Many companies that I guide on B2B content strategy have already done some amount of marketing. It might not be structured or successful, but it’s there.
After working through the foundational steps of clarifying the company’s purpose, mission, vision, and differentiation, and understanding their customer, the team develops a laundry list of topics on which it hopes to publish.
They wonder how on earth to go about tackling them all.
I recommend performing a gap analysis to identify the most important topics to cover first.
In this post, I’ll explain what I mean by a gap analysis, why it matters, how it helps, and then summarize the steps you should follow.
When crafting your content marketing strategy, start by defining a set of target buyer personas for your business and then create a buyer’s journey map for each of them.
Buyer’s journey maps capture what a prospect needs, wants, believes, and feels as they make their way from becoming aware of the challenge to be solved, through evaluating potential solutions, and on to purchasing and implementing something.
In today’s digital world, your ability to influence that process rests on content marketing—making relevant, helpful information accessible to your prospects so that they begin to see you as a trusted source of knowledge and, later, of solutions.
Based on your buyer’s journey maps, you will build a list of topics that your prospects are likely to find relevant along the way.
In an ideal world, you’ll publish at least one piece of content on each of those topics—and preferably several, across different channels that your prospects frequent.
In practice, even if your company has been marketing for a while, there will be lots that you don’t yet have covered.
A gap analysis identifies where you are missing content and how that might be affecting prospects’ ability to complete their buyer’s journey with your company.
It’s best to do this on a stage-by-stage basis.
Start with topics that your prospects will find relevant at the awareness stage. Have you published content covering enough of them for a prospect to feel comfortable moving forward to the evaluation stage?
Would they do so while believing that you’re a credible source of helpful information?
If not, their minds will already be drifting toward your competition as the source for future information and products or services worth purchasing.
Ask the same questions about the evaluation, selection, and implementation stages.
Think of your content like planks in a wooden bridge. If too many are missing, your prospect can’t traverse that section of the bridge and they will turn around, go back, and look for another bridge elsewhere.
Wherever you spot critical gaps, ask yourself which topic(s) need to be added to cover the bare minimum.
It might still be a rickety content bridge, but it will be sufficient for a few brave prospects to cross.
The more relevant and helpful the content you publish at each stage, the stronger and more appealing your bridge will be for prospects to cross.
Imagine you are trying to resolve a bottleneck in a production process.
You aren’t quite sure whether there’s a solution to the problem you’re facing, but it’s causing enough negative financial impact to make finding a solution worthwhile.
You turn to the internet for answers and begin feeding queries into Google that generally describe the situation you’re facing.
Blog posts by three different equipment manufacturers show up prominently on the search engine results page.
Which manufacturers are you likely to remember as you continue your research and begin homing-in on a possible solution?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course. The fourth vendor, whose content strategy didn’t (yet) involve publishing something on the topic you searched—or whose SEO strategy was too poor to make it visible—will not be top of your mind.
That’s reason number one why content gaps matter. If prospects don’t rapidly associate you with relevant, helpful information, you will lose them to the competition—even if your product or service is fundamentally better suited to solving their challenge.
A second reason why content gaps matter is that buyers trust vendors that publish on a wide range of topics, even if not all those topics are relevant to their immediate needs.
Over 60 percent of buyers say they are more likely to buy from companies that deliver unique content, according to a survey conducted by Contently.
When a prospect finds your content valuable, their next move is very likely to visit your website in search of more.
Don’t disappoint them!
Apart from the obvious—pointing out holes in your content library—a thorough gap analysis should help you prioritize which content to produce next.
For which stages in the buyer’s journey do you have the least content?
Many companies have a lot of published content targeting the selection stage, because its mostly about the products and services they offer.
Fewer companies have enough for the evaluation stage, which focuses on identifying and comparing competing solutions.
It can be hard to wrap your head around writing content that objectively compares your products to those sold by your direct competitors, but that’s exactly what’s needed here.
Even fewer companies publish enough content aimed at the awareness stage, helping prospects to give their challenge a name and evaluate whether it’s worth solving.
Vendors focus their efforts on prospects who have already finished that basic analysis, forgetting that they might already be losing a lot of prospects to the competition at that very early stage if they decide not to participate.
A gap analysis helps you quantify the degree to which you have each stage covered, which lets you divide your future content production efforts accordingly.
There are six steps to performing a content marketing gap analysis and using it to focus your upcoming content production efforts:
1. Understand what your prospects need/want to read. Create buyer personas and buyer’s journey maps to identify their needs, wants, beliefs, and emotions at each stage of the journey.
2. Extract key messages and topics. Key messages usually address a need, reinforce a positive belief, dispel a negative belief, stoke a positive emotion, or assuage a negative emotion. Addressing needs should come first, followed by the other types of content.
3. Perform a content audit and build a content library. Uncover all the existing content that your company has published and make a detailed inventory, including what it addresses and where it has been published. This is your content library.
4. Identify key topics that are missing from your library. This is the actual gap analysis. Compare your ideal list of topics to what’s in your content library today. Exclude content that has been published on channels other than the ones frequented by your prospects. A quick way to close a gap is to repurpose existing content by refreshing and republishing it on a relevant channel.
5. Prioritize gaps to be filled. Assess which of the missing topics represent the most gaping holes in your content library. Which ones are likely to make the biggest difference if you publish on them next? Do this for each of the buyer’s journey stages and make sure your prioritized list moves your company toward having a balanced amount of content across the entire buyer’s journey.
6. Populate your content calendar and get publishing. The real value of a gap analysis is realized once you start publishing content and closing gaps. Populate your content calendar with the prioritized list of topics and start working your way through them. You might need to juggle the list of topics a little to avoid repeatedly publishing content on similar topics or for the same stage of the buyer’s journey. Keep your content production balanced so that there’s regularly something new and relevant for prospects at every stage of the journey.
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Image credits: Adobe Stock