You’ve heard about the need for content marketing. You’ve probably also heard the need for a content marketing strategy. And then there’s a whole other critter called a content plan. (we’ll get to that in our next post.)
Is all this strategy and planning REALLY necessary? Nope. Not at all. Unless you really want to succeed at your content marketing efforts, that is.
All right, so WHY is it necessary?
Because without a content marketing strategy, your content marketing efforts are a ship without a rudder, a journey without a map, a quest without a hope of victory. Your content marketing strategy is the guide to the planning, production, promotion, and performance evaluation of your content. It’s helpful from beginning to end. Producing content without one will most likely be a recipe for pure disaster.
So, unless you want hours of wasted effort, and days spent wondering why your content isn’t gong anywhere, take an hour or so, follow these steps, and create your very own content marketing strategy.
Step 0 – Gather Your Stuff
Like any good explorer, you shouldn’t head into strategy planning without being fully prepared. here’s a short list of the bare necessities to have on hand before you start your content marketing strategy session:
- something to write with or type on – use a good old fashioned pen and notebook, or open EverNote, or One Note,or a Google doc. I don’t care WHAT it is, just have something handy to record your plan
- your business goals/objectives – your content marketing SHOULD be a part of how you plan to reach those goals, so having them handy to refer to once in a while is crucial
- something to drink and if necessary, a munchie or two – hey, we’re talking an hour or so here. Keep the snacks and sips close and you won’t have to interrupt the strategy brain train once it leaves the station
Now you’re ready to start getting down to work. Depending on how involved your content marketing is, or plans to be, in an hour, you’ll have a content marketing strategy ready to go.
Step 1 – Write Down Your Goals
These goals have nothing to do with how many retweets, likes, followers, hits on a web page, or “going viral”. Your content marketing goals should align with, and help achieve, your overall business goals. Things like:
- increase leads
- improve brand awareness
- drive traffic back to your website
- drive readers to a landing page
- maintain/nurture the customer following you have
Now, these goals should be measurable, and that’s where the metrics come in. Of all those mentioned in the intro to this section, the only one that’s REALLY a measurable figure worth tracking is the hits on a certain page. All the rest are “vanity metrics” and really, really, yes REALLY don’t matter.
But you can count the number of new leads you get and compare it to the old one. You can track the number of people who are new customers. Analytics will tell you about traffic to your site or to a certain page. And your email list, your blog reader stats, and your repeat customers will show you how well you are doing at retaining your current (and hopefully growing) base.
So, take about 5 to 10 minutes and jot down some goals your content marketing can help achieve this year.
Step 2 – Who Is It For? Where Are They?
When creating your content marketing strategy, after your goals, the next big item to settle on is the audience who will be consuming your content. Answer the following questions:
- Who is the ideal customer for your offerings?
- Who makes up your audience right now?
- Is there any audience dissonance? Do you have readers/followers who AREN’T your ideal?
- What new audiences would you like to try to reach?
Now that you’ve identified your “peeps”, ask yourself the following three questions:
- What types of content do they like to share (format, length, source, style)?
- Where do they hang out online?
- How do I best reach them there?
Knowing WHO you are creating content for is crucial to successful content marketing. Knowing the kinds of content they get jazzed about, and where they can be found are also crucial. Adding audience details to your content marketing strategy will ensure that you are creating content that appeals to the RIGHT audience in the RIGHT way, in the RIGHT place.
Otherwise, you’ll be talking to the wrong crowd, or worse, simply talking to yourself. It’s worth 5 to 10 minutes to suss out the who and where.
Step 3 – What Are the Best Types of Content to Create?
Well, in less than half an hour, you know WHY you are creating content and WHO you are creating it for. Next, you need to move on to the best type of content you need to be creating.
First things first – look back at your goals. Got any “top of funnel” goals that need to appeal to a big audience? Stuff like increasing leads or signups, or improving brand awareness? Start there. (a lot of content marketers make the near-fatal mistake of STOPPING there. You won’t.)
Top of funnel, new peeps oriented content is fairly common and somewhat easy to create. It’s the short video on your home page introducing you and your stuff. It’s a survey, quiz, or giveaway. It’s a guest post. It’s your own blog with its tutorials and “base level” explainers. It’s the “hey look at me!” stuff that nearly everybody on the planet is doing on social media, from LiveStreams to simple everyday posts.
