Understanding the decision stages B2B customers go through as they decide to buy from you and developing the content they are looking for at each stage is an essential B2B Marketing better practice.
Marketing Sherpa’s #1 lead generation best practice is: “IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THEM (NOT YOU)“.
As always, we would love your input on how this planning compares to how you are marketing to your customers. Get StartedBrainrider can help you get better results with a B2B Website update, best practice marketing planning & execution, or a Pardot marketing automation implementation.
The following practical approach to B2B content marketing strategy provides a framework to plan content development and marketing prioritized against your objectives and audiences. For many B2B leaders, content marketing is a key initiative when marketing a complex product or solution. The first step in building a B2B content marketing strategy is committing to measurable marketing objectives and prioritizing their importance against your business objectives.  B2B marketing plans often include both qualitative and quantitative objectives. Because content marketing is resource-intensive, you must prioritize your resource allocation to achieve better results. If you have the opposite priority of attracting more leads, then your investment priorities will be reversed. The next step should focus on using a customer-focused articulation of the business you are in. The classic example is Theodore Levitt’s question: “What business are you in?” He illustrates this point with drill bits. The third step in building your content marketing strategy is profiling your target customer segments. First, model your pipeline by understanding the different stages a customer goes through when deciding to do business with you.
The information-seeking has a broad focus, using more generic and high-level search terms and keywords. They are seeking assistance with definition, scope, and internal buy-in to solving a problem.
Keywords and search terms will be more specific and will start to reflect solution alternatives or categories. They have a solid understanding of how each alternative measures up and the decision maker is trying to get comfortable with committing to one of the decision alternatives.
Keywords and search terms will be much more specific and will be focused on specific solutions. They have a solid understanding of how each alternative measures up and the decision maker is trying to get comfortable with committing to one of the alternatives.
The chart below is the tool we recommend to map decision stages and content opportunities for your content plan.
Part of the answer to achieving better content marketing results is faster content planning and better execution.
Youa€™ll be joining the 130,000 Smart Insights members from 80 countries who trust our advice to Plan, Manage and Optimize their marketing. As we enter 2015, theA latest stats on use of digital media and technologyA all point to the growing importance of creating a digital strategy. The need for businesses to compete to reach and engage their audiences as they use digital devices is clear and well-established.
To help businesses create or refine their digital strategy, Dan Bosomworth and I created the RACE planning framework to summarise key activities that need to be measured.A This infographic gives a brief explanation of each part of the customer lifecycle and highlights the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help review strategy effectiveness. For 2015 we have updated our RACE digital strategy infographic to give a stronger focus on strategy development rather than inbound and content marketing which was more the focus of theA originalA from 2012. We developed our RACE Digital Strategy framework to help businesses scope out their investment in digital technology and media. It's one of 10 infographics which are designed to be useful - to help businesses map, plan and manage their digital strategy.
If you're not familiar with RACE, these are the four main stages of the customer lifecycle and how a digital strategy and different forms of technology can support businesses to improve the efficiency of the funnel.
The marketing funnel remains as the most common way to manage customer engagement and to set targets and review performance. A digital strategy defines a focus for investment in digital technology and media for an organisation to engage audiences as they use digital devices. The growth in use of digital devices by consumers as they select and buy A products has changed consumer buying behaviour to such a degree that a digital strategy is now seen as essential by many. A digital strategy and digital marketing strategy are very similar, so it's not worth getting too hung up on the terminology or differences, however they can mean different things to different people within an organisation, so it's best to standardise. So, alternatively, a digital strategy focuses on making the right investments in digital technology rather than digital media. Hi Dave, would you please explain that satisfaction and loyalt is a KPI for effectiveness or efficiency?

