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Making a Content Strategy Template? Here’s What to Consider

Making a Content Strategy Template? Here’s What to Consider

The internet is a vast, infinite hole of everything you’ll ever need to know. What makes up just about everything on the internet from the B2B-centric articles that you read to the games you play is all content. In the modern age of internet jargon, we tend to think of articles or blogs when we hear the word “content,” but there’s so much more to it than that. Webinars? Content. Video posts? Content. Social media feeds? Content.

According to HubSpot, content is any piece of your marketing plan that continuously demonstrates who you are and the expertise that you bring to your industry — which brings us to the topic of this particular piece of content: your B2B company’s content strategy.

Why you need a strategy

You don’t put anything out into the world without any purpose behind it, do you? (At least, from a business perspective, I’m not going to draw any conclusions about your personal Twitter feed.) So why would you release content willy-nilly, without thinking about your strategy for rolling it out? But where to start? First off, think about what role content plays in your company’s marketing strategy. What kinds of content marketing ideas do you have that not only fall seamlessly into your company’s strategic marketing process and maybe even enhance it?

When creating your content strategy template

It’s understandable to be intimidated by the idea of creating a bigger picture plan for content that you’re used to just creating when you get the chance. However, you’ll quickly realize that doing this allows you to have more purpose behind your work, and it might even begin performing better once it’s more tailored to your audience. Here at SmarkLabs, we have ten tenets in mind when brainstorming our content strategies:

Publishing consistently

Have you ever looked at a webpage and seen that the last thing they released was from 2017? Or even earlier? Did you stop and think that maybe they’re not even in business anymore? The key to any content strategy template is regular publishing — not only do you want to stay at the top of potential customers’ minds, but you don’t want them to write you off for inconsistency.

Content should provoke action or have a goal

With each piece of content that you create, make sure there’s a reason behind it. Maybe you’re not trying to make a sale with a specific blog post, but perhaps you’re trying to establish trust with your audience, position yourself as a thought leader, or inform people of your services. There might not always an action taken after consuming a blog or video of yours, but there should always be a goal behind it.

Content is relevant to the buyer’s journey

Nobody is going to read or watch something that doesn’t serve them in some way. Try to make sure your content reaches your potential customers at an appropriate time in their buyer’s journey and, hopefully, even moves them forward to their next step.

Clear documented production process

Chances are, you’re not the only one at your company producing content. Whether you’re working with a team of writers, videographers, and graphic designers, you’ll want everyone on the same page when it comes to the production of these items. If there are deadlines, everyone should be well aware of them and given ample time to produce their pieces.

Align content with the strengths of the brand

This is yet another opportunity to get your company in front of people who may not be familiar. You want it to emphasize your strengths, not your shortcomings. What do you want people to know you can do? 

Prioritize original content

Sure, you might not break new ground with each blog post you write or video you create. But that doesn’t mean you should just regurgitate what’s already out there. Whatever you create, you want it to be on-brand for your company and add a little something new to the conversation.

Set a clear plan for promoting content

How active are you on social media? Do you regularly send out newsletters? How big is your reach, and how do you plan to grow it? These are things you should ask yourself when creating your content strategy template. Some things, like visual content, work better on social media, while written content might perform better in a newsletter.

What about SEO

For a while, there was a conversation about how important SEO really was in the world of high-quality content marketing. Needless to say, it’s still pretty important — it just takes more thought than it used to. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. We’re talking about thorough keyword research and targeting now.

Think about tone and style

Your content is an extension of your brand, so it should seem like it. If the rest of your content marketing ideas are conversational and light, your videos shouldn’t be bland. If your marketing materials are strictly professional, you shouldn’t be using slang in your blogs.

Prioritize visual content

Humans are naturally drawn to visuals over blocks of text. If you’re writing about a topic that’s explained better with charts, have a graphic designer on your team put something together that will really enhance the piece. This is especially important if the piece is shared on highly visual mediums like Instagram.

You Need a Go-To-Market Strategy. Here’s How to Establish It.

You Need a Go-To-Market Strategy. Here’s How to Establish It.

When your company is launching a new product or service, or even just refreshing your brand messaging, you need to have a solid strategy backing you up. You might think, “well yeah, you shouldn’t unveil anything without having a strategy in mind.” However, “just a strategy” isn’t enough. What you need is a go-to-market strategy (GTM).

