Information Security Solutions: Construction of a Marketing Content Strategy
So you’ve been tasked with developing marketing communications for an information security solution. Now what? You’ve come to the right place. This is the first in a series of three blog posts on information security marketing with an emphasis on business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications. In this post, we’ll discuss the all-important construction of a solid marketing content strategy. This is your blueprint for successful marketing communications.
What is a Marketing Content Strategy?
Many notable thinkers have defined marketing content strategy, what it should achieve, and why it’s important. For simplicity, let’s say a content strategy is the planning, development, and management of high-quality, insight-rich, information-packed content. With it you can build a solid foundation for all of your marketing efforts. The content – your building materials – may span print, digital (web/interactive/social media), and multimedia.
When Should You Establish a Marketing Content Strategy?
The best time to think about marketing content strategy (your blueprint in our construction analogy) is before you begin developing content. But it’s never too late to start! Your content strategy helps you prioritize resources and focus tactics. Chances are, unless your organization sprang into existence last week, you already have content developed. Managing what already exists and deciding what to develop next can be overwhelming – a content strategy can guide you. But where do you start?
- Map Existing Content to Phases of the Sales Cycle
A good first step is to identify the steps in the sales cycle for various solutions across various market segments. Sales cycles for information security solutions vary widely, from relatively short, largely automated cycles for mature, inexpensive products such as virus protection, to very long, complex cycles for multi-year roll-outs of hardened point-of-sale (POS) and other perimeter defense hardware. Audience (i.e., target market segment) and other factors also influence the sales cycle for a solution. The length, complexity, and other characteristics of the cycle matter less than the fact that each piece of content should map to a specific phase of that cycle.
Once the steps are identified, examine your existing content to see what fits where. Your content is the building material of your marketing efforts. For instance, white papers help to inform and build awareness and are most useful early in the sales cycle (e.g., lead generation), whereas video testimonials of satisfied customers influence and solidify credibility, and are therefore ideal for late-cycle use (i.e., the oral presentation of a proposal).
- Identify Gaps that Point to Missing Content
Each step in the sales cycle builds upon the step before it, but in mapping content to specific phases of the sales cycle, gaps or imbalances may appear. For example, you may discover that you don’t have an effective way of keeping customers engaged between the time they download a white paper from your website and the point where they request a proposal. Or you may discover that you excel in lead generation, but your proposal content doesn’t seem to meet the same standards of quality and effectiveness. These gaps point to the next piece(s) of content you need to develop to strengthen the foundations of your marketing communications.
- Package Your Content
Once you have identified the phases in your sales cycle, mapped your content to each phase, and identified the content you need to fill the gaps, it becomes easier to see how multiple pieces of content can be packaged together. Ideally, in such a campaign, different pieces of content serve different purposes. For instance, you might devise a direct mail campaign that consists of a letter, a one-page “briefing” that summarizes the contents of a white paper, and a customized landing page on your website that offers a free download of the white paper after registration. The campaign can be customized for particular customer personas—IT admins, CIOs, etc. These pieces of content each serve a distinct purpose as they approach each customer segment on its own terms.
Viewing marketing communications holistically, through a marketing content strategy, uncovers strengths, weaknesses, and gaps. This exercise helps set priorities and define short-, medium-, and long-term goals. With priorities and goals identified, you are ready to begin planning your next B2B marketing communication for information security solutions. In our next posts, we’ll discuss planning and developing content – the brick and mortar of your campaign.
What do you think of our key points? How has your firm approached the challenges of marketing communications in this vertical? We welcome your comments and thoughts.
For over 20 years, Hoffman Marketing Communications has created white papers, product launch materials, and more recently multimedia, for information security companies. Visit us here to learn more about how we can help you build successful marketing communications.