By Joshua Baez, Marketing Consultant for Heinz Marketing

Well folks, it’s happened.  I’ve gone full Plant Dad.  And I mean full-on.  With over 70 plants and counting, clearly something happened along the way, and well, here we are.  But this blog is neither the time nor place for judgements, because as I’ve grown as a new plant parent, I’ve come to realize the parallels between growing my little green friends and planning a content marketing strategy.  If you know me, you know how much I love a good metaphor, so sit back, relax, and go buy yourself a nice houseplant – your content marketing plan will thank you for it later.

The Right Conditions to Flourish
Just like the light, water, and the location of a plant affects its health and longevity in your home, the components of your content marketing strategy must also be thoughtfully determined to find success.  But where should you start?  Here are 3 areas:

  1. Audience
  2. Channels
  3. Messaging

Your audience will guide the entirety of your strategy based on their needs, their wants, and their pains.

Who are they?  What are their responsibilities?  What role do they play in the buying committee?

The answers to these questions reveal powerful insights and knowing them will help you create a far more impactful, valuable campaign.

Not all channels are relevant for every persona.  A C-level prospect values different forms of communication to a manager, and a manager to a consultant.  And while titles are a fairly good indicator of channel preferences, going a level deeper into the generational differences can have even more profound effects on the success of your campaign.

Crafting persona-specific messages will not only add value and relevance to what you’re saying, but it shows the prospect that you actually understand what they’re going through.

Know where your prospects place their priorities – C-suite in revenue, managers and directors in strategy and results, consultants in productivity, etc.

Different Plants Have Different Needs
When it comes to caring for your houseplants, you need to be aware that not all plants want the same things.  Some prefer more water, others prefer less light, et cetera, et cetera.  To truly see your plants flourish, you need to be aware of these differences and make conscious efforts to ensure they’re getting what they need, otherwise they’re goners.

The same principles can be applied to your content marketing strategy.

Every buyer you’re appealing to inhabits in their own, unique environment – job title, responsibilities, industry, age, funnel stage – the characteristics of your buyer should infer the kind of content you market to them.  For example, a senior-level executive won’t care about your 10-step tip sheet, but a coordinator or consultant likely will.

 Based on a recent study we conducted with SnapApp, generational differences in todays’ B2B buying committees also play huge roles in the formulation and execution of your content marketing strategy.  Millennials prefer a noninvasive approach with value-add content like blogs, infographics, and videos; whereas Gen Xers and Baby Boomers would rather have webinars, charts, and graphs.  (You can read more about our findings here.)

Consider the different characteristics and funnel stage of your buyers and leverage that knowledge to deliver content that is both highly relevant and highly valuable to where they are in their careers and their buying decisions.  For your content to really bloom, it cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach – it must be targeted, thoughtful, and specific.

Too Much of a Good Thing
Overwatering a plant is one of the most common ways to kill it, and when you bombard your audience with content and emails, no matter how valuable, you risk losing them too.  If you’re emailing a prospect twice, three times, four times a week, you can bet that they’ll get tired of hearing from you eventually unsubscribe.

Moderation, timing, and variety are three pieces of a content marketing strategy that you must be aware of.  Email your audience too often and they’ll go dark; email them too infrequently and they’ll go cold.  Find the happy medium, and spruce up your outreach with some variety in what you’re offering.  A webinar, a whitepaper, an infographic – people react to different forms of content in different ways, so it’s always good to have your bases covered to ensure that you’re giving people multiple ways to engage.

Don’t Forget to Nurture
When you nurture a plant throughout its life, it will grow to be much healthier and happier than one that is not, and it’s a difference you’ll absolutely be able to notice.  Whether its leaves unfurl to beautiful, verdurous spans or its flowers blossom into a spectrum of hues, the ways in which you nurture your houseplant will yield results you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

Nurturing your leads is just as important.  According to HubSpot, “leads nurtured with targeted content produce an increase in sales opportunities by more than 20%.”  And, according to MarketingSherpa, 61% of B2B marketers send all their leads directly to sales, while only 27% of those leads are actually qualified.  Forgetting to nurture your leads will not only hinder the probability of a sale, but it can also negate all the work you’ve done up to that point.

Not Everything You Do Will Work
Look, sometimes a dud’s a dud, and no amount of TLC will fix it.  I’ve had plants whose conditions were ideal, but no matter what I tried, they ended up in the bin, along with the money and time I put into them.

There’s no shame in admitting when a strategy’s gone belly-up.  Sometimes a piece of content just won’t perform as you’re expecting it to, and when that happens, don’t let your personal biases get in the way.  You might love the asset, but if your audience doesn’t, it’s time to move on.  When you notice underperformance, address the issue now instead of letting it persist over time – you’ll save a lot more money, time, and resources by nipping the issue in the bud.

A successful content marketing strategy can turn your business into a full-funnel powerhouse, but success doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time, care, patience, and determination to find the results you seek.  But never forget your mission as a marketer to serve your audience, because, ultimately, content marketing isn’t about you – it’s about them.  Take a step back and determine what they need to grow – what they need to prosper – and over time, you’ll find your small collection of houseplants grow into a garden.