Your content is whatever you place out there to represent your brand. Your content marketing strategy defines the push and pull process that allows you push out your business contents to your target market so to pull in return on investments for yourself.
Content marketing is more than just creating a content but looks deep into how you structure such content, how you match your content type to your defined business objectives and how such content gets delivered to yield strategic outcomes.
An effective content marketing strategy helps you prepare and plan your reliable and cost-effective sources of website traffic and new leads, which in turn gives you the flexibility to experiment with other marketing tactics to generate revenue, such as sponsored content, social media advertising and distributed contents. It also helps you educate your target prospects and generate awareness for your brand.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out with content marketing or you stick to a particular approach, you’ve to keep revisiting your content strategy plan ensuring that it’s up-to-date, innovative and strong. You also need to be aware that your first approach to pushing ahead your competition is to always have a solid, smart and actionable content marketing plan in place.
This guide will help you to understand the value of a content marketing strategy, taking through the step by step approach to crafting one for your business.
Let Me First Explain What Content Marketing Is:
Content marketing deals with how you match your content (information or entertainment) to your customers’ needs at whichever stage they are in the buying cycle or customer journey.
This simply implies taking any type of your content (whether digital or physical), and for a reason sending it out to your audience. Then, bringing in “Strategy” to your content marketing considers your goals, audiences and distribution channels.
Now, Let’s Dive Into Content Marketing Strategy; What Is It?
Content marketing strategy deals with how you manage any tangible media you create and own (it could be written, visual or downloaded ) to interact with your audience with the aim of bringing in valuable returns for your business. It is simply the piece of your marketing plan which consistently demonstrates who you are and what expertise you bring to your industry.
Ofcourse, it’s obviously clear that creating content is invaluable for your business growth but that doesn’t mean it will work fantastically without being properly planned to achieve its goal. And this is why you need a content marketing strategy.
There are Key Questions You Need To Tackle Why Developing Your Content Strategy:
1. Who’s Your Target Audience?
Who are you creating the content for? Who’s its target audience? Like how many audiences are you targeting with this content? The same way your business has more than one type of customers, your content strategy also can be targeting to more than one type of reader or viewer.
Utilizing a variety of content formats and channels will help you deliver content to each type of audience you have in mind and engage everyone you do business with.
2. What Value Does The Content Bring To Your Target Audience?
Likewise how your product or service has a problem which it solves for your audiences, your content also coaches and educates your audience through this problem as they begin to identify and tackle it.
A great content strategy influences people on both sides of your product: those who are trying to figure out what their main challenges are and those who already use your product to overcome such challenges. Your content reinforces the solution you offer thereby making your customer more qualified to use your product in tackling his/her challenges.
3. What Resources Do You Have?
Before you can be able to convey your message to your target audience in such a way they give you their attentions, you must’ve taken your time to understand their need, your target market’s requirements and what differentiates you from your competitors. Ofcourse, planning your resources definitely requires you dive in thorough market research.
Understanding the market needs via research will help you evaluate other needed resources you’ll invest within the content marketing process, these will come in form of human efforts, financial expenses you will need to develop contents and so many other resources you’ll invest.
So to avoid wastage of resources or poor usage of these resources or any other factors that may affect your ROI, it’s very crucial, you plan and align your resources well so as to tackle whatever goal you’ll need to achieve.
4. What differentiates you from your competitors?
What’s it that makes you unique? Your competitors possibly have a similar product to yours and you expect your potential customers to buy from you. Your customers need to know what makes you better or different from your competitors. At this moment, your contents ought to convince your consumers to patronize you and give them the credibility to do businesses with you over your competitors.
5. What Content Formats Will You Focus On?
What type of content will you go for? What forms will your content take? Image? Video? Infographics? Blog Post? GIF? When you must’ve identified the topic you want to create content on, you’ll need to determine which format will work best for it in winning your target audience, how you’ll budget for it so that you can maximally express your ideas to your audience.
There are various formats out there to structure your contents especially with respect to the way new channels keep evolving every year.
Below is a list of few content types to help you think about what type you can have access to:
|· Blog Posts||· Videos||· Photos|
|· Podcasts||· Ebooks||· Case Studies|
|· Infographics||· Photos||· Social Media|
|· “How To…”||· Helpful Apps/Tools||· Content Curation|
|· Opinion Posts||· Case Studies||· White Papers|
|· Charts/Graphs||· Vlog||· Email Newsletters|
|· Templates||· Cartoons/Illustrations||· Surveys|
|· Book Summaries||· Slideshares||· Tools Reviews|
|· Resources||· Giveaways||· Quotes|
|· FAQs||· Quizzes||· Q & A Sessions|
|· Guides||· Pin Boards||· Dictionary|
|· Photo Collage||· Day in The Life Posts||· Original Research|
|· Press Releases||· Interviews||· Lists|
|· Predictions||· Mind Maps||· User Generated|
|· Meme||· Company News||· Online Games|
|· Timelines||· GIFs||· Banners/Flyers/Brochures|
6. Through What Channels Will Your Content Be Published?
The same way you create your contents in different formats, you’ll also publish it using different channels. Therefore, understanding the channels through which you share your content is as important as crafting the content itself. For you to reach people effectively, you’ll first need to understand if the medium supports the message, your content formats and vice versa. It all depends on your content goals and formats, so that you can get your word out to the reach the right audience.
