B2B inbound demand generation without a content marketing plan is like trying to drive a car without an engine.
Inbound demand generation means different things to different people. Ask five marketers and chances are you’ll get five different answers. To us, it means providing potential buyers with a friction-free path to purchase along the buyer’s journey. This generates awareness, traffic, and opportunities in your pipeline.
A crucial part of both inbound marketing and inbound demand generation is content. Without it, potential buyers can’t self-discover, self-educate, or self-select potential suppliers.
To give potential buyers what they want and get the results you expect, you need to plan, structure, and craft all your content for inbound demand generation carefully.
Here’s how to start your own content marketing plan and give your inbound demand generation some traction.
Creating a content marketing plan
Creating a content marketing plan: 7 steps to success
1. Define your audience
You know those bad dates where all they do is talk about themselves? We’ve all been there, and it’s no fun.
That’s why defining your audience is pivotal to any content marketing plan. It helps you to keep content aligned to the needs of your audience rather than the interests of your business.
A great way to do this is to create a buyer persona.
“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data.”
A buyer persona defines who you’re trying to reach with your content. It includes information like job role, goals, challenges, pain points, objectives, and buying behaviour.
When done well, buyer personas help to fuel relevant content for your B2B demand generation.
2. Audit your existing content
You wouldn’t do the groceries without checking the cupboards, so make sure you review the content you’ve already got before starting your plan.
The aim of a content audit is to order your existing content and assess how you can use it to attract, engage, and delight prospects. Be thorough during an audit. Focus on what’s useful for your buyer persona, identify content that needs updating, and note any obvious gaps.
If you audit your content, you’ll set yourself up for success because you’ll:
- Avoid duplicating content
- Spot where you can increase engagement with existing content
- Identify redundant content
- Generate ideas for new content
“A content audit describes the process of collecting and analysing assets on a website, such as landing pages or blog posts. Content audits keep an inventory of a website and provide insight into which content to create, update, re-write, or delete.”
3. Choose topics wisely
Bill Gates was right when he said, “content is king”. But producing lots of mediocre content isn’t going to fill your pipeline. It must be quality, relevant, and engaging to generate demand.
Choosing the right topics plays a big part in making sure your content is relevant. Here are some tips to help your thinking.
Use what you already know
- Think of ideas with your buyer in mind. Use your buyer persona information to start thinking about the kinds of subjects your audience will find useful. Remember, this is the most important point to consider next time you’re choosing content topics.
- Learn from real customer feedback. If you have insights from talking directly to your customers, use them! See what you can learn from surveys, sales teams, call notes, ideal customer profiles (ICPs), or customer support tickets.
Go where your audience goes for information
- Where does your audience go to ask questions? Do they comment at your events and webinars, use forums like Stack Overflow, or regularly ask other industry experts questions on social media? Do a little digging and see if there are any common questions you can answer for them.
Get help from marketing tools
- Using tools like Ahrefs can help you find what your buyer persona is searching for online.
- Social listening tools can help you assess your brand reputation and customer sentiment on social media – this might give you some ideas for topics straight from your followers.
- Use website analytics tools to see what topics have performed well so far.
Look at your industry
- Is anything disrupting your industry?
- What are competitors talking about, and what are they doing well/not so well? Don’t be afraid to have different opinions from your peers – expressing those opinions with confidence will help you to own your space in the market.
- Are there any interesting news stories or events you could draw inspiration from?
4. Organise your content strategically
It’s important that your content is visible to search engines, published on the right channels, well-organised, and supports prospects through their path to purchase.
That’s a lot to think about, but it’s crucial for successful B2B demand generation.
Structure for SEO
Use the topic cluster model. This helps you to organise content on your website in a clear, logical structure that’s optimised for search.
With the topic cluster model, there’s a “pillar” piece of content which covers a broad topic, like B2B content marketing. Then, there are cluster pages with in-depth content that links back to the pillar and other cluster pages. For example, blogs on writing tips and content planning would link to each other and back to the pillar page on B2B content marketing. This tells search engines that you have authority on the topic and should improve your ranking for the target topics over time.
Think about how you can sort your ideas into topic pillars and clusters. You might find some come easily, but others don’t quite fit. That’s ok, just prioritise the ones that do and save the others for later.
5. Define the journey stage, content type, and channel
It’s important to plan content for every stage of the buyer’s journey so you give prospects what they need to move along the path to purchase. Look at your plan and include a variety of content and topics to keep them engaged and informed.
- At the awareness stage, the buyer is aware of a problem or challenge and is looking to define it. Focus on educational content that addresses common problems to entice prospects to learn more. Think blog posts, eBooks, or educational videos.
- At the consideration stage, the buyer has defined the problem and is looking for ways to address it. Content like case studies and product comparison guides help them to shortlist potential providers.
- At the decision stage, buyers are evaluating providers to find the one that best serves their needs. Content should showcase USPs and benefits to the buyer, so content like product demos and consultations are effective.
It’s important to ensure the content makes sense for the stage in the buyer’s journey, but it’s also important that the format works for the topic and channel. Don’t be afraid of introducing new content types to keep your work fresh and give prospects freedom of choice.
When you’ve decided what content to produce, consider which channels you’ll use to get it in front of potential customers.
6. Create a content plan
To help you make your content marketing plan a success, use a planning tool to map out your ideas and track the progress of your content. With everything in one place, it’s easier to see what you’ve done and still need to do.
If you note down information like keywords, working titles, journey stage, and publication status, your plan will become a living, breathing resource for all team members to refer to and learn from.
Here’s some information we’d recommend including in your plan:
- Topic cluster
- Keyword and monthly search volume
- Journey stage
- Type of content
- Working title
- Internal links to clusters
- Call to action
- Publication status
7. Create, publish, repurpose, assess, repeat
When the plan is complete, it’s time to get to work. Produce top-quality content, publish and promote it, repurpose it for different channels, check how it’s performing, and keep the pace up. That way, your content marketing plan will fuel your B2B demand generation.
Happy content planning.