How to Create A Content Marketing Strategy: A Walkthrough
In the age of social media, all businesses are publishers and what publishers need is a steady stream of great content.
That’s easier said than done.
If you’re trying to create content that will resonate with your audience on social media and separate you from all of the noise, great! You’re on the right track. But first you should establish your content marketing strategy.
A content marketing strategy works as your guiding light when it comes to the planning, production, promotion, and measurement of content. Taking the time to create a solid strategy might seem like more work up-front, but it will reduce your workload over time and make your content more effective.
Now (before you start) is the time to think through your objectives and build a content marketing strategy that will elevate your social media efforts to the next level. We’ve put together a helpful walkthrough that will guide you through each step of the process.
Set content marketing goals, align them to business goals
When you’re planning a piece of content, how do you decide what is worth creating and what you should pass on? Every piece of content you commit to should serve a clear purpose for your marketing efforts.
So what are you trying to accomplish? Here are some common content marketing objectives to consider:
- Increase brand awareness in key markets or verticals
- Drive referral traffic back to your website
- Increase signups
- Drive readers to a lead-generation landing page/form fill
Notice how none of these content marketing goals amount to Likes, Retweets or Favorites—so-called vanity metrics. That’s because, as with your social media goals, it’s absolutely essential for your content marketing goals to align back to your broader business goals. This alignment forces you to think of content in terms of business metrics like traffic, leads, and sales—metrics other teams are working towards as well. It also helps you prove the value of your content marketing efforts on a larger scale, which is extremely valuable when dealing with stakeholders who either aren’t exposed to the content marketing side of your business, or who are skeptical of its value.
When choosing your content marketing goals, you also need to to ask yourself a very important question: How will I measure this goal? Every goal needs to be measurable. Whether it’s a percentage, a dollar amount or a traffic number, identify the numeric target of your goal and decide how you will track your progress. If you can’t figure out a concrete way to measure your goal, it is probably time to rethink it entirely.
Once you’ve settled on your goals, break down each one into the various steps you’ll need to take to achieve them. Doing so will not only ensure that future content is aligned with your content marketing goals, it may actually inspire your content creators. Knowing what a piece of content needs to accomplish for you on a larger scale could spark an idea about what to create or how to create it.
Content Marketing Strategy Tip: Don’t approach your content thinking “how will this help me achieve X goal.” You don’t want to stifle creativity. Instead, come up with great ideas for content, then see how you can tie them back to your content marketing goals. It may just be a matter of adding a relevant CTA or choosing specific channels to publish on.
Establish the target audience of your content
Image by NEXT Berlin via Flickr
A big part of successful content marketing strategies involves knowing your audience. Depending on the goals you establish, you will need to put together either an audience profile or specific buyer personas that will guide your content ideation and creation moving forward.
Try and gather as much detail about your target audience as possible. Social listening will help you hone in on their characteristics and interests, so that you can ensure your content resonates. Ask yourself these three important questions:
- What types of content do they share (format, tone, source, length)?
- Where online does my target audience spend most of their time (social networks, blogs, forums, etc.)?
- How can I best reach my target audience (organic social media, advertising, search)?
If your content marketing goal focuses on sales or leads, you may want to create specific buyer personas (or adapt existing buyer personas with content in mind). This will involve profiling your customers to know what a buyer will look like and the specific types of content that will reel them in. Will they be a director, or just a regular employee? Will they work at a small business, or a large enterprise? Will they be on social media, or will you only be able to reach them through email. What are their goals, and does your content offer insight that might help them achieve those goals? What about removing their pain points? These are all questions you will want to answer before you start creating content.
Content Marketing Strategy Tip: For many businesses, traditional advertising has an efficiency problem. Social media advertising combats that inefficiency by providing you the ability to target users based on a very specific set of traits or interests. This is very valuable to an organization trying to market content to a niche audience or groups of buyers. Worth noting:
- Twitter is strong for targeting specific networks
- Facebook is great for targeting people by interest or demographic
- LinkedIn lets you target people by career and industry
Determine content types best suited to your business
Now that you’ve established your goals and target audiences, you should be able to lay out the types of content that will help you reach both.