What’s a go-to-market strategy?

Your company’s go-to-market strategy is the plan to deliver your unique value proposition to customers, using both your inside and outside resources. While this might be easy to confuse with a marketing strategy, the most significant difference between the two is that a marketing strategy is for your brand. Your GTM strategy is unique to your latest launch and a subset of your overall marketing strategy.

The whys, whos, whens, and hows, are four significant differences that set your go-to-market strategy apart from your marketing strategy:

  • Why: The purpose of your marketing strategy is to create an approach to achieving a competitive advantage. But your GTM strategy’s objective is to make sure a specific product launch reaches the right audience.
  • Who: Typically, your B2B company’s marketing team works together on the brand’s marketing strategy. A smaller product marketing team usually runs GTMs.
  • When: Though your marketing strategy is ongoing and continuously changing, it always includes marketing for your brand as a whole. A GTM strategy typically has a fixed timeline and is focused on a new aspect of the business.
  • How: Communication is vital in both your marketing strategy and your go-to-market strategy. While your marketing strategy communicates the brand promise to your customers, your GTM is delivering the vision of the product. The brand itself takes more of a backseat.

Why a GTM strategy is necessary

Think back to your college days when you always seemed to have another paper due, alongside your other assignments. Chances are, you kept yourself organized by establishing an outline before diving into your paper. That’s a lot like working on your go-to-market strategy. You’re likely working on other marketing projects as well. Outlining your plan to stay on track is a great way to know what direction you’re headed in, ensuring you’re targeting the right people.

Establishing your go-to-market strategy

When building your GTM, you need to ask yourself a few essential questions beyond what new product you’re trying to promote. Getting clear-cut answers to these questions will help you target your marketing to the correct audience. It can also allow you to determine whether you’re on the right path. This is always good to know before you launch a full-on plan that may not even lead potential customers through the buying journey. 

  • Who are you selling to? Is your target audience the same as your overall marketing strategy? Or are you looking to promote to a small subset of your audience?
  • What is your distribution strategy? How about the sources of marketing automation you’re going to use? What do you have experience with, and what will you try for the first time?
  • What process will your sales team use? And how will this process be communicated to the marketing team?
  • Will you also use indirect sales channels? If you choose to leverage partners, you need to understand and communicate why you made that choice.

Some other aspects to take into account are your industry competitors and similar products and services that are already available on the market. Are you offering something completely new? If not, establish how your product sets you apart from other options. What benefits do potential customers get from working with you instead of a competitor?

Building your go-to-market strategy

As you probably would guess, HubSpot is a great resource when it comes to making any marketing strategy — including your GTM. HubSpot’s even outlined seven steps to take to get it up and running:

Identify the buying center and personas

You didn’t think you’d be able to skip establishing your buyer personas, did you? The Harvard Business Review states that an average of 6.8 people are called upon to have a say in whether or not a company decides to use a B2B product. These seven roles may vary, with some people filling more than one. But most companies have the people in the following roles calling the shots. Which ones are you targeting?

    • The Initiator: Shows initial interest and spreads the word
    • User: The person who will spend the most time with your product
    • Influencer: The one convincing the rest of the team to get on board with your product
    • Decision maker: Makes the final call about whether or not to make the purchase
    • Buyer: The one with the company credit card
    • Approver: Final person who pushes the initiative along
    • Gatekeeper: The one who needs more convincing
Craft your value matrix and messaging

The value matrix is a breakdown of each buyer persona, their problems, and how your product can solve them. How will you tailor your message to each persona? As we’ve established time and time again, a little bit of personalization can go a long way.

Understanding your buyer’s journey

While each buyer persona might have a different reason for seeking our your new product or service, chances are, each buyer’s journey is essentially the same:

Realizing there’s a problem that needs solving > Looking for solutions > Researching which solutions work best for their specific needs and budget

There is no excuse for not having a full understanding of it! The first step is typically the top of the sales funnel, the second step has them heading toward the middle. Then, the bottom of the funnel is where you leverage the opportunity to show your potential customer that your product meets their needs the most.

Choose a sales strategy

Like go-to-markets, sales strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. HubSpot suggests taking complexity, scale, and costs into account when determining your strategy. Will you pursue a self-service, inside sales, field sales, channel model, or a mix of more than one?

