This is the last of a four-part series on B2B content marketing best practices, highlighting and expanding on points made during the SiriusDecisions Summit last month. The breakout session on B2B content marketing in particular featured a ton of great ideas, best practices and reminders. This series highlights a handful of them, with commentary on each.  Part one outlined three ways content marketing can make your sales team happy, part two highlighted six attributes of successful, lead-generating content, and part three reviewed six content marketing lessons shared by Adobe.

This installment outlines five key structural stages of effective content marketing implementation.  Like most marketing programs, the vast majority of your time will be spent in execution mode. But without proper planning, your execution has far less of a chance of having the effect you desire. What’s more, ensuring that your plan covers each of the key elements or stages of the program is essential to maximizing success.

Below are five stages of successful content marketing set out by Sirius last month.

1. Objective
Seems basic and obvious, but the nuances of your specific objective or need for a particular piece of content (or content program) may change how you execute. For example, is your content intended to drive awareness and discovery, or something more specific and deeper within the sales process? Knowing what you need the content to do (i.e. what you want the audience to think and act on after consuming your content) will drive clarity and precision through the rest of your program execution. Defining your objective up front will also ensure all internal constituents (especially between sales and marketing) are on the same page and agree on what you’re trying to accomplish.

2. Asset Architecture
Once you have the objective established (which also inherently directs who you are targeting and with what purpose), you can effectively choose the format and structure of the content itself. For example, what media should you use? If written, is it a blog post, a white paper, a transcript of a previous event, or something else? How and where should it be published and accessible? Will you require registration? How long will it be, and what will you request of (or offer) the recipient after consuming the content? How will you measure consumption, impact and conversion? Think through these and other structural questions before beginning to execute or even outline the key points to be made. Different formats and structures lend themselves to different angles and approaches to content. The better you’re able to match your objective and audience to the right format, the more productive the final product will be in delivering your desired outcome.

3. Execution
With the first two steps above in place, you’re ready to execute. Set a clear production schedule with stages of review for key parties. Depending on the nature of the content program and product, consider including a customer review of the content before it’s finished as well, to make sure it resonates and “works” not just with internal reviewers but a potential peer of your intended end audience. Just as in product development, it’s easy to make adjustments, cut corners or otherwise change the original plan to get a final product out the door. But as you execute, ensure that you aren’t compromising the objectives and original needs of the content and program overall.

4. Measurement
Because you included measurement in your inventory of asset architecture requirements, you won’t be scrambling during or after execution to figure out if your plan worked. With measurement structures in place, start reviewing the immediate and long-term impact of the content program. Does the output or result match your expectations and objectives? If you started with a limited test, have you seen enough to expand deeper into the market, to more of your opt-in list, or across the rest of your customer base?

5. Continuous Improvement
As you measure consumption and impact trends, look for ways to make your results even better. What are consumers of your content telling you explicitly and implicitly about its value? What feedback are you getting about how to make it more impactful? What have you learned from this particular content program that can impact previously-launched programs, but also make future programs more successful right out of the gate? Plenty of content programs get launched and quickly forgotten about. And if they continue to drive inbound traffic and/or leads, that may be OK. But there are often best practices discovered in later programs that could be applied to previous, now-passive programs to make them perform even better for you in the background.