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Content Marketing Strategies You Can Steal

This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What’s the profile of a modern, best-in-class content marketer? By modern I mean someone who is using new tools and resources (social media, video and data) in concert with traditional marketing programs. And by best in class I mean someone who is driving real results.

So what does that look like? What might great content marketers know that you don’t? And more important: What can you steal from them in order to replicate their successes at your own company?

MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute wanted to find out. On Oct. 1 we released our fifth annual study, “B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America,” looking at more than 5,000 marketers in 109 countries. Here are some key points that emerged.

Great content marketers have a documented strategy and follow it closely. Just 35 percent of content marketers actually have a documented strategy (48 percent say they have one, but it’s not documented), according to the study. Sixty percent of those who have a documented strategy rate themselves as being effective content marketers, vs. just 7 percent of those who have no strategy, written or otherwise. 

Idea you can steal: Define a content marketing strategy for yourself, record it and refer back to it frequently. Don’t leave it on a metaphorical shelf gathering dust. Start by answering some basic questions about your company and your audience: Who do you want to reach? What value can you provide? How are you going to deliver that information? Who is going to manage the process? How will you measure success and refine your efforts?

Great marketers have a dedicated content team. Fewer than half of marketers have a dedicated content marketing group. But 69 percent of those who are most effective at content are likely to have a structured group. (These structures may vary. Some companies have a content marketing team that functions independently; in other cases, marketing team members are assigned responsibility for content functions horizontally across a company’s departments.)

Idea you can steal: Empower a dedicated team (or, in the case of smaller companies, a key person) that’s responsible and accountable for the success of your content marketing program.

Great marketers use an array of tactics and social media platforms. The best modern marketers don’t rely on just one or two approaches to reach and engage their audiences. In fact, the most effective ones use an average of 14 tactics and seven social media platforms.

Tactics for B2B marketers include in-person events, webinars or webcasts, videos, blogs, case studies, white papers or e-books, research reports, e-newsletters and microsites. The most effective social channels for B2B marketers are (in descending order) LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and SlideShare.

Idea you can steal: Create a broad variety of content—and don’t rely just on those tried-and-true blog posts or case studies. Have a varied social media engagement/distribution plan so that you cast a wider net online.

Great content marketers publish regularly. The most effective content marketers publish new content daily, or at least several times per week.

Idea you can steal: Create an editorial calendar with at least three months (or, ideally, six months) mapped out. Having a plan for what you are going to publish and when you are going to publish it makes it far more likely you’ll actually do so.

Great content marketers spend more on content. This is a big duh: More budget equals more effective marketing. The most effective marketers allocate, on average, 37 percent of their marketing budgets to content programs.

Idea you can steal: I suppose it’s an easy directive for me to give: Find more money! At the very least, consider allocating some percentage of your 2015 budget to a pilot content program (if you don’t already have one).

Great content marketers iterate and experiment. The more effective content marketers are always scheming to uncover new ideas and processes and to improve and refine what they are already doing. The most successful ones work on more than a dozen initiatives at any one time—including creating better quality content, improving conversion rates and overall content effectiveness, creating more visual content, reimagining or repurposing content, measuring ROI and becoming better storytellers.

The good news is that the least effective content marketers are ambitious: They plan to work on more initiatives in 2015 than their already-competent peers—an average of nine, vs. six.

Idea you can steal: Choose a few things to improve in 2015. In marketing (and, I suppose, in life), the smallest changes can yield big results.

Edition: November 2016

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