This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2018 issue
    of Mailing Systems Technology.

    Does your company have a content marketing plan for this year?

    Many organizations have identified the value of published content to achieve brand awareness or nurture leads, but initiate their vision with haphazard efforts that don’t pay off. You need a plan.

    A scattered approach produces unsatisfactory results, which leads to abandoned publishing efforts. I’ve seen this happen time after time. Companies publish one or two articles a year, or send an occasional email blast. There is no consistency and they do not reach enough of their audience to make an impact. Their optimistic expectations about content marketing aren’t fulfilled and companies lose interest in further content generation.

    Consistent Reminders and Strategic Thinking

    I insist all my clients have a plan. We agree on objectives, audiences, and target publication dates in advance. Helping clients do this important work up front benefits both of us. Clients take a more strategic approach to their content marketing programs, and I can make helpful suggestions about topics and formats while gathering all the information necessary to produce effective custom content.

    B2B customers get serious about purchasing products and services because of a change in their business. Reminding prospects about the value of your company’s products and expertise is necessary to ensure they reach out and connect with you when a triggering event occurs. Pre-planned publication schedules prevent gaps that open doors for competitors.

    Content plans also force companies to analyze their strategies and answer some important questions:

    · What do you want prospects to do after reading an article or blog post?

    · How do those actions align with your content marketing goals?

    · Does your plan include content for all your audiences?

    · How will you drive prospects to your website content?

    · Have you included material aimed at later-stage buyers?

    · How will you repurpose content and what modifications will be necessary?

    · Is the branding and style consistent across your content library?

    It’s important to understand that content marketing does not drive sales directly. You should not expect to correlate a particular article with increased sales volume. It is the cumulative effect of your branded content that produces results. That is why releasing content according to an organized schedule works best in the long run.

    From an ROI perspective, content marketing costs are relatively low and the potential return is great. Combined with traditional marketing activities, content marketing strengthens the brand and improves customer confidence. Informational content has a long shelf life and is versatile. Today’s investment in a customer case study, for instance, can serve you for two or three years. You might extend the impact of blog posts by re-packaging them as an eBook. Online magazine articles show up in search results for years after publication. Conversely, one-time email blasts have virtually no staying power.

    Begin Simply, but Get Started

    I have worked with clients who want to create content marketing strategies but never seem to get started. There was always something else that needed doing first – new product introductions, website re-design, hiring a new sales manager, upgrading the CRM system, cleaning up the contact database, etc. The lists were endless and the clients never found time to implement meaningful content marketing programs.

    Perfection is a death sentence for content marketing strategies. Start creating and publishing as soon as possible. You can adjust the elements later. While you are wasting time getting all your ducks in line, competitors may establish themselves as the primary source for industry information. Being first, even if imperfect, is an advantage.

    You can create a simple 12-month content plan listing details such as your audiences, topic areas, and publication dates in just a few hours using tools no fancier than a spreadsheet. A rough plan is enough to get started. You can always go back and refine later. In the meantime, a simple content plan gets you into the game.

    Tips to Get You Started

    As you develop a content plan for your organization, here are a few items to consider:

    Cover All Buying Stages

    Prospects require different content depending on where they are in the buying process. In the early stages, raising awareness and building a reputation is most important. After that, potential customers are looking for reasons to do business with you. Your content must demonstrate how your products solve problems your audience is facing. In the final stages before making a purchase decision, future customers will compare vendors. Items such as case studies and white papers address those needs.

    Encourage Next Steps

    You never know when something may happen that turns prospects into serious buyers. Include a clear call to action in your communications. Give prospects the option to move forward by downloading in-depth material, for instance, or scheduling a demo. Lead prospects through the steps future customers normally complete before they buy from you.

    Put Existing Content to Work

    One way to get a head start on content generation is raiding existing material. You may need to make minor revisions, but editing is usually quicker than starting from scratch. Elements of a content marketing campaign are high in informational value. You may need to re-work marketing material to tone down the sales pitches.

    Get Your Content Found

    Single channel publication limits your reach. You cannot publish content to your website or blog and wait for the leads to roll in. There are many outlets for original informational content. Use them. Often you can use the same content in multiple places or make minor modifications to repurpose an article for a particular audience.

    All companies in the customer communications industry, regardless of their size or their budget, can take advantage of the benefits that content marketing provides. This strategy is an equalizer that helps vendors with great products but scarce resources compete with larger contenders. Improve your chances for success by dedicating time to create a content plan. A small investment in time now will help you get started and keep your strategy on track all year.

    Mike Porter helps companies in the document industry create and execute content marketing strategies. This article is based on the eBook “Content Marketing – What’s the Big Deal?” Download the complete eBook for free at or contact Mike directly at