“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster” a statement once quoted from the late Stephen Covey who wrote the classic, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Similarly, if you are simply producing content without a clear content marketing process, you’ll end up in the wrong place, tired and without results.

Step-by-Step Content Marketing Process

A clear and documented content marketing process is a fundamental first step for every business looking to employ this strategy to generate leads and close customers. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute which conducts an annual Content Marketing survey, stated, “Our research consistently shows that documenting your content marketing strategy is a key to success.”  In the following article, I will layout a simple process to follow for not only documenting your content marketing program but also ensuring your ladder is leaning against the right wall to bring you results.

Define Your Content Marketing Objective

Before you set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (or voice to mic), you must define what you intend to achieve from your efforts. It’s a simple premise but seemly so simple that a majority of businesses forget to do it. Ask yourself, “what measureable outcome do I want to achieve within X time frame through my (or my team’s) content marketing effort?”  

organizational-goals-for-content-marketingAccording to research by www.business2community.com the primary objective stated by most businesses is for lead generation. Others included sales (I assume sales enablement/collateral), lead nurturing like DRIP campaigns, brand awareness, engagement (either customer success or in social media) and so on.  In reality, you can group together the top three and call is all lead generation.

The most important part of setting your content marketing objective is defining the metric you’ll use to measure success of your effort.  What you don’t measure, you can’t manage, right? Set your objective, associate a metric that can be easily measured through your website analytics, marketing automation or CRM, and establish it as the “north start” moving forward through your process.

Define Your Target Audience

I recently wrote an article on developing personas. I highly recommend you read it when you have some extra time. It explains in detail how to develop a persona (or multiple ones) to clearly articulate the type of individuals you intend to find, attract, convert and close. Without clearly identifying your persona’s and specifically her or his pains, gains and jobs, you’ll spend more time shotgunning your approach to content marketing than actually making a positive business impact. In order words, in order to plan what to write or produce, you have to know who you are writing or producing for.

The question of “WHO” defines voice, messaging, visuals, format, and distribution.  I recommend spending considerable time on this step of the content marketing process.  I also recommend not doing it “once-and-done.” Instead, define your target audience, act upon it for 90 to 120 days and then re-evaluating what you have learned. This continual approach of fine-tuning your personas will reap even further benefits long-term.

Define Your Content Strategy

Once you have defined your “why” (objective) and also your “who” (persona), you’re ready to work on building your how (strategy.)  For me, a content strategy involves many factors including:

  • Topics
  • Team/Resources
  • Content Formats (blog, evergreen, video, webcasts, infographics, etc.)
  • Workflows
  • Metrics
  • Branding factors

Although I listed it as a separate process step, I would also include marketing infrastructure and a measurement framework into the strategy discussion.The best approach for documenting your content strategy is to lay it out in a process diagram or create a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. It should be easily communicated to gain alignment among your team and for buy-in with senior management.

Another important factor in your content strategy, especially for SMBs, is how will you approach “recycling and repurposing” of your content. Creating high-quality content is expensive. However, if you can create, for example, an ebook and break that ebook into four to five blog posts, social media content and a visual, then you can leverage the ebook cost across multiple purposes to gain efficiency. Or, if you have a blog, determine how you can research and repurpose older content as new again.

Map Your Audience to Your Content Plan

b2b-buying-processThe order in which you add this step may vary but after defining your strategy and while you are contemplating the necessary infrastructure, you need to map what you know about your audience to the standard buying process. This provides a way to get started although how your specific persona(s) buy may very well be different than the standard.

The process to use for mapping content to the buyer’s journey dones;yt have to be complicated.  The more you know about your buyers through your persona development efforts, will also drastically improve your outcomes. This stage requires some creativity and research to develop a full view of the content formats and topics that would best attract and satisfy your buyers.

I find the best way to execute this step is to use a template as follows:

mapping-content-to-buyers-journey

Once you map put the content that best fits the buyer’s needs during their journey through their buying process, then you’re set to perform a “gap analysis” of what content exists and what needs to be created to complete the full map.

Implement Infrastructure and Measurement

For B2B lead generation, your marketing infrastructure plays a fundamental role for moving prospects through the marketing funnel. Infrastructure includes your website, landing pages, email platform (automation) and tracking system (like Google Analytics).

Although it may sound sophisticated and/or expensive, technology is available today that’s affordable and fairly easy to use and implement. For example, if you use WordPress, you can implement Google Analytics, MailChimp and LeadPages for less than $100/month (cost is dependent on traffic volume.) You will experience some one-time costs associated with a designer and/or developer setting up WordPress and Google Analytics tracking.

