6 Questions to Ask Before Drafting Your 2017 Content Marketing Plan

November 25th, 2016

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Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, chances are, content marketing is going to be an integral part of your marketing strategy next year. The most recent data from the Content Marketing Institute suggests that it will be around 28 percent of your total marketing budget.

Considering all the other pieces of the marketing pie, that’s a pretty big slice. Take the time to step back, ask questions, dig into your data, and collaborate with your team. Don’t dread the planning process—enjoy it! Below are a couple questions to ask yourself as you dive in.

1. What Content Performed Well Last Year?

This seems like an obvious one, but it’s often easy to jump the gun on starting fresh without taking a close enough look at what worked and what didn’t. Dedicate a day to diving into your Google Analytics, marketing automation data, and social media dashboards to come up with a comprehensive picture of how your content performed.

Don’t forget to talk to your sales team to get first-hand feedback on what content helped them move prospects toward a purchase. The goal is not to uncover every little metric from last year, but to answer the big questions. At Invoca, we’re digging into the following:

  • What were the most popular blog posts, and where did people most convert on the blog?
  • Which blog posts received the most engagement (social, inbound links, comments)?
  • What amount did each piece of gated content contribute to the sales pipeline? How did content influence opportunity creation? (We use Brightfunnel to identify these metrics.)
  • Which videos received the most views beyond 30 seconds, and which ones are driving conversions? (We use Vidyard to identify these metrics.)
  • Which nurturing emails had a high CTR?

2. Are There Any Major Shifts Happening at Your Company Next Year?

Who is your company selling to, and is that changing? What are the sales targets, and how are those impacting marketing priorities? Is your company getting more funding? Will there be a hiring push? All of these things can directly impact your content marketing strategy.

If the expectations around opportunity creation are more aggressive, for example, you’ll want to align closely with your demand gen team to make sure that you’re planning enough direct response content. Or if your company is gearing up for a hiring push, you could launch an “employee spotlight” blog or video series to help communicate your company’s culture and give HR some more diverse content to point to while talking with candidates.

3. What Portion of Your Budget Can You Dedicate to New or Untested Projects?

With content marketing, there’s a huge amount of opportunity to be creative in how you engage your target audience. But, as with everything, it’s a balancing act. Your toolbox should always be a mix of the tried and true and experimental. As you plan for next year, get a good handle on how much of your budget you can use for new ideas. Creativity can get expensive! Here are a couple examples of content that I love.

  • Design that makes you look closer. Mailchimp’s ebook covers are delightful—they really are. Each one is super unique and commands a second look. Heck, I’d even print these out and hang them by my desk if I was a Mailchimp user.
  • Storytelling at its best. If you haven’t seen InVision’s “Design Disruptors” documentary, watch it. It tells an inspiring, yet relatable story that’s endorsed by the biggest names in design and technology. Plus, it’s a beautiful video:
  • Not your average landing page. Intercom’s landing page for its ebook on product management is nontraditional in that it reminds me of how a publisher might promote a novel. There are all kinds of endorsements from respected industry folks (akin to how columnists at TIME and Rolling Stone might endorse a novel), which creates a sense of trust and urgency among target buyers. I also can’t leave out Invoca’s landing page for its most recent Call Intelligence Index. It mimics a deck of cards that you flip through before getting to the CTA.

4. How Can You Create New Opportunities for Collaboration, Inside Your Organization and Out?

Crafting your content marketing plan in a vacuum is no bueno. Make sure you’re getting input from demand gen, PR, and events/field marketing. Big content initiatives are at the heart of almost everything your marketing team does, so make sure you include your colleagues in the process. Depending on the size of your team, you could schedule one big meeting or separate one-on-ones to get a sense for everyone’s priorities next year.

You should also be asking yourself how you’re planning to collaborate with partners and influencers in the year ahead. Producing joint content with partners can add credibility to your efforts and help you extend your reach with promotion. Influencer outreach is also incredibly important when it comes to producing interesting, crowd-sourced content, and it ensures that you cast a wider net with content promotion. I’ve found that most of the time people are happy to participate in a blog post or SlideShare featuring expert opinions.

5. What Do Your Customers Really, Really Want?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to producing content that educates your prospects and customers. What keeps them up at night? What makes them look good in front of their boss?

As you plan for next year, I would encourage you to chat with your sales and customer success teams and get a refresher on what kind of questions or issues consistently arise. What typically keeps a prospect from moving from the evaluation to purchase stage? What questions does your customer success team regularly get?

6. Strategy Check-In

If you had a documented content marketing strategy last year, you were ahead of the game (according to CMI, only 32 percent of marketers had this). However, don’t treat your content strategy as a template that you simply update every year. As your business evolves, along with the outside world, it’s critical to ask yourself if you have the right strategy in place each year. Beyond that, consider putting a mission statement in place, so that there’s complete clarity and executive buy-in around what you’re setting out to achieve with content marketing.

Happy 2017 planning! I would love to hear from you in the comments if there’s things you’d add to this list.

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