By guest blogger Rich Cunningham
Now is the time to plan your 2012 content marketing program. Education-based marketing builds rapport, credibility and trust in your brand. It is also the best way to subtly “pre-sell” buying criteria. Providing an ongoing series of relevant, useful information educates, informs and motivates buyers.
Here are five steps for getting started on your content marketing plan of attack:
- Define your customer lifecycle stages
- Identify your buyers’ key information needs in each stage
- Categorize the answers by topic areas
- Audit your current information assets
- Create and execute your content editorial calendar
You may download a content marketing planning template here.
Define your customer lifecycle stages
At the highest level, every company has two customer lifecycle stages: Customer acquisition and customer growth. Your company has its own unique way of breaking these down further. For illustration purposes, here is an example:
- Awareness – In this stage, buyers are becoming aware of pain points affecting their business. They build a business case for resourcing a solution to remove the pain.
- Evaluation – In this stage, buyers are researching potential solution approaches, establishing buying criteria, and evaluating specific solutions.
- Selection – In this stage, buyers are performing due diligence on the preferred solution and making the purchase.
- Adoption – In this stage, the new customer is implementing the solution, training staff, and begins seeing a positive return on their investment.
- Growth – In this stage, customers are expanding the use of the solution, purchasing add-ons, and renewing or repurchasing.
Identify your buyers’ key information needs in each stage
Buyers have different information needs in each stage of the customer lifecycle. Your challenge is to map these information needs accordingly. For each of your company’s lifecycle stages, list the questions, comments, and concerns that you hear most frequently.
Categorize the answers by topic area
You will find that the answers coalesce around several topic areas. For example, you may find that a number of responses relate to the trends occurring in your market or to “proof points.” The former could become the topic of an e-book and webinar series, e.g., “The Five Most Dangerous Trends Facing <your industry>.” The latter might be addressed by a series of video customer success stories.
Audit your current information assets
Your current assets may include white papers, case studies, article reprints, and other information. Map each of these to your topic areas. Some will address more than one customer lifecycle stage. Now you can see the gaps you need to fill with new content. How do your buyers prefer to consume content at each stage? Depending on your market, you may need to engage buyers with more than one type of media – blog, email, PDF, podcast, video, webcast, virtual event, etc.
Create and execute your content editorial calendar
For many organizations, creating the content editorial calendar is where the critical bottleneck is glaringly obvious: There are more content requirements than there are people available. In many cases, executive management can establish priorities to ensure the right people are assigned and accountable. In other cases, the editorial development calendar must be achieved through outside resources.
There is an adage that says 97 percent of potential buyers are not in the market to buy immediately. An educational content marketing program walks those buyers into and through the buying process. It is the best way to educate, inform, and motivate your future buyers.
Richard Cunningham is a veteran of the software industry, serving in executive marketing roles with companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100. Through Marcom Productions, he helps technology companies increase sales with multimedia content marketing programs. Learn more at www.marcomproductions.com.