The 13 Steps to Content Marketing Success

Content marketing is one of the best ways to create engagement, draw attention to your company, and boost sales. Here's how to master the art of content marketing in 13 steps.

Content marketing is the bee’s knees, which is why I’m prepared to teach you everything you need to know about it in less than 1,000 words (and in just 13 easy steps). Let’s jump right in:

Step 1: Set Your Goal

Content marketing is a tactical endeavor. For B2B marketers, there are multiple types of content, including content for engagement and content for conversions. Determine your goal first. Your goal should not include the content medium (video, infographic, whitepaper). Those are byproducts of your goal.

Content for engagement is more focused on thought leadership, interaction with your brand, and link bait.

Example: Caterpillar Giant Jenga video.

Content for conversions is more focused on specific conversions in the buyer’s journey. This is where staged-based content thrives. Check out this article on the three stages of the B2B buyer’s journey for more details on stage-based content.

Short-form vs. long-form: Content marketing works really well when you have a short-form piece (like a blog post) linking to a long-form piece (like an e-book), so that those who want more information can easily get it. This tactically combines your content for engagement with your content for conversions. More information can be found here.

Evergreen: Press releases and event-specific posts have very short shelf lives. Evergreen articles never go out of date. When producing evergreen content, SEO is highly important.

Step 2: Research Your Keywords

Use Google’s Keyword tools and ask your customers what terms they used to find your solution. Then optimize for those words. When I co-wrote recently, we optimized for the keywords that our research and customers suggested. Now, our short-form content is the first three search results for that keyword, and drives people to the long-form e-book. This is an example of an evergreen content distribution strategy, and is only possible if you put in some keyword research up front.

Step 3: Find a Story

Use Google Trends, Reddit, or Alltop to find the hottest stories around those keywords. You can also use tricks like “Search Tools” in Google search to find the highest-ranking stories published within any timeframe to find great stories for your content. Creating content around a popular storyline will guarantee you an audience that is already interested in that topic.

Step 4: Promotional Plan

The promotion around your content will have the largest impact on your success. Consider creating a web of content, rather than a single piece. This means creating several smaller pieces of content that drive to a larger piece of content. You’ll also need to set your promotional budget. Consider:

  • Guest posting
  • Trailer video
  • Co-authorship
  • Partnering with others for distribution
  • Email
  • Account-based marketing, or hyper local mobile
  • Paid social promotions

Step 5: Bring Value

How is your content going to add to the conversation? Regardless of whether you’re creating long-form or short-form content, here are five easy ways to add value:

  1. Further the story with primary research
  2. Show how existing research connects to the story
  3. Teach something
  4. Answer questions your clients face
  5. Build an experience around the story

Step 6: Get a Headline

Your title, or headline, is key. Why do you think every article on content marketing has a title like “Definitive Guide,” “7 New Tips,” or something proclaiming the death of an industry? It’s because those headlines sell and work well for evergreen content SEO.

Step 7: Add Personality

If your writing, webinar, or other content doesn’t have personality, it doesn’t stand a chance. Don’t fake a personality; rather, give an honest personality.

Step 8: Honesty and Authenticity

Personality is key, but so are honesty and authenticity. This is what people want, and it impacts how your content is perceived. This is what gets them to read more from you – or never read from you again.

Step 9: Make It Pretty

The two things that will kill your content marketing are bad copy and poor images. Forty-four percent of B2B buyers say the look and feel of the content has a significant effect on its authenticity, according to the 2014 Pardot Engagement Study. Skip the stock photos and opt for real pictures taken by someone in your office, even if they’re taken with an iPhone. The iPhone is good enough, and with some help from a photo app, you can save tons of time and add honesty and personality to your content. If you need to format a document, skip the long hours with a designer and check out

Step 10: Make Sharing Easy

Regardless of the goal of your content, you need to understand that when it is shared it generates links, which affect your content’s SEO. Make “snackable” pieces of content that are easy to share. Use tools like ClickToTweet or in-roll video links. Infographics also work well for this.

Forty-two percent of B2B buyers say a piece of content’s ability to teach them something has a significant affect on its authenticity.

Step 11: Set Up Tracking

Regardless of whether you’re doing video, written content, or digital content, you need to track it. Use marketing automation for written content and tools like Wistia or Vidyard for video. If you have to host it somewhere else, make sure you set up tracked URLs in Google,, or any other tracking tool you choose so that you can track your promotional channels.

Step 12: Promote It

This is the last major step. Execute on your promotional plan.

Step 13: Convert

Never leave your reader without a next step. If you are optimizing for engagement, ask for a share, like, or comment – or show more related content. If you are creating stage-based content for the sales cycle, make it easy to find content for the next stage. If you are asking for email addresses, only ask for the first name and email address. Save the rest of the questions for the next engagement!

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