There’s never a bad time to think about your content marketing strategy. Even if you’ve been at it for a while, you may be able to supercharge your efforts by going back to the drawing board. Wherever you are with your current content marketing, just don't start a blog without doing the work first. Let’s look into some background about content marketing strategies, then walk through a step by step guide to creating digital marketing plans.
Simply put, your content strategy is a plan you use to manage all of your digital assets: photos, articles, videos, and more. Coming up with great blog post ideas is only half the battle– you also need to know how to leverage them. As you start developing your content, you can refine your plan by thinking about the following:
It’s important to define your content marketing plan because it’s hard to achieve success if you haven’t defined it. Start by thinking about what you want to gain from your digital marketing efforts. Are you looking to spread awareness, educate your audience, attract new leads? Once you have goals, you can build your content marketing strategy around them. Always think about what you want from your audience, and what they’d want in return. Put the visitor first by delivering the type of materials your target audience is looking for, and they’ll reward you with their attention.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your content marketing strategy probably shouldn’t be either. Each one of the steps in this guide is likely to take time, and that’s ok. It’s better to put in the effort now than to eventually find yourself several months into a half-baked content strategy. Even if you have to bookmark this list and come back to it, don’t be afraid to take your time. With that said, you can generally break your content marketing strategy into 10 steps. Knock these out one at a time to make things easier on yourself, and you’ll end up with an organized digital marketing strategy.
Your content marketing strategy should begin with a mission statement of sort. Come up with a brief paragraph to state who your target audience is, the type of content you’ll use to reach them, and the benefit they’ll receive. Next, try to define your goals as specifically as you can. If you’re having a hard time thinking of anything beyond “growing the business,” you can think of things in these terms:
Try to refine your goals until they’re SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). Once you do, you can establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that will show you whether or not you’re on track.
Make sure you’re prepared to track whichever KPIs you’ll need to measure success. Tools like Google Analytics can make things easier for you, and you may also need additional ways to log stats. For every goal, you should be able to say which tool you’ll use to measure it and what counts as success.
Know who you’re aiming for, then create content that will appeal to them. Use the analysis tools at your disposal to determine basic demographics about your normal audience: age gender, location, family, income, etc. You can find that kind of information through social media insight tools and web analytics tools. Next, go a step further to determine which type of interests your audience has.
Put this information together to create buyer personas, which are essentially prototypes of your ideal customer or visitor. Start each buyer persona by filling out their demographic information– it may even be helpful to name each persona and associate a photo or avatar of a person. From there, flesh out more psychological aspects like the following:
This exercise can be challenging, and it may even feel silly at times, but it’s worth it. As you start to develop a few personas, it will give you a deeper understanding of who you’re trying to reach. You’ll also get ideas for how you can reach them and form valuable connections.
Unless you’re a brand new company, there’s a good chance you already have a good amount of content at your disposal. Comb through your website, blog, social media channels, and anywhere else you might have published something. You may even have great assets in your business plan or pitch deck. Catalog everything as well as you can so you can take a high-level look at all the assets at your disposal, then keep track of your content over time.
Doing this accomplishes a few things:
This is where your persona research comes in. Where do those people go on the internet, and which types of content do they like? If your target audience scrolls through pictures all day, it’s time to learn how to market on Instagram. If they’re voracious readers, choose a content management system and that revolves around blog posts. If you’re struggling with this step, you have a few options for tools that can help:
Once you know where your audience lives online and which types of media they consume, consider which asset types to include in your digital marketing approach. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but don’t be afraid to branch out either. Content marketers have all of the following and more at their disposal:
Once you know generally where your audience goes and which kinds of content they’re looking for, deliver it to them. Start preparing your list of blog post ideas, come up with a visually striking Instagram strategy, and look at the content from other leaders in your industry. Follow influential accounts on social media, identify key hashtags, and generally keep an eye on trending topics. It’s also a good idea to read articles that rank high for your keywords, and you may want to bookmark a couple of blogs that you can go back to.
Now that you know what to do, how will you do it? Who is responsible for your digital marketing? Executing a content marketing plan can feel like a full-time job, so you may not have time if you’re busy running a business. Freelance writers, marketing contractors, or ad agencies may be good resources to help you carry the burden.
If you have someone on staff who can manage your content plan, which resources and tools will they need to get the job done? This really comes down to three things that you need to define:
You’re getting close. Now it’s time to establish an outline of the content you’ll actually publish. Decide how often you want to publish on each of your platforms. Just for example, let’s say you’re going with the following frequency for your content marketing plan:
Make a calendar (Google Calendar, Asana, CoSchedule, etc.) and start adding content to it at appropriate intervals. You don’t have to create the content yet, but it’s best to at least come up with a topic. Your topics can be as specific as a blog post title, or as general as one of the basic categories of information you talk about. If you’ve already thought of more detail than that, you can add notes that will help when you go through to complete the content.
After all that planning, you’re ready to get down to business. It’s generally best to work on the earliest part of your content calendar first, but it’s also ok to work ahead. You may feel inspired about something that’s scheduled for a couple of months out, and you might as well get it done while the creative juices are flowing. You’ll have more freedom to pick and choose if you work ahead of your deadlines.
As you create content, start by taking a look at what’s already out there. You’ll be more informed after doing your research, and it also helps you spot opportunities to say something new. Look for ways your content can be different from what’s already available, because this is how you add value for your audience. A quick Google search can work wonders, and original research is especially great.
Once you’ve done the legwork, it’s time to produce the final content. This could mean writing a blog post, creating an infographic, or recording a new YouTube video. As you create, do so with your brand standards and your customer personas in mind. Be consistent with your voice, and make sure the content is something people can understand and use.
Finally, think about how you can get exposure for your content once it’s been published. That means including your keywords, targeted Instagram hashtags, and other relevant optimization techniques. You can use your social channels, email newsletter, and other existing audience bases to promote new content. After all, it doesn’t do anyone (including you) any good if people don’t see what you created.
This step shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re properly prepared. You should have already defined KPIs and set up analysis tools all the way back at the beginning of this episode. Now all you have to do is check your stats and see how you’re doing.
Don’t be too quick to make massive changes based on your results from the first few days. Content marketing is a long game, and it takes time to get results. Over the course of months, though, you’ll start to see clear trends about what’s working well for you and what isn’t. Use your new insights to make adjustments on the fly. You can refine and edit your plan over time, even as you execute.
Steps 7-9 are ongoing. You can decide how often you want to create your content schedule, but taking it one to three months at a time seems like a sweet spot. If you want to plan further in advance, that’s great too, but you’ll also have to add things in on the fly to stay relevant as new trends emerge. When you have an idea that doesn’t fit into your current content schedule, save that asset for the future.
These 10 steps will give you a great start on your content marketing strategy. It’s not always an easy process, but almost anyone can master it with enough time, effort, and patience. That said, maybe you’re not feeling very creative, or maybe you just don’t feel like doing all of this work. In either case, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to outsource your digital marketing.
At any step along the way, from research to writing, you can contact a digital marketing agency and take the content marketing strategy off of your to-do list.