Generate interest

Depending on how large and established your B2B company is, generating interest in a new product or service can be the most challenging step in developing a GTM. Luckily, we have all the information you need about demand generation in the B2B world in the Smark Blog.

Create content

Content marketing is likely a mainstay in your marketing strategy, but don’t discount its effectiveness in your GTM strategy. Leveraging SEO and driving inbound traffic to your site is a great way to generate interest and inform potential customers of your upcoming launch.

Optimize

You don’t only see commercials for products that haven’t come out yet. So why would you stop promoting your new service upon launch? Here is where optimizing comes in. As you watch how your content performs, you’ll see how many customers enter the sales funnel, and how many conversions you make. So you can determine how to best reach the people who need your product most.

Download our Buyer Persona Checklist!

Think about your selling strategy

I know, I know, it’s strategies upon strategies upon strategies. But that’s what marketers sign up for! You can build up plenty of hype around your new product or service, but your customers need to know that they’re getting a good deal — so your selling strategy is also tied in with your GTM. 

Will you rely on your customers to take the leap and purchase your new product upfront? If you’re well-established with a good track record of product launches and a solid list of contacts, this may be a viable option. However, if you’re more of a newbie in the B2B world, you may want to set up a free trial offer for a new service or discounted system for a new product. 

Another option for an up-and-comer in the B2B space is to use service-oriented channel partners to sell on your behalf. Otherwise, make sure to cover all of your bases. From warm emails and direct mail to your industry contacts to AdWords and other SEO campaigns, every little bit counts.

Now what?

Just because you put this much work into establishing your GTM doesn’t mean that it can’t be fluid. It should be, like your overall marketing strategy. Once your product launches, you probably won’t have much of a choice but to adapt your GTM strategy to what you’ve learned about your buyer’s journey.

This plays into the “optimize” step that HubSpot laid out. The more you learn about your customers and how they respond to your products and services, the more effectively you’re able to market to them. If all goes according to plan (and you plan to keep this service around a while), your GTM strategy will eventually roll into your B2B company’s overall marketing strategy. Isn’t marketing wild?

Is Your Website Secure? Navigating WordPress Security Issues

Is Your Website Secure? Navigating WordPress Security Issues

As we’ve discussed in our blog post, WordPress vs. HubSpot: Which CMS is Best for Your Business?, choosing the right CMS for your B2B company is a big decision. If you’ve done any research on the topic, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that WordPress is one of the leaders, powering 35% of all websites. You might be asking yourself, though, “What about all of those WordPress security issues I keep hearing about?” Let’s talk about whether you need to worry and what you can do to protect your website.

WordPress security

According to iThemes, WordPress runs on open source code. They also have a team that’s consistently monitoring the platform’s security and fixing any security issues that may come up in the core code. iThemes also states that the top five WordPress security issues include:

  1. Brute force attacks: The trial and error method of entering multiple usernames and password combinations until a successful combination works.
  2. File inclusion exploits: Using vulnerable code to load remote files that allow attackers to gain access to your website.
  3. SQL injections: When an attacker gains access to your WordPress database and your website data through WordPress’s MySQL database.
  4. Cross-site scripting: Getting a victim to load web pages with insecure javascript scripts.
  5. Malware: Code used to gain unauthorized access to a website to gather sensitive data.

Who should you worry about?

Chances are, you probably don’t have to worry about a guy in a ski mask with the ability to type faster than the speed of light, like in a ‘90s movie hacking your WordPress site. A more typical “attacker” is a bot or a botnet. That ski-masked hacker might have created these bots, but they’re an even bigger pain than a single attacker.

Most of the time, hackers make these bots to steal website data or send spam. However, in more extreme cases, your website can be hacked to attack other websites or even host malicious content. Since this kind of activity can ruin your reputation as a brand, it’s crucial to stay on top of your website’s security so you can resolve any potential security breaches early on.

What you can do

This information sounds daunting, especially if your customers do transactions on your website. But there’s some good news to keep in mind: WordPress really isn’t any less secure than any other CMS when you take the same common-sense precautions you take everywhere else on the internet. Starting with using a strong password.

Using a weak password is an amateur mistake. If your WordPress password is “Password123,” “pa55word” or “blink182,” open a new window and change it right now. Seriously. Right now. Change it to a password with a mixture of letters, numbers, and characters that you don’t use elsewhere.