Adding top of funnel content to your content marketing strategy should be quick and easy. It’s “daily social media posts” or “weekly blog posts” or “bi weekly video for YouTube tutorial channel”. It’s most likely the stuff you’re already producing, so keep at it.
Middle of the funnel content can be a bit more difficult. This is the content that has to convince them to open their wallets. It can consist of product demos, getting a product reviewed by a major influencer, a targeted campaign on social media, white papers, webinars, and live events – either virtual or really in person LIVE.
Just because middle of the funnel content is a bit tougher and more time consuming to create does not excuse you from adding it to your content marketing strategy if your goals call for it. You have to convert every lead into a paying customer somehow, after all. MoFu content is the best way to do it short of a personal sales pitch.
Which brings me to BoFu – bottom of the funnel – content. You’ve closed the deal, now what? You need content to keep them coming back. These can be email newsletters or honest-to-goodness in the mail box newsletters, behind the scenes looks – either video or blog content, a regular podcast, and consistent social media postings. All of these, when done with the existing customer in mind, can create a group of raving fans any boy band would be thrilled to fight off.
Take the next 20 minutes or so and brainstorm different types of content you can create to help meet your goals and keep your audience happy.
Step 4 – Who’s Doing What, and When?
This is kind of where the rubber meets the road, or at least the team meets the content, when creating your content marketing strategy. You have to determine who will create what content and when it will be published. If you are a one man show, that may mean outsourcing some of your content, or rearranging existing routines to allow for adequate time for content creation.
For a team, it may be as easy as deciding Jack is the strongest blogger, while Samantha has the best video game in town, and you can’t beat Jen and Steve when it comes to graphics. Or, you may have to take a few minutes and dig a little deeper – maybe Jack can script some mean video content while Steve provides the whiteboard doodles. Don’t be afraid of challenging team talent, or of listening to your team for new ideas. They are a creative bunch, after all.
You may realize that you don’t have time or budget for all of the content you’d like to create. That’s alright. Really. Declutter your brainstorm list and either do one of two things – choose that which will have the greatest impact, or choose that which will reach the most goals with the least effort. Sure a podcast or video channel would probably increase your awareness and your leads, but would tweets you can schedule 10 or more all at once have the same effect? Can’t afford to outsource your white papers? Monthly blogging retainers can be much more cost effective in terms of content created.
Take about 5 minutes and decide who’s doing what, and either when or how often (for recurring content like blogging, podcasts, and social posts) it will be published. You can get really nitty gritty with this in you content PLAN. For now, general “ideas” will do.
Step 5 – How Will They Know It’s There?
You should now know who you are creating content for and why. You should have written out what types of content, where and when (approximately) it’ll be published, and who’s behind the creation of it. All that’s left is the promotion of that content.
A combination of paid and free, organic traffic is best. Yes, I know, content marketing is mostly an inbound game, but sometimes you need to boost the game and bring in a ringer if you want to reach the top of the scoring charts. So, you’ll need to decide, again just briefly, generally, which efforts are worthy of a marketing budget behind them.
By adding promotional efforts to your content marketing strategy, you can plan and prepare for the expense. You can better measure ROI. And you can determine whether or not a future endeavor is worth pursuing by having past performance as reference. That first paid traffic boost to the new podcast didn’t do so well? Was it the audience, the podcast itself, or the platform for the paid ads? What can you change in the next round of ads? Or should you just drop the idea altogether, as the blog, the email newsletter, and Twitter are bringing in a ton of listeners already?
Take your last 5 to 10 minutes and look over your content ideas. Find those that are worthy of paid promotion, and those that can or will do fine without it. If you need to, do a little research on how much budget is typical to see the results you want. (HINT – it’s never the same, but there are ballpark figures out there…) Then, decide how and where your content will get its promotional efforts.
That’s It. Congratulations!
Take a sip. relax. Kick back in your chair. You’re done. You’ve got a workable content marketing strategy in front of you. That didn’t hurt, did it? And it didn’t take much more than an hour if you were properly prepared. It will certainly help. You won’t just be creating any old content “just because”.
Next stop….your content marketing PLAN. On to part 2!