5 Tips for aligning your content strategy to your digital strategy

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As a B2B marketing organization that promotes market-leading business analytics software and services, we at SAS have encountered the challenges that stem from our customer’s changing buy-cycle habits, as more and more turn to online channels for their research, evaluation, and consideration phases.

We talk about these challenges in the whitepaper Solving the Challenge of Lead Management Automation, and Matt Fulk recently wrote about implementing a technology framework that enables our digital strategy in the post Lead Management Automation – 5 Steps to Implementation. Here I'll discuss the fuel for this engine - Content.

5 tips for aligning your content strategy with your digital strategy:

  1. Content Strategy: The best content supports your customer’s needs and their evolving buying cycle. It’s important that you not only understand these needs, but that your digital content assists customers at each stage of the process while encouraging them to move forward.
  2. Content Development: Once your content strategy is endorsed by your marketing and sales leadership teams, it’s time to build a framework that explains the strategy to your organizations' content creators and distributors. For example:
    • What is the buyer’s mindset at different stages of the buy-cycle?
    • What are the customer issues at each stage of the buy-cycle?
    • What should your content do to address these needs and encourage next actions?
    • What content format do customers prefer at each stage of the buy-cycle (blog posts, whitepapers, video, etc.)?

     

  3. Existing Content: Chances are you already have content that can be aligned to the buy-cycle. Start by identifying your best content over the last couple of years. Select content that has performed well in outbound and content syndication campaigns. And don’t be afraid to use “old” content. In one case, we used a piece of content that was five years old in our lead nurturing pilot (our leads nurturing pilot was written about in the post Using SAS to Develop a B2B Lead Nurturing model). Just because you think a paper is “old,” doesn't make it so - specifically to customers just learning about your products. A helpful piece of content has legs like it never has before.
  4. Organic Search: Get close to your Web/Google Analytics people to understand what search terms are driving traffic to your content. Or do it yourself using Google's free Keyword Tool. Then, let these search terms help you develop new content. Continue to analyze data from the search engines, your website, your blogs, your syndication sites and others. Do this well and you will spot trends that drive your content development.
  5. Develop a campaign matrix: Once you get your strategy in-line, you are going to need a framework or matrix to guide your future content development. This will help you look at all of your content as a cohesive, long term story versus just creating content for the sake of creating content. A recent article in B2B magazine, Content needs drive organizational changes, talks about how other marketers are developing this framework.

Vendors are expected to be publishers and align content and offers with the buying cycle. Ardath Albee at Marketing Interactions talks about why this strategy is important in her recent post Hello Mr. Customer; It's Me...Your Vendor. SAS has introduced technologies and processes to assist with this complex buying cycle while helping to operationalize our content strategy with customer intelligence solutions. Now, marketers can listen to what buyers are telling them from all channels and begin to collaboratively influence the path a prospect or customer takes through content.

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About Author

Will Waugh

Will Waugh is an interactive marketer at SAS. Areas of expertise include: digital marketing, lead nurturing, ecommerce, marketing automation, search, marketing analytics and evolving our use of SAS Customer Intelligence solutions. His career spans across multiple marketing disciplines including advertising, promotions, marketing analytics, social and digital marketing. Follow on Twitter: @willwaugh

4 Comments

  1. Ardath Albee on

    HI Will,
    Nice post! One comment about #3 Existing Content. I always advocate reinventing content or reusing it. One thing I'd recommend is that if you're going to use a piece that's several years old - revisit it and do a touch of refresh - including the copyright date or an "updated on" date. Maybe switch out a few graphics or update statistics to make it feel fresh. That's all it takes.
    In our instant-gratification, speed-of-sound lifestyles, it's disappointing to get a white paper that appears out of date just based on the date it carries. Especially if your prospect fills out a form to get it. Why set your content up for disappointment?
    And thanks for the mention of my post!

  2. Will, great summary of the key elements in a successful B2B content strategy. It strikes me that the importance of steps 1 and 2 – understanding your buyer’s mindset well enough to create content that will actually be perceived as relevant and helpful -- cannot be overemphasized.
    As we know, “content marketing” is all the rage in the B2B arena, and from surveys that I’ve seen, the overall process you outline is in various stages of adoption across many marketing departments. That means buyers are going to be forced to wade through a rising sea of vendor-published content — or more likely, they’ll just get even better at filtering out what doesn’t interest them. So for multiple vendors going after the same market, what’s going to differentiate Company A from Company B? Who is going to succeed at breaking through the noise and actually engaging with buyers throughout their purchase process?
    Seems to me the winners will be the ones that have the deepest customer insights and the deepest commitment to using those insights to publish content that is genuinely helpful. In that context, as you mention, the ability to apply technology to listen to what buyers are saying across all channels, quickly identify meaningful trends, optimize communications, etc. is a potential game-changer.

  3. Ardeth -
    Thank you for your comment. I agree - if we reuse, it needs a refresh. This is a detail that often gets overlooked.
    John -
    You're right. Customer insights are the foundation for everything we do. Guesswork can only get you so far. Thanks for the comment.
    Will

  4. Pingback: 4 Steps to Matching Online Behavior with Real Time Offers

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