Every Company Should Have A Content-First Mindset

Catherine Harrell, EVP, Global Marketing, PrecisionLender 

We’re well into an “ad-shunning” era; in fact, data tells us that per dollar spent, content marketing yields roughly three times the leads of traditional marketing efforts. That type of return is what drives continued excitement for the power of content. 

I’ve seen first-hand the business value and ROI content can deliver in my marketing leadership roles at brands of various sizes and with varied marketing budgets. Though the experiences at each company–from “mega” global entities to emerging technology startups–have differed from each other, a common theme has defined all of my roles: a belief in the importance of being a customer-value-focused, content-driven organization.

Regardless of the size of your organization, though, launching a content marketing program–particularly in a B2B environment–can feel like you’re “boiling the ocean.” Where do you start? How do you manage it? How do you optimize it? And, how do you measure success?

Here is some of the wisdom I’ve gathered over the past decade leading content programs: 

First, Start With Insights

Before you can even think about content planning, you need to put in the hard work: research, research, research. As an organization, you must have consensus around who you are targeting–and why. For instance, what’s the market size of your targets? How will they help you to drive growth for your business? Once this decision is firm, it’s important to audit the conversations taking place among this target audience segment. What are they struggling to confront, or seeking to learn? What topics are existing thought leaders in the industry focused on? Once you know all of this, you can identify the unique white space your content can fill. 

Be Singularly Focused

Once the research phase is complete, it’s critical to identify one–and only one!–content marketing objective. Do you want your brand to be known as a thought leader? Is content purely for demand generation? Are you working to engage your customers post-sale? Is it all purely about awareness? When you know your objective, it is much easier to map your content strategy to it, and also, ultimately, to measure your program’s success. 

Prioritize Personas

It’s important to think about creating content for people and their interest, rather than products, services and categories. What are the characteristics of the very real people who will ultimately buy your product or service? What are they reading about and discussing outside of, yet still related to, your offering? Creating content roadmaps in support of personas ensures that you can offer value to the varied audiences you are working to engage with.

Ask Questions

The most fruitful–and simplest–way I’ve found to help craft our content calendar is to interview customers. Ask them: What’s keeping you up at night? What topics or challenges could you use guidance on? What general market topics and industry trends do you find most interesting now and why? We often do this Q&A and testing through social media channels–it’s amazing how quickly you can get valuable feedback that you can immediately integrate into your strategic planning for long-term content efforts.

Make A Plan–And Stick To It

Even if your company hasn’t had a specific content marketing program in place, you likely have a good amount of content that already exists. So, first, audit what you have. Then, you can determine what existing content you can repurpose that also links back to your singular content marketing objective. Next, you can identify the new content that needs to be created including what topic and what format (Infographic? Ebook? Blog post?)–and who should do the creating. If budget allows, it can be beneficial to utilize not only in-house resources, but also influencers and agency partners. And, work at least a quarter in advance, while allowing for 20 percent of your content calendar be “open” to ensure you are integrating commentary related to breaking news, or pressing industry trends. Quarterly content calendars should be reviewed at the beginning of each month because you never want your content to seem stale. 

Test, Measure, Adjust And Repeat

A content roadmap and library mapped to customer lifecycles should be both fixed–meaning it’s what you’re planning for long-term–but also malleable, so that you can adjust based upon key learnings. Tap into Google Analytics to understand detailed and custom behavior and acquisition information, including: views, time on page, time per session, page tree flow, channel source and bounce rates. Establishing and measuring against “goal completions” is also important. For instance, are users reading content and then visiting a product page? Are they completing demo requests? Integrating with a tool such as Salesforce Pardot can also help you to measure meaningful engagement by persona, account type and more. Relying on data analysts who can make sense of all of these reference points can help you modify your content roadmap: double-down on what’s working well, and refine content types that aren’t performing. 

A commitment to content marketing is not for the faint of heart: it requires dogged, ongoing focus (and excitement!). My advice is to dive in with both feet, and to embrace the pivot. In a world where prospects have done the majority of their research before ever officially engaging with your brand, content is high-octane gas to the engine of your business.

About the Author: Catherine Harrell is the Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for PrecisionLender, a company that provides applied banking insights to commercial bankers, enabling them to make smart, real-time pricing decisions and to deliver superior customer experiences. Prior to PrecisionLender, Catherine was VP of Marketing at Citrix ShareFile, a product line that doubled revenue during her three-year tenure. Previously, Catherine held a variety of marketing leadership roles with Intuit. Catherine holds an MBA from Duke University, and a B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill.