Once you have the elements of your B2B content strategy in place — the “why” of your content, “who” you are targeting and “what” you have to say — then you may think the next step is simply to write content and put it out there. But, the next step should actually be to determine “how” you are going to deliver this content and “when.” In other words, you need a content plan. Your strategy will inform your plan, but keep in mind that they’re two different things with two distinct purposes: the strategy aligns to business objectives, and the plan maps tactical execution.

Creating a content plan is a necessary step to successful B2B content marketing, because otherwise your messages won’t be aligned, your content assets won’t work together, the buyer’s journey will be confusing, and ultimately you won’t get the return on investment you’re looking for.

56% of the content marketing groups surveyed don’t take a strategic approach to managing content, because leadership hasn’t made it a priority.

Content marketing institute

Here are the five critical steps to building a powerful B2B content plan:

1. Establish your theme

Start with a theme that ties your messages together. B2B content needs to share a similar storyline, whether it’s based on a specific campaign, product or service. While “we’re launching a new product” or “we need to grow awareness” are great reasons to create content, they are not storylines or messaging themes — and business buyers won’t respond to them. Instead, go back to your mission, vision and purpose. Why did you create this product? Why is it important for potential business customers to be aware of what you do?

For example, if you’re launching a new communication tool in your product suite, then focus on human-to-human connections. If you’re adding a marketing team specifically for your channel partners, then tell the story about enabling business reach and revenue opportunity.

The content theme is customer-focused and points back to your “why”.

Don’t forget to incorporate your SEO strategy in your content plan. Leverage your business search keywords in each step.

2. Create long-form content.

A meaty piece of long-form content helps you define and express your chosen theme. In fact, because the theme is based on a big-picture view of “why” you’re creating content, it will be general enough to create at least a few pieces of long-form content.

For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry and your content theme is focused on delivering a software solution that supports genuine human interactions in the face of digital transformation, then you might write a white paper, e-book and video script. One content asset could provide several examples of how technology improves the quality of care, with each example highlighting successes delivered by the technology. Another piece of content might showcase several digital healthcare solutions coming in the next three to five years, including how to ensure the human element is taken into consideration when those solutions are implemented. A final long-form asset might include testimonials from patients who enjoyed better interactions with healthcare providers and ultimately improved health outcomes with the help of your technology solution.

This is your opportunity to really dig in and deliver informational and educational B2B content that resonates with your targets and drives action. These bottom-of-the-funnel assets position your company as a thought leader, as businesses look to white papers, case studies, videos, vlogs, podcasts, editorials and e-books to perform research that will inform buying decisions.

70 percent of the content marketing groups surveyed reported that they create content on a project-basis to respond to an internal request or for a particular persona, instead of based on a strategy or plan.

Content marketing institute

3. Cannibalize your long-form content into short-form assets.

Once your long-form content is published, the next step is to break up that content into several short-form content assets such as emails, blogs, articles, images, quotes, social posts and ads. Think of these pieces as “spin-offs” and “remixes” of the long-form pieces. These bite-sized pieces are easily digestible, quickly scannable and great for the top of the business buyer’s funnel. Your short-form pieces point back to the longer content assets, which leads prospects through the buyer’s journey.

For example, if you are in the agriculture industry, you could publish a long-form industry report detailing necessary information for the upcoming harvest season. Short-form pieces can be spun off to tease stats and quotes on social, blogs and ads. These brief business snippets tempt potential buyers to download the full report.

Short-form B2B content assets are great for nurturing leads, as you can dole out several different pieces of copy around the same topic at all stages of your nurturing cycle.

4. Map content distribution.

Using channels that align with your target’s information preferences, distribute your B2B content and make sure it’s easily sharable. Part of planning means mapping out the customer’s journey to ensure you understand what you want prospects to do when they interact with the content. What is the next piece of content you want your audience to consume? What download do you want the prospect to take? Is there a campaign landing page you want the buyer to experience? In other words, what is the next step?

That also means planning in advance which assets will be gated and ungated, where they will “live” and what stage of the funnel they fall into. You’re designing an engaging experience with your business content, so make sure that experience is logical, seamless and on-brand.

One of the main reasons content marketing teams get taken off track is because they’re responding to requests or implementing feedback that doesn’t align with the content strategy’s overall goals.

5. Measure the response you get.

Get your data and analytics experts involved early in the planning stages, and set key performance indicators and goals. Each content asset you create needs to have a specific goal in the buyer’s journey and a way to measure achievement of that goal.

If you’re posting short-form content on social media, then look at impressions and likes. If the social post points to a landing page, then look at click-throughs. If the landing page has ungated content, then look at time on site. All this data will give you insight into your audience’s behavior, which helps you understand which pieces of content resonate with your prospects. Use that information to create more short-form content pieces and to direct the approach for the next long-form piece, the next campaign theme and the next content plan.

Data informs your next business move. Remember, listening to your audience is the most important step. Based on your audience’s interest, you’ll refine and improve your B2B content so that it improves with each iteration.

42 percent of the content marketing groups surveyed have “not yet acquired” the right technology to manage content across the enterprise, and another 42 percent say they “have acquired the technology but are not using it to its potential.”

Content marketing insititue

Regardless of what role you play in your content marketing team — whether you focus on data/analytics, automation, SEO or copywriting — it’s important to have a content strategy in place that everyone can refer back to and work from. Leave a comment below and let me know whether your organization takes a strategic approach to content creation.

Don’t forget: The communication doesn’t end once you have converted a new customer. Always include your current customer base in your content plans. It’s not just about getting new clients — it’s about building loyalty and growing with the customers you have.

Are you ready to get started? Take a peek at a sample content plan.

Related Articles:

4 Steps to Storytelling in B2B Content Marketing

9 Reasons Why You May be Exceeding Your Content Marketing Budget

What Type of Content Should You Be Posting On Each Social Channel?

About the Author

Rae Palmer – Content Editor

As a content editor at Elevation Marketing, Rae proofreads all content before it gets handed off to the client, helps create content plans and strategies, and manage processes and workloads for our team of writers.