The inspiration for this post comes from a recent conversation I had with one of my copywriting clients who asked how they should go about creating a content marketing strategy. Rather than unload a random cluster of my thoughts over the phone, I thought I’d structure my answer in a blog post. So here it goes:
Creating quality content is all well and good for your marketing but interesting posts only scrape the surface when it comes to developing a successful content marketing plan. What you need is a strategy that outlines how your content work for you in the long term.
Putting it Into Context
In January this year, the market research website, Econsultancy, announced the results of a survey, which concluded that 45% of companies consider content marketing to be highly integrated with their SEO strategy. And what’s more, according to recent statistics published by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is now being embraced wholeheartedly by smaller businesses, with 60% planning to increase their content marketing budget this year.
So, with content marketing quickly becoming the new buzz word of 2014, here’s my step-by-step guide to developing a content strategy that will help grow your business and establish your brand as an authority in your industry.
Goals: What Are You Trying to Achieve?
Every business’ content goals will be different. You might be aiming to improve your conversions, increase your website traffic or promote a new product or service. In any case, your content strategy shouldn’t be looked upon as a means to an end. It should feed into every other area of your marketing efforts too, whether that be PPC campaigns, paid advertising or email marketing.
Consider what timescale you’re working to. The goals that you identify will have some bearing on this but if you’re hoping to see an increase in traffic to your website it’s probably best to look at your strategy in quarterly chunks as it can take search engines some time to index new content – especially if you haven’t posted regularly in the past.
Hitting the Target: Who Are Your Audience?
A successful content marketing strategy relies on your ability to produce content that engages people. You’re looking to entice your customers into buying your products and sharing your information. You want to inspire your audience take action and leverage change in some way and the only way you can do this is by knowing exactly who your existing customers are and perhaps more importantly, who you want them to be.
Customer profiling can be an effective way of identifying who your audience are and can help you refine your content to get more of the results you want from your customers. You might also find that the type of customers you currently attract aren’t the ones that you want to move forward with, so you should consider how this can be remedied through the type of content that you produce. To put a spin on the old adage about dressing for work, writing for the customers you want, not for the customers you have, can often be an effective way of improving conversions, especially if your existing audience isn’t taking any action on your website.
Use our free customer profile/buyer persona template to help you better identify your target audience.
Raising the Bar: Who are Your Pacemakers?
Keeping a watchful eye on the competition provides you with useful insights that you can use in your own content strategy. Who in your industry is producing valuable content and marketing it well? Does it seem to be working for them? If so, dig a little deeper and see how their audiences are reacting to their posts. Reading your competitor’s comment section can give you a good idea about what your customers are looking for from your content. Which of your competitor’s posts do they engage with most? What type of content receives the least amount of comments? Using your competitors as a benchmark can help you focus your content marketing efforts more effectively.
Distribution: Where Will Your Content Live?
If your initial answer to this question is ‘ on my blog’, then perhaps you need to think outside the four corners of your own website. With your content strategy, you’re looking to gain as much exposure as possible from your material so it’s worth exploring other distribution channels. Perhaps your content will serve your business better as a guest post on someone else’s blog that receives more traffic than yours? And how about social media? Have you considered which platforms your content will be best suited to in terms of exposure?
Another distribution channel that’s often overlooked in content strategies is email marketing. Your email lists can be a great way of encouraging people to read your content and interact with it. You don’t necessarily need a fancy newsletter to spread the word about your business. A simple email with a few links to your recent posts is often all it takes to encourage audience engagement, especially if your content adds value. For some more tips on how to execute a successful email campaign, have a look at my post on Copywriting Minimalism, which touches briefly on the subject.
Quantify: How to Measure Your Progress
The results that your content marketing strategy yields can be tricky to measure. In order to help you decide how to measure your strategy’s success, have a look back at your goals to remind yourself what you were trying to achieve in the first place. Google analytics is a great place to start for gaining insights into your marketing success and helping you quantify your goals. Metrics like unique visits, individual page views, organic search terms, bounce rates and direct referrals can help you work out which particular posts are working for you and which aren’t. For example, if you feel that your sales aren’t reflected in the amount of visitors you receive from a certain post, then you know that you need to work on your calls to action a bit more.
Use our free content marketing strategy template to help measure the success of your strategy.
Do you have a documented content marketing strategy in place? Which approach have you employed to assure its effectiveness? Have you followed any of the steps above? How did they work for you? How did you quantify the success of your efforts? I’d love to know more about your content marketing strategy.
P.S. If you need some help implementing your strategy, you could always hire a copywriter like me to write your content for you – just a thought.