As I wrote about earlier, landing pages are critical for driving lead conversions yet so many businesses aren’t using them. Connect your strategy to your infrastructure and measurement framework.

Develop an Editorial Plan

Once you map out your content needs, the next stage is developing a plan to produce it. This is when you also need to think efficiency. How do you look ahead and plan out new content in a way you can re-purpose it.  It may be best to create an evergreen piece with 2,500 words knowing you can break it apart into several blog posts, a ton of social media posts, a checklist, an infographic and a SlideShare deck.

If you are the content planner and producer, then you may prefer to build out your editorial plan in an Excel spreadsheet or a Google doc to keep it simple. There are a number of free WordPress plugins available including Edi Flow and WP editorial calendar that are good for collaboration among a content team. You could use these as an individual too to keep everything organized within WordPress.

The main information to capture for planning your editorial calendar include:

  • Persona target
  • Theme
  • Content type (blog post, infographic, video, webcast, ebook, etc.)
  • If blog post, word count target
  • Headline/Title
  • Call to Action
  • Author/Speaker
  • Editor
  • Purchase Cycle target (Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Loyalty)
  • Draft Due
  • Focus keyword

If you are using WordPress, you have to determine how much detail to build into your editorial plan versus applying directly into WordPress when writing the blog post. Efficiency is always important to consider since time is the scarcest resource.

What I find frequently among smaller businesses, is a lack of consistency planning the work and working the plan. It takes a level of discipline to remain consistent and content marketing is highly dependent on a consistent effort.  When it comes to planning, it’s best to focus out a quarter and work backwards to the upcoming two weeks ahead. You need a vision into the future and a reasonable outlook for large content peice production while also considering the short-term needs of content for your blog or for the sales team.Balancing short and long-term is necessary to ensure you stay on track and end up where you wanted to be when developing your strategy.

Product, Publish and Amplify Content

Along with planning the editorial calendar, this stage and the following “optimization” one are repeated efforts. During this stage, you are producing and publishing the content in accordance with your editorial calendar. Once published, your next step is to amplify the content through social media, outreach and influencer marketing. I’ll go into detail about these amplification efforts in a future blog post.  Marketer.kapost.com has an incredible image to demonstrate the amplification and content recycling process they considered for a piece of content produced. Check it out below…

kapost-example-of-amplification-and-recycling-content

Optimize Against Your Content Objective

The content you produce is a living embodiment of your brand and it cost money to produce. You need to apply effort to optimize it and to optimize all of it as a representation of your brand. Let’s break this down into two parts:

  • Content Optimization:

All of the effort you have placed into your content marketing up to this point have only accumulated costs. It is at this point, where you work hard to turn those costs into value and begin to generate a return on your investment. Whether the content value you seek are subscriber opt-ins, gated content downloads, contact us requests or product purchases, you need to test and measure ways to increase the results generated from your content.

Depending on where you aim your optimization efforts, for example, on visitors to your blog, you’ll have a plethora of tactics to test. The takeaway is, you simply don’t publish the content and move on never to return to it again. No, once the content is published, you’ll want to monitor how well it does in market to attract you target audience, how well it engages these visitors, and how many of these engaged visitors convert into a subscriber, a lead or a customer. Once you find a baseline “conversion” to your defined objective, then you are consistently working towards increasing that baseline with new tactics.

  • Content optimization for monitoring brand representation

I’ll write a separate blog post about this component called a ROT analysis. In simple terms, you’ll want to monitor the content you produce and remove or update aged content so it best represents your brand evolution. For example, if you wrote a blog post promoting an event you were speaking at and the event occurred a year ago, it may be best to delete the post and 301 redirect it to a new event you are speaking at in the future. Or if you upgraded your product offering yet previously promoted the old offering with a blog post, you may want to update the post with the new features. This keeps a freshness around your content and ensures a good experience from a visitor who may stumble upon the post.

Closing the Loop on the Content Marketing Process

Follow this plan and document your steps in order to get your content marketing off the ground and headed in the right direction. As Peter Drucker, the greatest management consultant once stated, ““Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Put the hard work behind you plan and you’ll position yourself for great results.


Next Leap Strategy helps businesses generate more visitors, more leads and more customers through inbound marketing strategies. Get your content marketing off the ground and headed in the right direction. Contact us today for a 30-minute assessment.