Since WordPress regularly fixes issues in the core code, it’s imperative that when there’s a WordPress update available, you install it. I know we all hate updates. But always putting these necessary evils off is the ultimate way to leave holes in your website’s security. Your themes and plugins will also periodically require updating, so make sure you keep on top of that.

It can be tempting to use free plugins and themes, rather than paying for some of the attractive ones from WordPress itself. However, plugins and themes from untrustworthy sources are some of the most common ways that attackers can access your website. This is especially true of torrented versions of plugins and themes that usually cost money. In this case, you will probably get what you pay for — and then some. When it comes to plugins, though, using a trustworthy, authenticated security plugin can add an extra layer of protection to your website.

So, do I really have to worry about WordPress security issues?

Yes and no. While a security breach on your site is serious, it’s no more likely to happen if you use WordPress, as long as you make an effort to keep it secure. Taking preventative measures like using strong passwords, not using untrustworthy extensions, and keeping your software updated is like getting a flu shot and washing your hands during flu season. There’s still a chance you’ll get sick, but the risk is much lower.

How to Work With a B2B Marketing Agency

How to Work With a B2B Marketing Agency

Relationships can be tough, both in your personal and professional lives. The concept of two people with differing viewpoints and experiences working together isn’t always going to be easy. That said, unless you live off the land alone in the woods, you’re going to be working with other people. Luckily, there are ways to make working together in the professional world easy and even enjoyable. If you’re running a B2B business and have hemmed and hawed about whether to bring a B2B marketing agency into the picture, here’s what you should know.

Do I need an agency?

There are a few reasons a company realizes it might need to hire a B2B marketing agency. Maybe you’ve noticed that your workload has gotten too big for your team, or you need expertise that people in-house may not have. Content Marketing Institute suggests that the types of companies that would benefit from some agency assistance include:

  • Early-stage startups that need a flexible marketing solution
  • Mid-sized or large organizations without sufficient internal resources
  • Organizations with temporary staffing challenges
  • Business professionals who want to build their industry reputation

Many people think the best route to take when choosing an agency is making sure the team has experience working in their particular industry. This easy in the B2C world, where there are entire agencies dedicated to a small sector. But it can get trickier when you’re looking for a B2B marketing agency. Most B2B companies are pretty niche, so it’s likely that the agencies you talk to have never worked with another company just like yours.

The best approach is to think long and hard about what challenges you’re hoping this agency will help you work through and ask potential agencies if they’ve ever dealt with a similar situation, and what they accomplished.

Finding the one

What do you do when you’re considering any purchase? You read reviews. You ask your friends and colleagues. While this is undoubtedly a good jumping-off point when looking for your perfect agency, it’s not the only thing you should rely on. When evaluating your options, discuss some situations that may arise or challenges you’re currently having in the marketing area, and see how they would approach your case.

While agencies that you’re consulting with can help you work through what you might need and tailor their services for you, it’s essential to have a general idea of what you want and expect out of your B2B marketing agency. 

Sometimes it can be hard to nail this down in the beginning, especially when there are a lot of people involved in the decision-making process. Avoid a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation and include managers, bosses, executives, and anyone else who might want to be involved early on. You might not need them on every conference call, but they should understand the top objectives and the steps you and your prospective agency are taking to achieve them.

Transparency is key

When your team and an agency team begin working together, they’ll ask you what your goals are. Keep those in mind when assigning projects and revisit them often. Things are going to change, and expectations are going to shift, so you must relay any pertinent information as quickly as you can. 

Don’t wait until your B2B marketing agency team has finished a project to tell them that your direction has changed. Doing this will lead to a strained relationship on both sides, especially if the team is made to feel as if the misdirection was their fault when they didn’t have all of the information they needed. You can’t read their minds, and they can’t read yours!

To avoid roadblocks like this, keep lines of communication open. Formkeep reported that communication, or lack thereof, is one of the biggest problems that arise between clients and agencies. Neither party should leave the other hanging for days if a question needs to be answered. Establish a collaboration process that is clear about roles, responsibilities, and expectations for everyone involved. The agency you decide to work with will likely kick this discussion off, so it’s best to come to that talk prepared.

