We’ve put together ten of the most important questions that you need to ask to inform your content strategy and drive real, measurable results.
Quick aside: what is content?
Before we keep going, we need to define content.
When we refer to content, we don’t just mean blog posts and ebooks. We mean collateral or assets produced and owned by an organization to drive business objectives.
Some examples might include:
- Scripts, use cases, and other sales enablement tools
- Blog, case studies, explainer videos, and other inbound marketing materials
- Articles, white papers, ebooks and other thought leadership pieces
However, what content you produce will depend on your audience, your goals, and what channels you choose to deploy in (more on those in a minute).
Now, the questions:
1. Do you have a core vision and framework for your enterprise content strategy?
The absolutely most important question you need to ask is:
What is the point of your content?
This question is about two fundamental requirements.
First, it’s about generating a firm understanding of what you want your content to do. Is its purpose to drive sales, drive leads, increase awareness, increase sales velocity, build credibility, or something else completely?
All of these can be completed with content, but not all with the same content.
Before you start producing, you need to know what you want to achieve at the end.
Second, it’s about getting your relevant stakeholders and executives on board with your content strategy. Even in a small organization, you need to define what you do, why you do it, and why it’s worthwhile.
It’s also important to keep in mind that content may deliver a slower return on investment than other marketing initiatives. It’s about building an ecosystem where people can learn more about whatever you’re an expert in, and then (eventually) convert.
But this broad strokes approach to the sales funnel, and the fact you’re building an ecosystem rather than just hitting low-hanging fruit, means it takes a long time. It’s critical that before you start, everyone is on the same page.
2. Who are you targeting with your content?
Now that you have your objective, you need to identify the people you will be targeting with your content to achieve that objective.
Because the best content is designed to resonate with a specific audience for a specific purpose.
For example, if you were the owner of a small dry cleaning company, which of these two headlines is more enticing to you?
- 10 Ways To Improve Your SEO
- 10 Ways Dry Cleaners Can Drive 300% ROI With Improved SEO
The second one, of course!
And the only way you can create content that will resonate with your audience is by first identifying who your audience is.
3. What content formats will work best for your audience and objectives?
With digital media adding a nearly endless number of content formats, it’s tempting to create content for all of them – and difficult to know what’s right.
That might mean publishing lengthy white papers alongside short, pithy blog posts on your corporate website. Or it might mean running Pinterest boards alongside LinkedIn influencer posts.
But content shouldn’t be a purely scattershot approach. It should be a systematic analysis that starts with the question:
Where do my audiences hang out? What do they read, what do they do?
For instance, if you were targeting manufacturing plant managers, you’re more likely to find them on LinkedIn than Pinterest.
Your list of potential channels becomes your channel mix.
4. What content is right for your channel mix and audience that achieves your goals?
Up to this point, our questions have:
- Established what your organization wants to achieve with its content.
- Established who you’re targeting.
- Established where that audience spends their time and where you can reach them.
Next, you need to understand what content is going to be right for your channel mix to drive your audience to complete your objectives.
Essentially, you need to drive people to the content palace you’re building.
You need to identify the assets your audience likes and are appropriate. For enterprise products, white papers are a common asset because they let companies fully explain a complex challenge/problem, or SaaS products often use explainer videos to help people understand what they do. Other assets, like blog posts, will be used by most enterprise companies.
You need to find and develop a list of potential assets that are right for your audience.
5. What content can you generate internally and what do you need to bring in external parties?
Next, you need to understand what you’re actually capable of internally and what you need extra help with.
Unless you’re working with a full-service agency, you will likely be writing and producing some of your content internally. Blog posts, scripts, articles, ebooks, and case studies are all work that is often produced by internal marketing departments.
However, things like infographics, websites/landing pages, animated videos, explainer videos, podcasts, or video case studies are often produced by third parties. It’s important that you clarify what you can do yourself and what you need to bring in help for. Part of this is, of course, a budget exercise. But it’s also about content planning.
