The premise of B2B content marketing is simple: Offer something of value and, in exchange, earn the trust of potential customers.
Yet, when it comes time to execute, many marketers stumble. What should I write about? Is there a particular format I should use? How do I know if this will resonate with my audience?
If you’ve ever asked yourself a similar line of questions, fear not, dear marketer. Your most common content marketing roadblocks can be solved with just a little planning. But, before you brush this off as just another list of tips and tricks, we urge you to stop what you’re doing and bookmark this page.
We can’t promise anything groundbreaking or innovative, but we do promise the most comprehensive, no-nonsense guide to creating a content calendar for your B2B organization.
So, whether you’re new to the world of content marketing or simply in need of a refresher, this article is for you. We dive deep into the how’s and why’s of B2B content marketing so you can plan your strategy accordingly. Let’s get into it!
B2B Content Marketing Calendar: Goals and Key Considerations
Before you schedule or create a single piece of content, you must first establish goals and expectations. Without this step, your content marketing strategy will lack critical context and direction.
A comprehensive B2B content calendar takes all buyer personas, marketing channels, and stages of the sales funnel into consideration. Thus yielding a multifaceted, well-rounded approach to marketing content. Let’s take a look at the many benefits of this approach:
1. Cross-Channel Consistency
As your B2B organization grows, your marketing team will inevitably evolve. And, as your team grows, more people will have a hand in a variety of products, channels, and personas.
As a result, organizations who don’t make a concerted effort to collaborate across concentrations will fall victim to inconsistencies. When a company’s marketing is inconsistent, their prospects and customers quickly become confused.
Therefore, a well-organized marketing content calendar is necessary to prevent prospect and customer confusion. Your content calendar can also ensure that all content creators and managers are on the same page in terms of voice, tone, and messaging.
The final result? No matter what topic you’recon covering or who you’re creating content for, your B2B content library will appear professional, polished, and consistent.
2. Top-Notch Audience Coverage
The only way to truly reach the entirety of your Total Addressable Market (TAM) is to create a comprehensive content calendar that accounts for all personas across all channels and all stages of the buyer’s journey. A content calendar that only speaks to one buyer persona or channel at a time is incomplete.
And, an incomplete content calendar will allow a large number of buyers to slip through the cracks and into the waiting hands of your competition.
3. Team Organization and Personal Accountability
An advanced content calendar sets clear expectations for everyone involved in the content creation process. It’s easy to see, at a glance, what each member of your team is responsible for, whether or not each asset is created on time, and much more. The right B2B content calendar paints a picture of each team member’s contribution to overall marketing goals. And, holds each individual accountable for any work they’re responsible for.
4. Efficiency and Smarter Use of Resources
A poorly organized content calendar obscures visibility into ongoing projects and campaigns. As a result, efforts are often duplicated by team members scrambling to complete similar pieces of content. Not only is this a poor use of time, but it’s also a strain on resources.
Let’s look at an example. Say your marketing team is organized by channel. And, you decide on a particular topic for the next quarter. Because you don’t have an accessible, dynamic content calendar, your team has little insight into the pieces being created for other channels. As a result, five separate content creators spend days creating a variety of assets about the topic at hand.
Had these employees had more visibility into content planning and creation, much of the longer form pieces could have been repurposed by the original creator and distributed across multiple channels in a variety of formats. This second scenario frees up four other team members to begin working on content for the upcoming quarter.
5. A More Dynamic B2B Content Library
A comprehensive, multi-channel approach to content marketing organization will allow you to view and manage your content based on topic, persona, creator, and so much more. This versatility allows marketing teams to repurpose, reuse, and test content more efficiently.
After a few months or even years using a more advanced content creation process, you’ll be able to look back and see which topics and assets were most effective. As more time passes, you’ll become more adept at fine-tuning your content strategy. Thus, you’ll produce much more effective content.
Even more importantly, sticking to a strict content calendar will provide your team with a backlog of high-quality B2B content to use for years to come. Meaning, in a year or two, you can simply make a few tweaks to update entire marketing campaigns and use them on brand new audiences.
This entire process yields more flexibility and creates less work for everyone down the line.
6. Comprehensive Content Promotion
Although you will undoubtedly have dedicated topics for particular months or quarters, having a comprehensive content marketing program will allow you to run more comprehensive content-focused advertising initiatives year round.
For example, say your first editorial topic relates to dynamic CRM data. If your CRM-related content performs well, you can use paid channels to serve this content to your audience all year long through content syndication platforms, social media advertising, SEM, retargeting, and more.
If you’re like many modern marketing teams, you create content regularly. But, once it’s used as part of a campaign, it’s promptly forgotten. Paying to advertise marketing content is an effective way to expand brand awareness and capitalize on particularly effective pieces.
