We’ve said it before and we might as well say it again… the importance of content marketing continues to grow. Companies are taking notice however. According to the Content Marketing Institute survey, 54 percent of B2B responders plan on increasing or increasing significantly their content marketing budgets over the course of 2013. This same survey also found that 64 percent of the marketers said that producing content that engages is their number one challenge.

As far as search engine optimization and generating quality organic traffic is concerned, the Penguin and Panda updates from Google place a greater emphasis on quality, well-written content. With social media channels becoming more and more crowded, and cluttered with poor content the need for good content begins to become apparent. So what to do if you’re a B2B marketer charged with developing content today?

First, I think it important to highlight (and dispel) a few content marketing myths. These myths were recently discussed in an article at Search Engine Watch by Andy Betts (about Lee Odden’s presentation at SES London) entitled Creative Content Marketing: Winning Hearts, Minds & Wallets. I think they’re worth repeating:

Myth 1: Content marketing simply means creating more content.

Myth 2: Quality content isn’t sustainable.

Myth 3: A content object only has one life.

These myths are really more like excuses. Excuses for why content marketing isn’t easy. I didn’t say it was hard, but it’s not easy. Get over these excuses and you’ll find yourself and your marketing team on a path that not only creates good, quality content, but results in better organic traffic, better social media conversation, and ultimately more sales-ready leads.

Step one: Learn to write!

Writing well isn’t easy; not everyone can do it. If you aren’t a decent writer it’s okay, but you need to recognize that and find people that are. They may be in-house sitting at a cube nearby or they may be people you need to source. There are even some great agencies that can be hired (subtle self-serving hint here). Bottom line… the content needs to be well written if you’re going to stand a chance competing with all the good content being produced.

Step two: Content isn’t always written.

You still need to be able to write, but content can take a number of different forms. Written content like blogs, articles, press releases, e-newsletters, and stories can be complemented with video, Infographics, Pinterest boards, photographs. Your marketers; your creative; it’s what you do… time to start doing.

Step three: Find out what prospects and customers want.

The content you produce needs to be compelling for the people that matter – your customers and prospects. Use social media (LinkedIn Groups, Facebook, Twitter) to LISTEN to what people are saying, consuming and engaging with. Use surveys or polls if you have them available. Heck… ask your customers what interests them. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to tell you what they want – especially if you’re going to give it to them.

Step four: Share your content.

Sharing your content in your social media channels is great, but also take advantage of LinkedIn Groups, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and other relevant, categorized social media aggregators. If you’re not putting your content out there for consumption you’re missing out on audiences you haven’t engaged with yet.

There are other steps to successful content marketing for sure, and I’ll likely blog much more on the subject, but these four I believe for a strong foundation to build your efforts around. I’d love to hear what you would add to these steps for content marketing, so drop a comment.