This free B2B marketing plan template is an easy to use tool  designed to help you plan your marketing activities by objective.
If you started by focusing on blogging, you may wonder what additional items to add to your B2B content marketing strategy. Reach out to relevant publications to secure guest articles or blog posts helps to gain more visibility to your target audience.
You most likely started with blogging, and that’s a great way to generate consistent content. Guides – Guides are best used for a specific topic, to answer a question your audience is faced with. White papers – White papers are usually more technical and a better fit for an experienced reader.
A content calendar will also help if you decide to increase the volume of guest blog posts. Educating buyers through webinars is one of the top techniques that leads to more business opportunities. Lastly, if you already have a regular email schedule, consider adding lead nurturing via a CRM as a way to enhance your email campaigns.
Lead nurturing involves setting up a series of relevant, automatic emails based on what the user has downloaded, nurturing the recipient over a period of time (usually about three months) until they are ready to become an opportunity. Lead nurture sequences can be complex and challenging to set up, so it takes an experienced email marketer and a sophisticated CRM to do the job well.
In most companies, however, it’s not done often enough, thoroughly enough, or with enough focus on particular issues or decisions. We’re in the midst of different types of strategic marketing planning – both formal and informal – for some of our clients and for Right Source Marketing.
The typical B2B company assumes its best clients are either its biggest or most profitable clients, and that is a flawed assumption. The list of criteria related to mindset and relationship should be at least as long as the numbers-oriented criteria. Once you know who your best clients are, you can begin to map out ways to find more of them. Many of the clients I work with are focused almost exclusively on lead generation, or ultimately, client acquisition. Here’s an idea: invest some of those marketing dollars into retaining your current clients. Gartner Group says that even a one percent increase in client retention rate could result in an eight percent increase in profits.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, content marketing plays a role in every facet of marketing.
The 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report shows us that strategy is the key to effectiveness.
You can start your content marketing plan here: 12 Questions That Should Guide Your Content Marketing Plan and 5 Tips for Building a Content Marketing Budget. I hate to pick on social media properties, but they are the most obvious examples of noise as it relates to marketing planning. Listen closely, though, and you may hear some noise that changes your business, or at a minimum, your marketing.
Find out – ask the person who controls the purse strings what will be important to measure.
As managing partner and chief content officer for Right Source, Mike Sweeney is responsible for all content marketing initiatives, including growing the company’s content marketing practice, guiding all client content marketing strategy, and recruiting and growing a team of modern marketers. Planning against these measurable strategic objectives allow you to report on marketing results instead of just tactical activities.
This will help to identify which content categories, topics, and approaches are most relevant to your customer. Drill bit manufacturers care about everything involved in the production of their drill bits, but drill bit customers don’t really want drill bits.
Sales profiles, personas, and best customer models are tools you should use to profile your customer segments in order to improve the relevance and effectiveness of your content marketing. Make sure to focus on your customer’s needs and pains, rather than simply providing expert knowledge. Brainrider recommends using these 4 strategic elements as a practical framework to plan content development and marketing prioritized against client objectives and audiences. RACE is structured around the classic stages of customer lifecycle marketing from generating initial awareness in a brand as part of customer acquisition through nurturing relationships with prospects to sale and ongoing customer engagement.
Although most would agree that prospects don't pass through the funnel in a linear way and it's more of iterative process as shown in this infographic summarising the customer buying decision, it's essential that a funnel-based conversion model is use to set targets and review the effectiveness and efficiency of online marketing.
Otentimes, I find they are simply different labels with digital strategy a short-hand contraction for the longer digital marketing strategy.

The workbook includes: prioritizing your marketing objectives, identifying program gaps and opportunities, new programs pick-list and an marketing budget planning worksheet.
Firms that generate at least 40% of their leads online through content marketing grow 4X faster than firms that don’t. The more eyeballs on your content, the more you can demonstrate your thought leadership and get in front of more potential clients. These should mostly be written on evergreen topics, as you don’t want to spend all that time writing and designing a guide that will be outdated in a month. If you decided to add additional content beyond a blog post, it will help you keep on track so that the guide is completed. As a Marketing Strategist at Hinge, her outgoing, friendly personality combined with stellar research and pitching skills help firms find publications and blogs that their audiences frequent and contribute guest articles to those sources.
That might make me one of the crazy ones, but when done with the right people, strategic planning can be revealing, inspiring, and dare I say it – fun.
In those cases, the process will fall flat, people will stop trusting the process, and the outcomes will be difficult to measure.
While there are literally hundreds of questions that get asked and answered during strategic planning, here are five critical ones that every B2B organization should be addressing. And if it turns out that your best clients are also the biggest and most profitable ones, pat yourself on the back. Bain & Company says that increasing client retention rates by five percent increases profits by 25 to 95 percent.
In particular, most startups I work with are exclusively concerned with customer acquisition. Eighty-four percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing say they have no documented strategy. For instance, your organic search data is about to be decimated, but that doesn’t mean you should run – this is noise you should be listening to, because it impacts what is likely one of your strongest sources of traffic, and your ability to measure that traffic.
Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame. Otherwise, your campaign will be trying to accomplish too many things at once without focusing on your objectives. The key in building the right segments is to identify customer needs and pains, filter them through the business you are in, group their needs and pains by roles or audiences, and then use that data to profile your top customer segments. Click here to download a working copy of the B2B Content Marketing Strategy Template or contact us for more information about how we help clients get better content marketing.
With additional content being generated, you may need to have others (either internally or outsourced) assist in generating content. If I have to explain this one, then perhaps you need to go back and take some business school refresher classes.
B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. Just last week, my cousin Willie put up some Vine videos, and within three hours we had 367 views.
Regardless of who you’re dealing with, this is an important step in the marketing planning process.
You may need the basics (Google Analytics), or you may need something a bit more advanced (a marketing automation platform), but identifying and then measuring what matters is critical. Just make sure that you’re not asking your strategic planning team to answer so many questions that you end up heavy on information and light on decisions.
You can find Mike on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts. You can refine your segments over time with more robust analytics and data but a quick segmentation is a great place to start knowing more about your customer and what they want to know. While these areas of expertise are important to managing and operating a business, not all of them are relevant to what your customer wants to know. Understanding the business you are in through the lens of your customer ensures that you are marketing holes, not just bits. It is important to profile these segments by developing a long list of customer needs and pains using your customer’s own “How do I” questions.
In government, or some not-for-profit organisations, developing a "digital marketing strategy" is less appropriate, so a digital strategy gives a more appropriate label for managing digital technologies. Does the client have a well-defined decision-making structure, so that you’re not dealing with corporate drama?

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