Maintaining a well-organized B2B content calendar will allow you to manage and run these advertising efforts with minimal effort.
Creating the Ultimate Content Calendar for Your B2B Company
Although it’s easy to see the benefits of a comprehensive, multi-channel content strategy, it’s much more difficult to find a format and system that genuinely works. This is especially difficult if your company offers a variety of products and services.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating the perfect content calendar, we’ve outlined seven steps to get you started on the right path. Let’s get started!
1. Analyze your sales cycle
The first step to a better content calendar is to conduct a thorough analysis of your organization’s sales cycle. Consider the various stages of need, explore the different ways sales prospects enter the buyer’s journey, the length of your sales cycle, and any other pertinent information.
Although it’s not entirely necessary for this exercise, all marketing organizations should regularly document, analyze, and revisit their sales cycle. That way, all marketing personnel have the insights necessary to make critical business decisions.
For the purpose of creating a content calendar for your B2B organization, we recommend you jot down any insights you glean about the channels and content types different prospects prefer during each stage of the buyer’s journey. We dive into this later on, but for now, it’s simply important to familiarize yourself with the inner workings of your buyers’ journey.
At the end of this first step you should be able to answer the following questions:
- How many pieces of content do I need to engage with and nurture a lead through the entire sales cycle?
- What is the length of the average sales cycle?
- How many pieces of content does the average prospect engage with during the buyer’s journey?
- Where do most of my prospects enter the buyer’s journey? Which channels? What type of content? Which subjects or topics?
2. Analyze your buyer personas
If you’re a regular reader of the ZoomInfo blog you’ll know we’ve discussed buyer personas in extensive detail. So, we’ll do our best not to repeat ourselves.
But, there’s no way around it. Buyer personas are a critical piece of any successful content calendar. Here’s why: A buyer persona tells you who you’re creating content for, what exactly they’re interested in, and how to convert them into paying customers. In fact, a recent study found that persona-based content increased engagement almost 6x when targeting cold leads (source).
To further demonstrate the importance of buyer personas, we’ll use our own personas as an example. At ZoomInfo, the three main types of people we serve are B2B sales professionals, marketers, and recruiters. Therefore, we must make sure our content calendar accounts for each of these personas at all times. Otherwise, the neglected persona or personas will slip through the cracks and potentially take their business elsewhere.
Now, if you’re a company that offers multiple products and services, this step will be more complicated. But, nonetheless, it’s important to take your time analyzing and creating buyer personas to guide your B2B content calendar.
At the end of this second step you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Who are my best buyers?
- What characteristics do my best buyers share?
- What type of content do my best buyers find to be most engaging?
- Are their specific formats my best buyers prefer?
- Which channels are my best buyers most likely to use to engage with branded content?
- Can I segment my best buyers into groups that have particular interests?
- Do I know the industry, job function, gender, management level of my best buyers?
3. Map out content creation timelines
Although it’s important to consider the length of your sales cycle when creating your content calendar, it’s even more important to consider content creation timelines. How long does each content type take to write, edit, review, design, etc?
Timing is critical when it comes to keeping your content marketing strategy organized, on track, and effective. The easy part of B2B content marketing is coming up with creative ideas, the hard part lies in the execution. So, although content marketing is a creative endeavor, there’s an exact science to creating content, getting it out the door, and in front of the right people.
For this reason, we recommend you sit down with all key contributors and determine how long each step of the content creation process takes. Consider activities like brainstorming, feedback, editing, and more. It’s also important to give yourself some wiggle room in case of last minute changes, increased workloads, and other unforeseen circumstances.
Be generous with your timelines. Remember, it’s better to have extra time left over than it is to fall behind early in a campaign. Once you fall behind, your entire content calendar and marketing operations plans derail.
At the end of this third step, you should be able to confidently answer the following questions:
- How much time is needed to create each type of marketing content from idea to execution?
- How much time do I need to build in for feedback, editing, and last minute changing?
- If there’s an error at any point in the content creation process, did I leave my team with enough time to recover?
- Does each member of my team sign off on these timelines? Has anyone voiced concerns?
4. Strategically map content types and topics to your sales funnel
The process of assigning content, type of content, or subject matter to a particular stage of the sales funnel is referred to as content mapping. This is a critical piece of the B2B content marketing funnel and will allow you to better organize your content calendar.
Now, there is no right way to map your content to the buyer’s journey. What works for one company might not work for another.
By the end of the content mapping process you should be able to answer the following questions:
- What types of content do prospects respond to when they’re in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey? The consideration stage? The decision stage?
- Which stages of the sales funnel do you have the most content for? Which stages are lacking content?
- Do I have enough content to target each of my personas throughout each step of the sales funnel?
- Is my content organized in a way that makes sense? Can all members of the marketing team access your content library? And can they easily find what they need by date created, subject matter, format, etc?