Some common channels include:
- Social Media
- Search Engine Ads
7. How Will You Manage Your Content Creation and Publications?
Understanding how you’ll effectively create and publish your contents can be difficult. So, it’s vital that your content strategy incorporates and states clearly who creates what content, where it’s being published, when it’s going live and how it’s being measured.
It’s quite recommendable that your content strategy guides you to manage your content from a topic view so as to avoid topic clutter. This is also because from topic standpoint, you can effectively plan your content calendar visualizing your message while asserting yourself as an authority in your industrial market over time.
8. With What Metrics Do You Measure Your Success and ROI?
Every content strategy ought to have its defined KPIs. With your goal, your target audience, your content formats and channels well understood, you need to identify how you’ll measure the success of your content with respect to its formats in all channels it’s being distributed. Your results should be quantified and compared to your invested resources so that you understand the impact your content strategy brings with regards to your returns on investments (ROI).
Now, What Steps Will You Take To Develop Your Great Content Marketing Strategy?
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR ESSENCE AND GOAL:
The start of any strategy proceeds with knowing your value and what goal you intend to solve. This is where you look at your brand’s story, your vision and how or where your company has taken a stand in tackling today’s issue.
Your business purpose should be clearly felt within your content marketing strategy, whether it’s to help small business owners succeed, empower growth through innovation or any other goal you’re trying to help your customers reach.
When it comes to settling your goal, I advice you understand the recipe of “who”, “what”, “why”. You want to become a sought-after destination of insights for [who] are interested in [what] topics, to help them achieve what goal [the ‘why’]. As for me, I want to become a destination of thought leadership contents for marketers [who] looking to reach , engage and convert new customers [why] with content marketing [what].
Having understood your business goal and essence, you clearly establish the measurable goals of your strategy so you can set up your metrics and track your strategy success over time. Then you think about how you prioritize all your marketing goals.
It’s always recommendable you prioritize one or two core goals that impact the bottom line and three to five supporting goals. Because your core goals should be tied to your major business objectives, strong inter-organization communication becomes a great asset when working towards developing a focused- and more effective content marketing strategy. (Referencing: Shannele Mullin, The Director of Marketing for Onboardly)
This figure above is a content marketing matrix, a framework you can use to help direct your marketing based on your specific content goals, whether you want/need to entertain, inspire, educate or convince your audience. It’s a useful tool for guiding customers along their path to purchase in the most direct and effective way.
STEP 2: CONDUCT MARKET RESEARCH TO UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE WELL
The Most interesting thing about content marketing is that it allows you to effectively structure your marketing to the right person, at the right time with the right content, through the right channels. The best approach you can address and drive your consumer’s needs is by developing a consumer persona.
Consumer persona helps you to clearly define your content’s target audience. This is very important especially if you’re just starting out or you’re new to the marketing. Understanding your target audience will help you produce more relevant and valuable content that they’ll want to read and convert on.
Ofcourse, you need to have a crystal clear, full understanding of who you’re marketing to. Who are your ideal targets?
- What are their pain-points?
- What goals do they have and how can you help them achieve those goals?
- What are their biggest challenges?
- What would make their life easier?
And then dive more into their demographics:
- What channels are they most likely to engage with?
- What are their preferences, as related to your products or services?
- What about age, education and income level?
The Persona assists you in segmenting and understanding your target market and is a framework through which you can guide any content that you create. This is why revisiting your persona parameters following your subsequent market research maybe on yearly basis is crucial to growing your audience.
The figure above shows a typical example of a great customer persona gotten from buffer marketing library.
STEP 3: AUDIT YOUR EXISTING CONTENTS
Conduct a Content Audit to see what’s currently working for you. If you already have some existing contents, content audit helps you determine what has and hasn’t been working successful from all the contents supplied by your brand, for instance; your website, whitepaper, articles, videos and contents shared in social media.
You need to assess how well these pieces of contents match your strategic goal and its target audience needs. With content audit, you can understand not just what you have but also how it is currently organized and accessed by your audience.
Take for instance; you have a few videos published on youtube. You noticed that some of your audience who watched the videos clicked on the call-to-action links in the caption to visit your website. You then understand that the videos were not only watched, but people clicked on them to learn more. This insight could lead you to add more links into your captions in various channels like social media.
STEP 4: ESTABLISH YOUR CONTENT PRIORITIES
Following the fact that you’ve properly done your homework via the 1st, 2nd and 3rd steps, the next thing you need to do is to practically craft your strategy.
You’ve understood your business value and content goals, you’ve determined the formats you’ll use for your content, you’ve decided your best channels and have gained relevant insights via auditing your existing contents, the next step is to match your content formats in a way it serves its objectives both for you and for your target audience.