Reviewing content

As we talk about in our blog post, The Non-Marketer’s Guide to Reviewing and Approving Content Efficiently, one of the biggest reasons a marketing campaign stalls or stagnates is a failure to review and approve content. While it can be daunting to comb through a backlog of content, it’ll be better for your campaign and your relationship with your agency to get through that content quickly. Some tips for doing this, outlined in further detail in the linked blog post include:

  • Set expectations early on
  • Focus on the big picture rather than small details
  • Ask yourself questions about whether the content speaks to your bottom line
  • Look for flow and coherence
  • Double-check that the sources used are credible
  • Make sure there are CTAs

Once all of these boxes are checked, it’ll be much easier to wade through the content and allow your agency marketers to move along with the campaign.

Why You Need to Refresh Your Value Proposition in 2020

Why You Need to Refresh Your Value Proposition in 2020

The end of the year is coming up quickly! As we discussed in our blog post, The Ultimate 2020 Website Strategy Playbook, it’s the perfect time to take a good look at what’s been working for your B2B brand and what might need some work. You may have already done a website audit, gone over your budget for the upcoming year, and reassessed your SEO strategy. But we’re going to take a wild guess and assume it’s been a while since you’ve refreshed your value proposition. Don’t feel bad! That’s why we’re here. Let’s why you should take another look at this and how to do it.

What is a value proposition?

In simple terms, your brand’s value proposition is what entices customers into being interested in your product. It helps you align your marketing strategies to what gets your customers’ attention and what convinces them to seal the deal.

Entrepreneur Daniel Nilsson points out that, on average, you have about seven seconds to make an excellent first impression with someone who’s looking into your business. So your value proposition needs to be quick and snappy. That’s not to say that it’s a slogan or catchphrase, though. It needs to encompass both what your company does and how it serves your customers. Think of it more like the elevator pitch you use to describe yourself as a professional. Only about your business instead. At SmarkLabs, our value proposition is, “Driven by research, authentic content, and strategic marketing campaigns, we help tech-focused B2B companies accelerate revenue growth.”

Image: HubSpot

Why it might need a refresh 

Remember how bright-eyed and naive you were when you first started your business? Think about how much you’ve learned since then. You’ve learned more about your industry, you’ve learned through trial and error what works and what doesn’t, and you’ve learned more about what your customers are looking for when they come to you.

While a company’s value proposition is usually determined early on, especially when you’re building the website, there’s no reason to be married to that value prop. Like most things when it comes to business, your value proposition is fluid. So you should reassess it periodically as you learn more about your customers, and as your B2B brand grows and evolves.

In your early days, you probably didn’t have a clear idea of what your company was going to really do. Maybe potential customers come to your website and are still greeted with hyperbolic claims of you being the “best” in your industry. Don’t worry, though. That’s a common misstep that’s easy to remedy with a thoughtful new value proposition. Now you know, and you can relay that information to your potential customers. 

How to determine your new value proposition

Exo B2B suggests starting by determining the value you bring to your customers’ problems, challenges, and objectives. Chances are, as your team has grown and learned its strengths, this is different than it was when you established your value proposition years ago.

Luckily, we’ve gone over some tools you can use to help you with this in our blog post, 3 Tools to Help You Create a Strong B2B Value Proposition. But if you’re elaborating upon an old value proposition or creating a new one from scratch, think about the following questions to make sure you’re really speaking to what your company does now:

  • What do you offer your customers?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What sets you apart from other companies in your industry?

As you know, we’re huge advocates for collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. When it comes to developing your new value proposition, we have yet another reason to emphasize that importance. 

Many think of your value proposition as something that lives on your website. However, it should be a more significant part of your brand than that. Work together to create a value proposition that’s as effective when spoken by a sales rep as it is on your homepage.

Image: HubSpot

The impact on customer experience

Conversion rate optimization firm Invesp suggests testing your value proposition with an unbiased reader (or two, or three!) and asking them about the impression they got from it. Is that the message you want to send to potential customers? You can also run A/B tests on your homepage and see if one moves people along the website more than the other.

The key to keeping a customer moving through your sales funnel is to make things simple and easily accessible. Start with having a good value proposition that speaks to what your company can do for them at this point. When a potential customer speaks with you or a sales representative or takes a look around your website, you want them to take away the most crucial points about your business and what it can do for them.

Think about it; you have competitors. Your competitors have their own value propositions. Your competitors have that same seven seconds to get a potential client’s attention that you do. Make sure yours is good enough that they won’t even take the chance to look at anyone else.