Ann Handley’s 5 Keys to B2B Content Creation
What’s the best resolution you can make for your business in 2013? Establishing a content strategy that’s top notch. Content guru Ann Handley has five steps to get you going strong right out of the gate.
If ramping up your content creation is at the top of your to-do list in 2013 (and why wouldn’t it be — don’t you like connecting with customers and closing more sales?), then Ann Handley is your go-to guide. Not only does she have a best-selling book on the topic — Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, co-written with C.C. Chapman — she’s also the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, one of the best marketing resources around.
In this series of videos, Handley lays out the first five steps B2B companies can take toward effective content creation.
Step 1: Identify How B2B Content Creation Can Work Best for You
“With content marketing…companies can publish their way to the hearts and minds of their customers.”
Which businesses benefit from content marketing? As Handley points out in this short video, all of them do. Not only is it key to engaging with prospects and guiding customers down the path to purchase, it’s also a terrific vehicle displaying your industry thought leadership and setting you apart from your competitors.
The benefits are especially strong for small companies and B2B businesses as it also provides a far more engaging — and cost-effective — way to reach a large audience than traditional advertising or direct outreach.
That said, in order to get the most out of content, businesses need to develop an understanding of their audience’s unique needs in order to focus their efforts and develop a content strategy that generates maximum impact.
Step 2: Start a Corporate Blog
We know what you’re thinking — corporate blogs can be so, well, lame. But there’s no reason yours has to be. As Handley explains in this video, not only is starting a corporate blog one of the most effective tactics for B2B content creation, it’s also incredibly easy.
The tools aren’t complicated, and you can get your blog up and running in seven simple steps. Maintaining a corporate blog, on the other hand, is where things can get a little tricky. But with the right team and a shared mindset it has the potential to be the crux of your content marketing strategy, and you’ll absolutely see the results.
“In terms of how you go about [starting a blog], you definitely need the support of upper management,” Handley says. “Hopefully you can convince them that this is a longer-term initiative. It’s not a one-and-done thing, which is something that a lot of marketeers are used to doing.”
Step 3: Build Your Content Pipeline
So, you’re on board! You’ve secured buy-in for your corporate blogging efforts, you’ve chosen a content management system that fits your needs, and you’re ready and raring to go. Now, what’s left? Oh, right — the content.
No, sadly, it doesn’t just generate itself.
In this video, Handley offers her advice for institutionalizing content creation by making it part of your team’s day-to-day activities, and provides tips for getting your employees engaged effectively.
“There are a number of ways you can do that,” Handley says. First, of course, you need to be smart about “letting people know that you want to have them contributing to the blog and contributing guest posts from within the company.”
Don’t just push content creation off on your employees and leave them on their own. Give them some guidance, supply them with a template, and make it clear why content is a priority. Do everything you can to set them up to succeed and make sure they see the impact and results.
Step 4: Dive into Content Curation
When starting out, one incredibly easy and effective way to bolster your company’s content marketing strategy is to rely heavily on content curation.
Curation provides a sizable return for relatively little investment. Instead of scrambling to fill your pipeline with one-off content, with curation, you have an opportunity to publish material on a consistent schedule, and to extend your reach into a variety of subject areas (and audiences), as well.
How do you go about establishing a content curation process? With the use of Google Alerts, you can easily setup a system to stay informed on a number of potential topics. By curating posts from other industry experts and influencers you’ll have an opportunity to establish connections, generate new content opportunities, and learn a few things in the process!
“Think about being a resource to your readers,” Handley says. “Maybe that means producing some original content but it also means curating content and serving as an industry resource.”
Step 5: Develop Case Studies to Tell Your Company’s Story
“Telling the story of your customers through a case study or some other client narrative is a really great way to show how your company lives in the world, how it is that you do help your customers,” Handley says.
Companies often struggle to humanize themselves. One of the best ways to establish a connection with your customers — and clearly explain your role as a potential partner to new prospects — is to create case studies that present real-life examples of your product or service in action.
There are several keys to drafting a compelling case study, but Handley underscores the importance of focusing on the customer and making it their story. There really has to be a level of sincerity. Anything less will come off as see-through and too salesy.