exact goals.
(1). New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy
(2). Industrial Marketing Plan: A 3-Phase Approach
(3). Five Things to Remember When Planning Your Next B2B Marketing Campaign
(4). 5 Steps to a Game-Changing Integrated Digital Marketing Strategy