No content marketing effort is sustainable without a sound strategy. From setting objectives to promoting your content, this article provides a step by step guide to building a successful content marketing strategy.
Now that we’ve covered what content marketing is and various formats it can take, it’s time to buckle down and talk strategy. While you may be tempted to dive into your content, you’ll fall flat on your face without a carefully crafted plan.
Keep this in mind as you churn through your content planning: a strategy is a long-term plan of execution to achieve a specified goal.
So, my friends, here we go: a step by step playbook to building your content marketing strategy:
Step One: Set Your Content Marketing Objectives
If the point of having a strategy is to fulfill an objective, it makes sense to first establish your goals. To get started, turn no further than your overall business strategy. Then, decide how content marketing efforts can help achieve those goals.
Naturally, one of your objectives will be to increase sales. Unfortunately, no content is powerful enough to move a swarm of people to your checkout page. Instead, analyze your sales funnel, which is the process that customers take to eventually buy your product.
Content marketing is helpful in bringing new customers to the top of your funnel (knowing about your brand) and moving them closer to purchase. Thus, identifying what stages your customers go through will help you create content that moves them further down your funnel.
Here are some other content marketing objectives to consider:
- Establishment of industry thought leadership
- Enhanced SEO with higher rankings for certain keywords
- Education of current customers to increase engagement and retention
Whatever your situation, spend adequate time establishing your objectives – they will serve as the driving force of your strategy and execution.
Step Two: Perform a Content Audit
Next, scope out what content you currently have. Your website should already include a bountiful amount of content that you can use for future projects. Additionally, any blog posts, videos or even notes from conferences also count as current content.
Take this a step further by categorizing your content by topic and placing it in a spreadsheet. For example, my pretend hot sauce store has content pieces labeled by recipes and product descriptions.
By breaking your content into categories, you can quickly turn to this spreadsheet for ideas when you’re creating new pieces.
Step Three: Identify the Information Needs of Your Audience
One of the biggest questions online business owners face when starting a content marketing strategy is, “What the heck do I talk about?” If you’re in this boat, don’t feel bad – it’s one of the most important questions to ask.
To appropriately answer this question, you need to find the information needs of your audience. This starts, naturally, by identifying your audience. In other words, who are you talking to?
Here are some questions you can ask to better shape your audience profile:
- What are the various lifestyles of my current customers?
- What is unique about my product that attracts people to buy?
- What kind of magazines or blogs do my customers read?
Once you better define your audience, figure out what information they need to know (called a knowledge gap). By leveraging these gaps, you can deliver content that will educate your customers with information they want to receive.
More importantly, creating content based on information needs prevents you from making boring crap that no one cares about.
Here are some questions you can ask to determine information needs:
- What are some of the most common objections from customers in buying my products?
- What are the most frequent questions I see in my CRM?
- Which of my blog posts or videos received the most questions?
- What topics are similar blogs addressing?
Now that you know who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about, you can begin creating content! (This is where you say, “hooray!”)
Step Four: Decide How You’ll Promote Your Content
I’ll be honest. Content marketing can be frustrating.
Picture this: you spend hours and hours crafting an innovative, research-based blog post on trends affecting your industry. You’re extremely proud of your work and know it’s one of your best pieces yet. The only problem is that 48 hours later, you only have one retweet and no comments. (Yes, this happened to me, so please retweet and comment on this post.)
In other words, if you don’t plan on how to promote your content, no one will read/see/hear it. That’s why it’s particularly important to determine what platforms you’ll use to share your work. The best way to start is by analyzing your audience – are they more attuned to reading lengthy white papers or watching short online videos? Would they rather receive content via email or through social media channels?
The answer to these questions will change with each piece you create, but considering your content vehicle ahead of time will help generate more interactions.
Step Five: Create a Content Calendar
Another common question in crafting a content marketing strategy is, “when do I publish all this stuff?” The answer ultimately depends on how much content you’re creating, and what type. To help facilitate your publishing, create a calendar that details when and where you’ll share your content.
Best practice tells you to establish a calendar for six months in advance. But if this seems a bit too daunting, try creating a more generic timeline.
Take a look at this example for my hot sauce store:
- Daily: Tweets and Facebook status of new recipes that use hot sauce
- Bi-weekly: Blog posts on various topics facing the hot sauce industry
- Weekly: Video that details the origins of different hot sauce flavors
- Monthly: White paper or Article that discusses the flavor profiles of hot sauce varieties
- Quarterly: Infographic that outlines trends in hot sauce purchasing
The most important aspect of creating a content calendar is to establish consistency. One of the best ways to ruin a content marketing strategy is to train customers to expect content at certain times, only to disrupt their routine.
Step Six: Establish Your Content Marketing Metrics
Finally, decide how to measure the progress of your content marketing strategy. While it’s a bit more difficult to track how your content is affecting various parts of your business, there are some key indicators you can use. Ultimately your metrics should be direct reflections of your objectives, since that’s why you’re creating content in the first place.
Here are some ideas on various metrics you could use:
- Amount of sales received from customers who are receiving content versus those who aren’t
- Progress of rankings on search engine results for pertinent keywords
- Number of subscribers/followers; number of shares
- Reduction of customer inquiries regarding common sales objections
As you gather metrics, evaluate your progress to make adjustments to your strategy.
And there you have it – six simple steps to building a content marketing strategy. Join us next time to learn how to create a piece of content that breaks through the clutter.
-Matt Winn, Online Communications Specialist, Volusion
This article is a part of our Effective Content Marketing for Small Business series. Please check out the other posts and share them with anyone who may be interested.
Effective Content Marketing for Small Business:
Volume One: What Is Content Marketing?
Volume Two: 9 Ways to Get Started
Volume Three: 6 Steps to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Volume Four: 4 Ways to Break Through the Content Clutter
Volume Five: 9 Simple Ways to Spread Your Content Like Wildfire
Volume Six: Metrics You Can Actually Use
Volume Seven: How to Stay Committed to the Cause