5. Determine topics to align with product releases
This next step will vary depending on the type and range of products you sell. Software companies, for example, will want to align their editorial topics with feature updates, release notes, and upcoming product changes. A B2B legal consulting firm, on the other hand, might want to align their editorial topics with new regulations, legislation, or trending subject matter. No matter what industry you work in, it’s important to select topics that align with the preferences of your target audience.
We recommend an extensive brainstorming process involving team collaboration and input from all departments within your organization. Each department offers a unique perspective that guarantees a comprehensive, engaging, and unique set of topics to govern and structure your editorial calendar.
We also suggest working closely with customers and prospects to understand exactly what they’re interested in, why they’re interested, and what kind of information they’re seeking to learn from your organization. Leverage social listening, conduct anonymous surveys or visit popular review sites to really understand the interests of your target audience.
Not sure where to start when it comes to topic selection? Ask yourself the questions below:
- What problem does my product or service solve? Is there a new feature or adaptation of my product that will alter or add to the needs it serves?
- Are there any timely, trending, or newsworthy topics I can leverage to establish a need for my product?
- Are there topics or subjects that have been successful in the past? What topics do my audience find most interesting, engaging, or helpful?
- Are there any topics my company should be considered an authority on to lend us more credibility in our field?
- What is the vision for our brand, our product, or our company? And, what content do I need to plan for to support that vision?
- Does my company have access to a unique resource, proprietary data, or information that can be used to create one-of-a-kind content?
- What are my company’s main goals for the upcoming year? Are there any particular initiatives that will require supporting content?
7. Leave room to be flexible
Although it might be tempting to plan your content for months or years in advance, it’s critical to leave room in your calendar to maintain flexibility. Whether that means pulling from a list of predetermined topics based on relevance or simply using a quarterly content calendar. That part is up to you.
What matters is that you don’t get so distracted by the planning process that you forget to produce high-quality content. As you’re likely well, the world of B2B marketing is unpredictable. Product releases fall off schedule, industry regulations change, or company goals pivot with minimal notice.
Although planning and preparation can prevent a certain degree of upheaval, there will always be last minute changes, company announcements, and unforeseen circumstances you must be ready and willing to account for.
We recommend planning content in advance, but using your calendar to strategically reserve resources, ideas, and manpower for last-minute initiatives and changes.
By the end of this step, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- If you receive word of breaking industry news, change to an important piece of legislature, or an unexpected product bug, are you prepared to change directions quickly? And, is your calendar dynamic enough to change directions without wasting time or resources?
- Have you set expectations for content turnaround and advance notice with your leadership team? Do they understand how far in advance they must warn you about changes, adjustments, or news?
- How can you work to better predict the wants and needs of your buyers ahead of time? And how can you work to prevent regular, last minute changes to the content calendar?
- Are you aligned with other departments in your organization that may have opinions about the types of content you create? If not, can you open lines of communication to facilitate productive conversations with members of your sales team, your customer success team, and more?
8. Document and distribute
At this point in the process, you’re left with a lot of moving parts and disparate pieces of information. Now, it’s up to you to organize this information in a way that makes the most sense for your business.
We recommend first breaking your calendar down into a time period that makes sense. For ZoomInfo, this means segmenting the year into six- to eight-week intervals, each of which is assigned a dedicated topic. That topic is then broken down based on the wants and needs of each of our three main buyer personas.
From there, we make sure our plans cover the designated topic in a variety of formats to distribute through a variety of marketing channels. That way, we hit each persona at each stage of the buyer’s cycle, through each channel we have access to.
Here’s an example of what a single six-week topic interval might look like:
A more advanced B2B content calendar can include due dates, ownership, landing page creation, and more. The goal is to find a system that allows you to account for all assets, all stages of the buyer’s journey, and each of your different buyer personas.
Once you’ve found a system that works for your organization, it’s important to make it accessible to all key stakeholders– including content creators, managers, executives, channel owners, and more. Accessibility is half the battle when it comes to content marketing. And, an inaccessible, disorganized content calendar often results in low-quality marketing, sub-par results, and less than stellar revenue.
On the flip side, holding regular review meetings, brainstorming sessions, and maintaining an open discussion about your content calendar will keep all marketing personnel on the same page. Of course, as with any marketing strategy or tactic, content marketing, and content management takes some practice. You might not nail it the first time around, but we recommend you allow your failures to shape and improve your strategy.
Key Considerations for a Comprehensive B2B Content Calendar
A company’s editorial calendar is a necessary tool to stay organized, on-task, and successful. Yet, putting together the perfect content calendar is much easier said than done. We recommend starting small and working toward a more comprehensive editorial program.
The key to content marketing success is equal parts timing, consistency, and knowledge of your customer base- the rest is up to you.