If you’re planning on producing ten blog posts per month but want to have them produced by a third party, that’s a very different time commitment than writing ten articles yourself.
6. Are you going to engage third-party content owners?
More than B2C companies, B2B enterprise organizations rely heavily on third-party validation to build, promote, and distribute their content.
Things like being featured in a Forrester report, promoted to a higher ranking on Capterra, or commissioning a report or survey are all examples of leveraging third-party providers to generate content.
It’s important to know what external sources are out there and how you plan to use them to help you clarify what you can do yourself and what you need help with.
7. How are you planning on reusing your content?
Next, before you put pen to paper or start recording, you need to think about how you’re going to repurpose your content multiple times.
Repurposing your content serves two major functions:
- It lowers your per-collateral costs (and thus increases ROI)
- It helps you continue to publish content all the time.
And conveniently, these are two of the most significant challenges facing content marketing:
- Content is expensive, how do we make it cheaper?
If you plan on how to reuse your content from the start, it’s easier down the line to meet your targets using content marketing.
8. Do you have a pre-defined content workflow?
First, you need to establish if you have a defined system for getting content from an idea to a live deliverable.
I don’t have a process
Some enterprise organizations are small enough that it doesn’t make sense.
But not most.
Most organizations benefit or require at least some formalized sign off or approval:
Brand consistency is easier to maintain if one person/team gets a birds-eye view of everything produced.
Compliance might have to approve content in regulated industries.
Product teams may offer insights into the validity and quality of content.
Technical teams can offer advice and ‘sense check’ content (especially in for technical products).
I do have a process
If your workflow is humming along brilliantly, then great! You can keep going.
But there is such thing as too much process. If you already have an approvals systems in place, it’s usually worth revisiting it.
Are there bottlenecks that regularly prevent distribution or cause stress? Are there tools you can leverage to speed approvals along? Are too many stakeholders involved in the delivery process?
We’ve found that most workflows and processes that have been around for 1+ years aren’t perfect, and there are known ways to improve them.
If you’re planning on scaling your content, it might be worth revisiting these.
9. How are you storing your documents and various versions of your documents and elements?
One of the most overlooked parts of content strategy is the infrastructure needed to support it, specifically where your content lives in the short- and long-term.
First, there needs to be a system where content can be stored, gated, and accessed by leads and customers. A website powered by a content management system, or CMS, is typically used for this.
Second, you need a place where versions of the same document can be stored. Things like personalized sales documents, proposals, pitch decks and other sales enablement tools are especially prone to local storage and disorganization. Digital Asset Management systems are often used to accomplish this goal.
Third, you need a way to search through this system to see what you have (and what you don’t). We find that clients often reproduce content they already have, again and again, causing significant cost increases and loss of productivity.
And finally, you need to ask yourself: are the people who use this process actually happy using it? Because if not, they’ll simply abandon your processes and go back to saving everything on their desktops.
10. Does your content strategy extend to your internal staff?
Content strategy can be a glorified editorial calendar or it can include every internal document your business produces.
For most organizations, the answer lies somewhere in between.
The benefit of content strategy being focused on marketing content is that it has lots of time and resources to pour into a single specific thing: driving leads using content. This is a great way to maximize returns.
However, if you can successfully leverage internal resources that collectively make up your institutional memory – things like training content, customer/staff surveys, campaign data, sales snippets, and more – then you can be enormously effective as a content engine.
You have more content to work with and repurpose, and second, you simply know more. You have public-facing and internal content all working in lockstep so your total customer – and employee – experience is simply better.
Content is often viewed as a black hole or a money sink, when in fact it can be a powerful revenue generator.
By approaching content generation, management, infrastructure, production, repurposing, and scope strategically and methodically, content can emerge as a pillar that supports broader business objectives.
The time of content being relegated to a small corner of the marketing team is gone. It’s conquered marketing, and now it’s here for the rest of the C suite.