Unless you luck out with an overnight viral video, content marketing is usually a marathon, not a sprint. But with regular, relevant and valuable content – effectively produced and amplified – you’ll start seeing your desired outcomes before too long. 

And just like running a marathon, preparation is key. Fail to put in the groundwork and you’ll ultimately come up short. Not all brands have the stamina for it and fall by the wayside without achieving their objectives – but that just clears the way for others to take advantage!

The Content race gets harder in 2022

In 2022, things are going to get even tougher for brands trying to cut through with content and find an active and engaged audience. We told you we don’t pull any punches…

In the Content Marketing Institute’s trends piece for 2022, experts warned of it being “hard to build followings because audiences are going to tire of the massive amounts of content” and “clutter will be even harder to cut through” requiring brands to “have a huge budget”.  

Some brands will see this as a reason to prioritise other tactics. But the fact remains that content is your biggest and best weapon for nudging buyers/customers down the sales funnel by providing them with what they want and need to hear at every stage.

95% of the B2B service and product buyers admit that they view content as a trustworthy marker when evaluating a business (Demand Gen Report)

There will be, as there always are, winners and losers in 2022. But how can you ensure your brand comes out on top? You need to start putting together a sustainable content plan, starting from the ground up.

32% of marketers think their content creation workflow is fair or poor (CMI)

Here are the four essential pillars of any content plan:

Step 1: Gather content insights

Before you even think about production, ask yourself where you are currently and where you want to get to in 2022.

The answers to these questions will define your content and ensure you’re working with clear goals in mind. Sit down as a team and get it all documented:

·       Short-term and long-term goals – be as specific as possible

·       Challenges – potential challenges and how to overcome them

·       Key themes – tune into what’s happening in your industry right now

·       Content audit – consider any existing content that could be used/repurposed

·       Gap analysis – identify content gaps based on competitors/persona pain points/social listening

·       Knowledge sharing – who in the business is best placed to share their expertise

65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 14% of the least successful (CMI)

Step 2: Develop your marketing personas

Marketing personas are as old as time, but the data informing them should be bang up to date.

Big data means that brands have the ability to develop more accurate and detailed marketing personas than ever before in 2022.

As Jason Schemmel, social media manager at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, says: “With each passing year, society is more connected and companies are providing more insights and data.”

The challenge comes in extracting and making sense of all the data. Ryan Knott, public relations specialist at TechSmith Corp, talks about big data becoming “small data”. 

“We’ll need to do a much better job of taking the huge amounts of data we’re gathering and distil it down to essential pieces of information that help us better identify the day-to-day problems people face and how we can help solve them,” he told CMI.

To get to that point, brands need to make sure they’re validating their data by running it past human intelligence. In other words, find out if the data resonates with the customer service team who are speaking on a daily basis with customers/clients.

Build those personas from a place of ignorance – try to leave your own preconceptions out of it and start from scratch. 

Step 3: Start populating your content plan

After weeks of doing the hard graft, you can finally start populating that content plan with ideas.

If you’ve done steps one and two right – identified pain points, gaps in the market, reusable existing content etc. – the ideation phase should be relatively straightforward.

The tricky bit is systematically arranging those ideas to chart a journey that leads to your target customers making a purchase.

In B2C, you can sometimes get decent wins off the back of a piece of viral content – but it probably won’t sustain. For B2B brands, the buyer journey can often be long and complex – purchases usually require the buy-in of multiple stakeholders which naturally makes things more complicated.

75% of B2B buyers agreed or strongly agreed that their purchases involved people from a wide variety of roles, teams, and locations (Gartner)

For both B2C and B2B, consistency is key – it’s all about building momentum and keeping customers engaged over the long run.  

Google’s ‘Hero, Hub, Hygiene’ model was originally designed for video content, but it’s an approach that can be adopted for all types of content, for brands looking to ensure their customers’ needs are met.

The ‘three Hs’ covers all bases: from drawing in new audiences to nurturing the longevity of your current customer relationships, and providing all necessary info on your brand.

–      Hero – big-ticket content that delivers depth, awareness and engagement

–      Hub – industry-focused and trend-led content

–      Hygiene – everyday content that explains, describes and helps

It’s just one approach to content planning, but it has stood up to the test of time (it was first introduced in 2014) for good reason: it’s designed to help brands build trust and credibility, not just awareness.

Whatever content plan model you go with, you need to be systematic in your approach. Identify your content pillars (topics that are of interest to your audience) and their subtopics before deciding which content format they would work best in (blog/e-book/infographic/video?) – then ensuring you’re creating the content so that it aligns with search intent, and the right keywords.

If you get your big-ticket content right, the rest will fall into place. You can ‘milk’ the hero content for all it’s worth by planning further content off the back of it. Not only will you never run out of ideas, you can keep pointing customers back to your big-ticket content to show them the full value of your brand. 

Step 4: Measure, report and optimise

No content plan should be static – it needs to be constantly in flux, adapting to market trends, customer pain points and, perhaps most importantly, your key performance indicators (KPIs).

If you’re developing a content plan at the start of 2022, chances are things could’ve changed considerably by the time we reach Q3 or Q4. 

The pandemic is the perfect example of why you need to keep coming back and assessing your content plan. Many brands might’ve planned for all the chat around Covid to be hushed – if not eradicated – by the second half of 2021 and populated their content plan accordingly. Then along came Omicron.

Content plans need an element of flexibility so that you can adjust to the unpredictable – and have some room for continuous improvement, so that you can learn from and implement reporting insights.

For reporting purposes, tie your KPIs to your goals; make sure they matter to your business and the journey it’s on.

Here are a few KPIs to consider:

·                Target keyword rankings

·                Overall keyword growth

·                Increased organic visibility percentage

·                Traffic

·                Engagement

·                Conversions

Make sure you continually feed your insights back into your content plan. As the CMI concludes in its 2022 trends piece, a content plan must be able to adapt “whether the change comes from technology, audience preferences, or even a change in your company’s business offerings”.

Are you ready to make your content marketing more agile and informed in 2022? At Q Content, we’ve developed an approach which delivers the right content, at the right time, in the right format. 

It all begins with ensuring that you have the right foundations in place so that you’re making decisions about your content which are as informed as possible. We can help you create a content plan that is in sync with your audience and their challenges – positioning your business as the brand to help them overcome them. 

Get in touch to discover how we can make that happen for you.

Ben Hollom

January 26, 2022