How To Build a Solid Content Marketing Strategy
If you’re just dipping your toes into the content marketing waters—or even if you’re experienced, but need a bit of guidance—then you know that the most important part of your efforts will be developing a solid content marketing strategy. Too often, marketers set off with only the vague idea that producing content leads to more sales. Then later on, those marketers find themselves flailing, unsure what they should do to make their marketing efforts effective.
That’s where your content marketing strategy comes in. Just like a home is built on a solid foundation, you’ll need a solid strategy to bring in those customers and grow your business.
Here’s how to build a solid content marketing strategy.
Write Down Everything
This first step sounds obvious, but even for someone who keeps meticulous documentation, we’ll say it again: write down everything about your content marketing strategy. The reason why we stress this is that it can be easy to overlook essential details, especially things like keywords and content topics that you’ll forget about later on.
Having all the details on hand isn’t the only advantage of documenting everything, however. Simply writing down your goals, strategies and ideas can be a major boost to the success of your content marketing strategy. In fact, Content Marketing Institute recently found that while only 28% of marketers were documenting their goals and strategies, when it came to the most successful strategies, 48% were those backed by solid documentation. The reason is simple: a written strategy is not only easy to distribute among your marketing team, but it will also help you stay focused on your goal if you find yourself drifting away from it.
Find Your Audience
Your audience—and your ability to find them and produce content for them—is critical to a successful content marketing strategy. In fact, relevant content is rated as the number one most important thing in any marketing plan, as shown by statistics from Curata. After relevance comes compelling content and content that triggers an emotional response.
Here’s the thing: in order to make your content relevant, compelling and emotional, you first need to understand the people to whom you are marketing so that you understand what they want, need, and feel. The deeper you go into learning about your audience, the more successful your content marketing strategy will be. For instance, instead of saying that your audience is made up of large groups, like professionals or teenagers, dig deeper to find the sub-groups. What age or gender are they? What are their interests? Asking these questions and adding those answers to your strategy can help you zero in on what your specific audience wants.
You can even register with online forums to understand what are the different content trends that you need to tap into, for different groups of audiences.
Develop a Clear Brand Message
Branding goes hand-in-hand with content marketing strategies. Why? To put it simply, people aren’t loyal to brands that they consider cold, faceless corporations—and many Americans will actively boycott companies that have done something to give themselves a bad image. Instead, consumers are looking for something that they can relate to—a brand that has personality and shares similar values.
For example, consider Coca Cola’s Red Bull brand. Red Bull is all about excitement, energy and daring accomplishments, and you can see that reflected in the extreme videos they post online and in the other types of content they develop for their content marketing strategy.
But what are the effects of branding? Once you’ve established a solid brand through your content, you’ll find that consumers trust your product more, are more loyal to your brand, and will consider your brand over another when it comes to a new purchase. In fact, 59% of consumers would much rather buy new things from brands that they already know and 64% said they would open a marketing e-mail because they had faith in the brand that sent it.
Define Your Goals
You can’t just say, “I want my business to be number one in search results” or “I want our videos to go viral.” Your content marketing strategy must have clearly defined goals. Here’s a quick list (by no means exhaustive) of questions that will show you how to define those goals:
- Who is your audience?
- On which platforms will you find that audience? (Social media, industry blogs, your own website, etc.)
- What kinds of content will you produce that will be attractive to that specific audience?
Using this list, you can start to pinpoint your goals. For instance, let’s say that you want to address business professionals. One of your goals would then be to connect with those people online—perhaps on LinkedIn or through industry websites and blogs. Now that you know where you are likely to publish, the next goal is to create the type of content that will get your message across, and to publish it often enough to gain recognition, but not so often that it comes across as spam.
Of course, this is just a basic example. Your own content marketing strategy will not only have more goals, but more specific goals than those in our example. And if you’re wondering how much of a difference defined goals make, keep in mind that 61% of the Content Marketing Institute’s top-rated marketers meet once a week or more to discuss goals and strategies with their teams.
Speaking of Content Types
It’s easy to simply start a blog and be done with it, but the truth is, blog posts are not the only type of content that you’ll need to publish to increase your reach. Further, they may not even be the most effective type of content for your business. In addition to blog posts, there is a long list of content types, including e-books, infographics, videos, slideshows, case studies, and more.
Now here is the data: according to a survey by Marketing Profs and the Content Marketing Institute, for B2C businesses, e-newsletters topped the list with a 66% effectiveness rate, followed closely by content distributed at events and photos or other graphics. For B2B businesses, content distributed at events had a 69% effectiveness rate, while webinars came in at 64% and videos at 60%.
The caveat is that you can’t judge content types solely by their overall effectiveness across a number of businesses. Instead, you’ll need to find out which content works best for your specific audience, be it videos, blog posts or email newsletters.
Create a Schedule
Now that you’ve found your audience, outlined your goals, decided on content types, and everything is written down into a clear, concise plan, there’s one thing that your content marketing strategy is missing: a schedule. In order for your content to be as effective as possible, you’ll need to do your publishing at certain times, and you’ll need to have a solid editorial calendar that shows when your content will be created.
In other words, make sure that you know when to send blog posts or other types of content to content developers so that you have enough time to request revisions or do whatever finishing touches will be necessary to publish. Then you’ll need to find out which times are the best to post on social media, and when the best time is for e-mail newsletters or promotional offers.
Every channel has a different optimal time, and this infographic from QuickSprout will show you the basics. For instance, according to their research, B2B marketers are better off posting on Twitter Monday through Friday, while B2C marketers fare best on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Of course, this is simply a general guideline. Once you know approximately which days and times are best, then you’ll need to do some experimenting to see whether or not those days or times actually work for you. Fortunately, many of the biggest social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, offer you analytics to help you track your performance. When it comes to e-mail, there are a variety of tools available, including the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol.
Always Analyze Your Strategy’s Performance
Analyzing the best times to publish brings us to the next point, which is that in order to develop a great content marketing strategy, you need to continually analyze that strategy so that you can adjust to the ever-changing marketplace. For instance, let’s say that you offer an e-book through a landing page. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where your traffic to the landing page is coming from so that you can focus on expanding those efforts? Or perhaps your e-book is resulting in fewer conversions than any of your other tactics, which means it is time to change things up.
Traffic isn’t the only thing you can analyze, however. Using various tools such as Google Analytics, A/B testing and other metrics analysis, you can learn a whole lot about how your strategy is performing. Here are a few examples:
- Study social media likes and shares to learn which types of your content get the most engagement. Then expand on those types of content for even more action (and, hopefully, conversions).
- As you’re looking into social media statistics, check out the people who are sharing your content so that you can learn even more about your target audience.
- Analyze where your traffic is coming from (social media, industry blogs or elsewhere) so that you can expand your efforts in those channels.
- Determine the number of leads your content marketing strategy generates and compare it to the amount you spend on content marketing to determine your strategy’s ROI.
Of course, there are many more ways to collect data on your efforts. For instance, A/B testing can tell you how people use your web pages and which parts of the page holds their attention, thus allowing you to design content around their preferences.
There are lots of other things that you can do to develop your content marketing strategy, but if you start with these things, you’ll be covering the largest bases. Just remember that once you’ve developed your strategy, it isn’t something that is set in stone. The best marketers know that over time, content marketing strategies must evolve to remain effective.