Here are examples of content that might helps you achieve specific content marketing goals:
Goal: Increase brand awareness in key markets or verticals
You’ll want to create content with a bit of a broad appeal. It should illustrate your expertise, but be helpful to a wide-range of people, not only those using your products or services.
Useful content types will likely include:
- Videos tutorials
- Client success stories or case studies
- Culture-jacking social media content with mass appeal
- Practitioner blog content
Goal: Drive traffic back to your website
If you’re looking to drive people back to your web properties, you should focus on creating content that’s easy to find with strong ties to your industry or business.
Useful content types will include:
- Targeted social media ads
- SEO-optimized blog content
- Guest posts on popular industry blogs
- Email newsletters
Goal: Increase signups
To increase signups, your content should illustrate the benefits of your particular product or service while including a clear call to action, encouraging people to sign up or try it out. If your prospect pool is quite niche, the subject of your content should focus on that niche. If your business has mass appeal, try and create content that more people who be interested in seeing and sharing.
Useful content types will include:
- Product demos
- Video tutorials
- Targeted social media campaigns/ads
- Thought leadership content, including publishing in major publications
Goal: Drive to a lead generation landing page/form fill
To drive people to lead generation forms, you need to create content that is detailed and helpful enough that people will be willing to exchange their information for access. Either that, or offer an incentive that they can’t resist.
Useful content types will include:
- Gated content: white papers, guides, toolkits
- Live product demos
Content Marketing Strategy Tip: In addition to catering to your target audience and meeting the requirements of your business goals, you will need to decide kind of content your marketing team is best suited for. If your team lacks a videographer and can’t afford to outsource one, you may not want to make videos your focus. If you’re a startup and don’t have any major clients, case studies aren’t really an option for you. Find the content types that best suit your strengths and resources, and make them your priority. You’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, just highlight your strengths and drive business with great content.
Create a content execution plan
Once you know what kind of content you will create, you need to establish the process for creating it. Your content execution plan should be a step-by-step map oh how an idea turns into a finished product. This plan adds stability to your content marketing efforts, and ensures that you can track the progress of each piece of content at every level.
What will a content execution plan include? A schedule, an idea process, a project brief and a content chain of command.
The schedule: You know what you’re trying to achieve with your content, now how much content do you need? Do you require one video per week? Two blog posts every day? One webinar and one demo every month? Build out a content schedule and share it with your team. Everyone involved in content marketing should know the schedule so they’re not surprised by any deadlines. The earlier the lead time, the more people can invest in each piece of content—and quality means everything.
The idea: Who is in charge of coming up with ideas? Certain people should be responsible for regularly contributing content ideas, but this should also be open to anyone with a great idea. You don’t want someone to keep an idea to themselves because of process. You also need to lay out where ideas are brought and who approves them. Once your idea is approved, you move into…
The brief: If your piece of content involves more than one person, you may want to consider mandating briefs. A brief outlines the idea behind the content, the goals of it, the target audience, the timeline/deadline and the role of each person involved in the project. A good brief helps you avoid tons of back-and-forth and questions between project leads and content creators. Build a brief template and share it with your team.
The creation: Everyone who creates content should know where they sit on the path towards the finished product. When creating content, you might, for example, start with writers. Once the writing is finished, you might pass off to a copy editor. Then you might pass along to designers or videographers. Once the content is completed you might pass it off to a manager. Any required changes will go back to the responsible creative and then back to a manager for final approval. Maybe you have a project lead managing the process in between each of these steps. Or you might not have the resources to undertake such a complex process, and your process might only involve one writer and one designer. Either way, people should know where they fit into the process and what their responsibilities are for a regular content project.
Content Marketing Strategy Tip: Follow these snarky design tips to tighten up your content.
Create a content promotion process
Image by Justin Marty via flickr
Your content is finished. Now you have to promote it. Not all content is created equal, so you need to predetermine how you will promote your content for maximum reach and effect. Your content promotion process ensures that all of your efforts creating great content weren’t for naught.
The content promotion process helps your team decide how to promote each piece of content. This should include where to promote it, for how long, how many times and how much money they might spend on promotion.
Of those details, the most important question is undoubtedly the ‘where.’ For certain content types, the answer to this question is an easy one. Social media ads are, in and of themselves, promotion. Individual email newsletters are generally not promoted outside of email, though you may promote your newsletter as a whole to encourage people to sign up. In general, though, you will need to promote your content across a variety of channels in order to drive awareness about it and traffic to it.
