Content marketing has hit the tipping point for B2B marketers. At Velocity, we used to have to evangelise the concept of content marketing , then spend lots of time telling clients and prospects why it’s such a powerful thing. Today, those conversations are a lot shorter. B2B marketers have discovered content marketing as the engine room of their marketing strategy and there’s no going back.
But as more and more B2B marketing departments ramp up their content marketing efforts, a new bottleneck is developing: the content development bottleneck.
Content development is the process that drives the conception, development and production for your content marketing machine. And since it’s a fairly new discipline in many B2B marketing departments, there aren’t a lot of best-practice processes in place for it.
A good content development process turns a bunch of random activities into some kind of a system, covering everything from idea generation to copywriting, design, production and the all-important approvals process.
The goal is simple: quality at scale — being able to produce the right amount of excellent content with the team you’ve got. (Notice I said ‘the right amount’ not ‘the most content you can generate’. Sometimes fewer, better pieces is the way to go.)
Here are nine content development tips to help:
1) Start with a Content Marketing Strategy
Not having one is the number one cause of content development inefficiency, because everything is ad hoc. A good content marketing strategy starts with your goals; then summarises a quick audit of existing content; captures the core messages you need your team to deliver; outlines your target audience personas; creates a topic list. It also outlines the team roles and responsibilities and captures any core content principles you want everyone to follow. This is your content marketing playbook.
2) Create an Editorial Calendar
This is essential for maximising your content development resources and keeping everything on track. Some editorial calendars identify a different theme every month or quarter; others map the content to the different stages of the buying cycle; others cover one product line at a time. Whatever editorial strategy you choose, get it down in a calendar so you can see what’s due when and who’s doing it.
3) Use timelines for every piece of content
Sounds too obvious to mention but every piece must have its own production schedule detailing the major milestones and their corresponding dates. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to skip this and mark everything ASAP. But it’s amazing how often people will hit deadlines if there really are deadlines to hit.
4) Avoid ‘stop & start’ content development
A lot of content marketing teams we’ve seen tend to focus on the big pieces and let everything else stall. Tips 2 and 3 should help avoid that, keeping early stage projects progressing even as the big pieces get the attention they need. Otherwise you get peaks and troughs in your content marketing efforts instead of a nice, steady flow.
5) Make the most of each piece of content
A big part of the art of content marketing is the art of ‘atomising’ your content to get the most out of your budget – without seeming to be repeating yourself everywhere. So a big, fat eBook gets re-purposed into a slideshare, series of blog posts, guest posts, articles, worksheets, videos, etc.
Each gets a re-spin but they’re all based on the core ideas, so exploit the original research and development.
6) Make your blog the foundation of your content marketing
A content marketing strategy without a blog is like a speedboat without an outboard motor. When there’s no time for a major piece of content, there’s still time for a blog post. Use the blog to promote content, test new ideas, atomise existing content, build relationships with influencers and encourage engagement.
7) Use content curation
You don’t have to produce 100% of the content you offer to your target audiences. A lot of great content is essentially curated content – stuff that you’ve found out there in the world or on the web, added a bit of value and linked to. The key here is to add that value. If you’re writing about ‘Ten Marketing Strategy Posts We Love’ summarise why you love each post and give a glimpse into the content. Done well, content curation stretches your budget without diluting your content brand.
8 ) Use outside resources effectively
It’s a rare content marketing team that can produce everything in-house. But if you throw everything out to agencies and writers, you may lose the authenticity that makes for great content. The trick is to find great resources (writing being the absolutely critical one) and use them intelligently, playing to their strengths and yours.
9) Let the data be your guide
Analytics is an essential part of any content marketing strategy. Measure the things that matter most and test the things you need to learn about. The data will tell you where to put your content development resources. Without it, you’re in ‘spray & pray’ mode.
Follow these nine principles and your’e on your way to that lean, mean content marketing machine that’s the envy of your B2B marketing peers.
A few content development resources:
Our Content Marketing Workbook – a primer on the art & science of content marketing
The Content Marketing Tutorial – a short, sharp Prezi that outlines the process of developing a great piece of content (view it in full screen mode).
The Content Marketing Institute – tireless evangelists and best-practice advisors
Managing Content Marketing – the book by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose
The Econsultancy Content Marketing Best Practice Guide – free if you’re a member of Econsultancy (you are, aren’t you?)
Creating Content That Sells – a guide to content marketing for demand generation
The Velocity Content Marketing Blog – all about it for B2B marketers
Got any other tips for content development?
We’d love to share your thoughts with fellow B2B marketers, so do comment away…
[BTW – This post was written using Inbound Writer, the content development tool. It scores a 70 on their Document Score. I reviewed Inbound Writer here but was maybe a bit sarcastic so this is my attempt at using it for real. I'll add my thoughts to the review post itself.]
Photo: Creative Commons by zigazou 76