This figure above is the Boston Interactive checklist which shows the various content types that match a customer’s purchase phase.
Ofcourse there are various types of contents you can you, but it’s not about using as many content formats as you want but determining which of the formats are the most relevant to your brand and customers right now.
You should be aware that certain types of contents work best at points of a customer journey. For example; A helpful product troubleshoot video won’t be as interesting to a potential customer in the awareness phase as it is for someone who has already purchased.
Therefore, understanding the journey your consumers go through as they approach your ultimate sales goal will enable you match your content formats to their needs. Another typical example is that a humorous video may be successful in initially making potential customers aware of your brand, but once you have their attention, a research paper or case study could be more effective in convincing them that you’re the best choice in the market. (Referencing: Essential Guide To E-marketing by Quirk)
In above figure, Bright Vessel illustrates their version of a customer journey map, indicating where each department plays a role. This exercise makes you reflect on every customer touchpoint.
As soon as you know what content channels you’re going to use, you can create a content schedule. When will you use your content? How Frequently? How will each piece of content relate to the rest of your strategy? Will the flow of your content help you move your target audience quickly down the sales funnel?
This part of your content marketing strategy relies heavily on some form of your marketing automations and technologies. With marketing automation playforms like hubspot, market, pardot or mailchimp, you’ll be able to manage, automate, personalize your content and track its success.
STEP 5: PLAN AND IMPLEMENT YOUR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
It’s now time to brainstorm some ideas for your strategy. This is the time you create your content marketing strategy because prior to this moment, all you’ve been doing is to place everything you’ll need to create your great content strategy in place.
This is where you brainstorm your ideas. What content will you create?
- Do your keyword research to help prioritize your content
- Come up with topics for your blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, infographics, and any other foundational content you plan on publishing regularly
- Create a social media strategy at least a month in advance, focusing on how your posts will drive interest to your other content
- Plan out your big-hitters like the live events, webinars and app development – how will you promote the content and how can you use other pieces of your content to support these major content movers
- Decide if you need to create any new landing pages or make adjustments to your website to accommodate parts of your content strategy
- Examine your competitors, influencers and content examples outside of your industry to inspire ideas
The objective is for everything to come together as a cohesive whole, with all content reflecting the brand purpose established and the target audience you are marketing to. (Referencing: Marketing Insider Group)
In order to support the ongoing production of interesting content, it is necessary to have some planning documents in place:
Brand Style Guides:
This document guides anyone creating content for a brand at any time. What is the tone of voice and brand personality? How is it best represented visually, and what are the brand colours and fonts? This can be a challenging document to put together, and it usually isn’t the content marketer who is tasked with doing so, but is essential to aligning brand communications. It is also a document that tends to be ‘live’ – it is constantly updated as the brand and content landscapes evolve and new conventions need to come into play.
Content calendars assist the content marketer in planning the content they will be sharing, across which platforms, and when. The more advance planning is undertaken, the easier it is to react quickly to tactical opportunities.
A workflow map documents the path a piece of content takes when it is created. What are the steps in approval, how is it optimised for digital publishing, who has final sign off? Is it a duplicate of existing content, and where else can it be used? A workflow map assists you in streamlining this process.
A persona map assists content creators in focusing on those for whom they are in fact creating content, and what the motivations of consumers would be.
STEP 6: MEASURE THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
You’ve already defined your strategy goals as well as the metrics via which you assess its performance. As soon as you proceed with implementing your strategy, ensure you keep tracking and taking note of how well the overall strategy is going in influencing your marketing objectives. It’s also vital you pay attention to each stage of your customer’s buying journey.
So that if there’s a journey along the way, maybe your organization begins to experience low customer retention, then you’ll realize where exactly to focus in optimizing your content strategy.
Content is a vital component of many digital marketing activities. Always try to keep the principles of writing for web in mind whenever you’re creating contents:
- Email marketing: relies on great content – since most people suffer from email fatigue, they will only stop to read emails that they know are of high quality and that provide excellent content.
- Social media marketing: also depends on sharing relevant and valuable content with social fans. While your brand promise may get them to your social page, your ongoing stream of quality content will encourage them to interact and share, spreading the word about your company.
- Search engine optimisation is strongly influenced by the quality, frequency and value of content. Not only will search engines favour your site, but others will choose to link in to your content, creating a valuable referrer for your brand.
- Video marketing: is a whole new approach to content, in which you create dynamic and shareable videos specifically tailored to the interests and needs of your audience.
- Mobile marketing: also requires that you consider the unique requirements of your audiences across a series of devices. If you understand the role that each device plays in a user’s life and buying cycle, you can tailor content to optimally address their needs.
As you keep trying various approaches, experimenting different tools and keeping tracks of how your customers interact with your brand, you’ll be able to consistently improve your content marketing strategy, hence more capable of convincing the rest of your organization of how powerful effective contents can be in adding value to sustain business growth.