Businesses have a number of options for content promotion, perhaps the most popular of which is now social media. When it comes to social media content promotion, there are three distinct opportunities: paid, earned and owned social media.
Owned social media means using your own social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) to drive traffic to your content. This traffic is free as it comes from your own social media following. It may also be the most reliable form of social media promotion, as sharing great content on your social channels can create a social media community of return visitors—a cycle where the more good content you share, the more your audience comes back to view that content. Capitalizing on owned social media traffic means knowing who your followers are and what they like to engage with. This type of promotion works best for content with wider appeal, and is valuable if you’re trying to achieve brand awareness or drive traffic to your web properties.
Earned social media refers to the shares and mentions your content gets from other users on social media. Similar to word of mouth, these unaffiliated users are voluntarily sharing your content through their own social media channels, and greatly helping your content promotion. Not only are you reaching a wider audience without paying for that reach, social shares now actually impact your content’s ranking in Google search. In that way earned social media isn’t only valuable; it’s integral to your content marketing success. Earned social media is, again, particularly valuable for content with broad appeal, and will prove invaluable for driving brand awareness.
Finally, paid social media means leveraging social media ads to drive viewership of your content. By putting money behind your social media posts, you’re given the opportunity to target a very specific audience and increase your social media reach when you need it most—right after content is released. In other words, social media ads get your content in front of the right people are the right time. This is particularly valuable for lead generation content, and will help you achieve goals of driving new, leads, signups and sales.
Other types of content promotion to consider include:
Email marketing: a great way to promote all types of content, but requires you to collect emails which can be quite a challenge
SEO optimization: you should always ensure content is search engine optimized (SEO) so that it ranks highly in Google search. This will drive continuous viewership of your content, and is particularly valuable if traffic or registrations are your goal.
Search/display ads: Many people are veering away from display ads, but buying high placement in search is still a widely-used tool for content promotion
Influencer marketing: Unlike earned social media, influencer marketing involves asking or paying an influencer to share or promote your content with their networks. This is a growing industry for content promotion, especially on social networks like Instagram and Vine, and is particularly valuable for brand awareness.
Content Marketing Strategy Tip: Don’t balk at any methods of content promotion until you try them. The only way to really find out what works for your content and audience is to try each one and test the results. When it comes to content, testing is everything.
Know how to measure and refine your content marketing
Image by Blue Fountain Media under CC BY 2.0
You’ve established processes for the ideation, creation and promotion of your content, so what’s left? Your content marketing strategy is only valuable if it’s helping you to succeed, and to determine that you need to have a measurement process in place.
When setting your goals, you will have determined the metrics you want to hit. Now you need to lay out how to measure those metrics, what constitutes a success, and how to constantly refine your content marketing efforts.
First, identify all the tools by which you’ll track content performance. This will likely include a social relationship platform like Hootsuite for social media analytics, Google Analytics to track page traffic, and a platform like Salesforce to track leads and sales. It may include other tools specific to your goals, business or industry. The important thing is that you have all the tools you need in order to tie your content marketing to your sought after business metrics.
Next, you will need to establish a regular schedule for tracking content performance. This will depend on the type of content and how it is being promoted. A weekly webinar should probably be tracked weekly to see whether attendance and leads generated are increasing or decreasing. This will offer insight into whether the subject matter/speakers in a particular week are helping or hurting your KPIs. Social media performance, on the other hand, should probably be analyzed on a daily basis so you can quickly adjust your schedule to push content that is striking a chord and pull content that has missed its mark. The more frequent you analyze content performance, the more flexibility your team has to adjust content as needed, and in a timely fashion.
Content Marketing Strategy Tip: Get into the routine of compiling reports on your content marketing performance. These reports can be shared with your team for transparency into how your content is performing. They can also be presented to management to prove the value of your content to the business. Finally, they provide you with easy access to key metrics, which comes in handy when you’re trying to benchmark goals for future content marketing campaigns.
There you have it: a nose-to-tail content marketing strategy. It will take some work to build when you’re just starting out, but it will be worth it in the long-run. Happy posting!
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