As a B2B inbound marketer, I spend a lot of time and energy creating content. Everything from blog posts to case studies to white papers to ebooks…you name it…and I’ve probably created it.
Because I spend a lot of time on content, when it doesn’t perform well, it is very frustrating. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent hours creating something for essentially no gain. When I see two or more strikes in a row, I feel like throwing in the towel.
But throwing in the towel is not the right thing to do. As I have learned, making a few tweaks to the content itself or to the process can have a significant impact on results. And it all starts with the editorial calendar.
Content is the fuel for any marketing approach but especially for an inbound approach. Building an organized structure to manage all of that content creation is critical to your success. An editorial calendar can help you create that structure.
You may be thinking…duh, Stacy…of course we need an editorial calendar. However, you’d be surprised to learn how many small to mid-size B2B marketing teams just wing it or loosely follow a calendar.
In fact, did you know that only 48% of small B2B marketing teams have a documented content strategy? That’s less than half. Chances are if you haven’t taken the time to document your strategy, then you probably don’t have an effective editorial calendar either.
The goal for all content is to drive leads. If your content isn’t performing how you expect it to, start at the beginning by evaluating your editorial calendar – or in some cases, by creating one.
Here are five tips to help you evaluate or build an editorial calendar that will help you create content that has an impact.
1. Spend some quality time with your buyer personas
The content you’re creating should have a very defined audience – your buyer personas. If your content is not generating leads, then it isn’t resonating with your buyer personas.
It’s possible that some of the assumptions you made about them aren’t quite right. Take the time to revisit all of the information you’ve pulled together about them. Work with your team – including sales reps and sales development reps – to review what you put together. Pay close attention to the questions you thought they were trying to answer.
Update your buyer persona documents as necessary and review your editorial calendar. Modify your blog topics and premium content plan to reflect what you’ve learned.
This task is something that needs to be done on a regular basis. Metrics will tell you what topics are working and which ones are not. Continually adjust the calendar as necessary.
2. Revisit the buyer’s journey
Now that you’ve reviewed your buyer personas, take a look at the buyer’s journey for each one. Does your editorial calendar incorporate content for all phases? Have you learned something about the actions your buyer personas take at each phase?
The answers to those questions will help shape your calendar. Another way to look at content in respect to the buyer’s journey is to create a content map. It helps you identify what you already have and areas where you may be weak. The information it provides will influence your editorial calendar moving forward.
3. Brainstorm with your team
One of the biggest issues I hear from fellow marketers is generating content ideas to fill the editorial calendar. While revisiting your buyer personas and the buyer journey will help with that, brainstorming with your team can be an excellent source of ideas.
Schedule a 30-minute meeting with key team members who interact with customers and prospects. Think outside of marketing and sales. Include customer service reps or service technicians.
Ask them about the concerns or issues they are hearing from prospects and customers and make a list. Record every idea they have for topics and then refine them on your own. Hold these meetings quarterly. The answers prospects are looking for today may be completely different in three months.
Idea generation doesn’t have to be hard. Involve the whole team and you’ll have more ideas than space on the editorial calendar.
4. Take a comprehensive approach
There are many types of content that can educate your audience on a particular subject or idea. For example, Imagine has created a whitepaper about lead nurturing. It covers several types of lead nurturing, best practices, technology, etc.
Since that piece was published, we have also written several blog posts on the same topic – and that was by design. Just one blog post or whitepaper or checklist isn’t enough to really educate your audience on a particular subject. Effective editorial calendars include many pieces that all focus on the same topic.
Identify your topic and the pieces you will create. Use your editorial calendar to spread the publication dates out over 6-8 weeks. Measure and repeat with another topic.
Not only does this allow you to reinforce your teaching point of view but also cuts down on the content creation load. Once you’ve created a whitepaper, it is easy to pull bits and pieces from it to create blog posts or even a checklist.
5. Create an editorial calendar format that works for you
The tools available to use for an editorial calendar are many – I’ll write about them in a future blog post. The key is to choose a format that works for you and your team.
At Imagine, we use Trello. Before that, we used an Excel spreadsheet. We now have some clients using Smartsheet. Experiment and choose the one that works best for you.
Sometimes content is ineffective simply because of a lack of structure or outdated information. An effective editorial calendar is something that needs to be reviewed and revised on a consistent basis. Treating it as a living, always-changing tool – as opposed to a static list - will help you achieve better results.