January is a time for new beginnings, but after a frenetic festive period, it also gives you an opportunity to take stock of your content efforts during the last 12 months, with the view to making changes and amendments for what is set to be another busy and exciting year for marketers.
To give you a helping hand with strategy overhauls, green-lighting new campaigns and assembling creative teams, here is a seven-point checklist for how you can build a solid foundation for success in 2021.
Come up with a quick-start documented strategy
Research shows that brands with a documented strategy are more likely to be successful with their content marketing efforts. If you find the task of coming up with a comprehensive, detailed strategy overwhelming at the moment, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Research from Content Marketing Institute shows that the majority of marketers still don’t have one, even though many recognise its importance. Overcoming this psychological hurdle though will really help you in 2021.
Fortunately, you can come up with a basic strategy just by outlining your marketing, brand and business purpose (the why), what your audience wants and needs (the who), and how your content marketing will deliver value to that audience (the how).
With wider uncertainty about budgets and investment, crafting a documented strategy, even a simple one for now, will make it easier for you to create better campaigns and increase the chances of delivering ample return on investment (ROI).
Start building a culture of collaboration
Content marketing is never just a solo effort. It is an activity that requires a team to complete tasks that contribute to a greater whole. This same mindset should be adopted for strategy development and brainstorming ideas, according to Marketing Insider Group’s Michael Brenner.
He believes that regular content workshops and group sessions can help everyone to become more invested in content marketing. Perhaps more importantly in the current climate, it also provides flexibility as the team will be more readily able to change course to mitigate issues in a crisis or take advantage of new opportunities.
Outsource to increase coverage
With demand for content from consumers rising and 70% of B2B brands stating that they plan to invest in more content creation in 2021, building teams that can craft materials at scale will be crucial to success.
Expanding coverage capabilities by outsourcing to experienced professionals will arguably be the best route forward next year, as this will plug glaring skills gaps and provide agility amid wider uncertainty about the pandemic.
Outsourcing to an agency will give you access to a pool of copywriters and editors that can support your campaigns well into the new year.
If you are ready to help your internal team with external hires, creating a checklist that covers your expectations, the keywords and topics you want to explore, and the potential content formats that will communicate your messages is a good place to start.
Use the right distribution channels
B2B marketers are planning to rely heavily on blog posts and short articles during the next 12 months, but even the best content can get lost in the shuffle if it is not paired with the right distribution channel.
This last stage of the content process can be a difficult hurdle to overcome if you don’t have experience with a variety of connected platforms or a specific goal or objective outline for the piece in question.
For example, if you want to drive lead generation and web traffic, using organic social media platforms for a new video or blog is probably best. On the other hand, when attempting to cross-sell or increase brand loyalty, simple emails could do the job better.
You might also need to use paid distribution or influencers if you want your content to support audience growth, sales and marketing ROI.
Before you publish content, always consider how the platform can help you to achieve your objectives, and have metrics and KPIs in place that can demonstrate whether it is effective at doing so.
Continue to pivot
Content marketers weathered the storm well this year. 80% of respondents in Content Marketing Institute’s annual ‘Benchmark, Budgets and Trends’ report said that the changes they made due to the pandemic were effective and 86% either “strongly” or “somewhat agree” that some of those changes will be in place in 2021.
As marketers target the deployment of new strategies and campaigns in the coming months, the focus will again be on being proactive and reactive to real-world circumstances where possible, in order to remain afloat and potentially thrive in a disruptive environment.
Be relatable to executives
One trend for 2021 that has been touched on by a number of industry experts is being able to demonstrate the value of content marketing to executives to secure support and investment.
Venngage’s Nadya Khoja believes that this should also extend to strategies and objectives prior to the undertaking of a campaign, with the emphasis on using language, terms and visuals that business leaders will be able to latch onto quickly and understand.
If you want to effectively communicate strategies to higher-ups, one simple image with a clear road map of your performance expectations, plans and goals could be enough to get everyone on board for a renewed content push.
Review underperforming campaigns
Everyone prefers to remember the successful campaigns over the ones that failed, but Content Marketing Institute’s Kim Moutsos believes that there is value in looking back on what went wrong during the last 12 months, as this can inform decision-making in the future and prevent you from making the same mistakes again.
This review or audit should also throw up some useful pointers on how to tweak content for audiences in 2021. For example, you might see that a few optimised calls to action might have been needed to drive more engagement from a blog or article.
Armed with this knowledge, you can also go back to content you have published and make amendments and changes if necessary to give it a new lease of life.