Guest post by Rick Riddle.
Most businesses will say that they have a content marketing campaign, while many of those businesses will have one or more employees charged with developing and publishing content. Even a small business owner will either take this responsibility themselves or contract with someone to do it. But a campaign is not a strategy. It is a practice of creating content, putting it somewhere or anywhere, and hoping for the best. A strategy, on the other hand, involves a plan – from establishing clear objectives, to developing specific activities that will meet those objectives, and then measuring the effectiveness of it all.
In 5 steps, you can develop a strategy that will be clear and easy to use.
Objective 1: Get a Long-Term Commitment from Those Who Hold the Purse Strings
If you are a marketing professional in a large organization, you will obviously have to sell the concept of a content marketing strategy, especially if you want the money to do it right. A budget might include the salaries of those who are developing, publishing and evaluating the ROI, tools and apps that may come with price tags (premium versions always cost), and costs for targeted advertising, to name a few. When planning a budget for content marketing, do your research and be certain to add some “slush” money for new tools you may encounter within your budget year. Far better to overestimate costs.
Fortunately, selling the decision-makers on content marketing is getting a bit easier, because most executives have at least heard that it is an important aspect of contemporary marketing. What they may not understand, however, is that content marketing is a bit different from traditional methods. New customers will not hurry in tomorrow or next week. There is a process that takes time – building relationships and trust, avoiding any “hard” selling, and nurturing potential customers as the move through the sales funnel at their pace, not yours. The best method to get their “buy-in” is to locate case studies that demonstrate the increased ROI that companies have realized from content marketing campaigns. You can find these case studies on reputable content marketing websites such as ContentMarketingInstitute.com, QuickSprout.com, JeffBullas.com, and many others. Good case studies have the data that support your cause.
Objective 2: Identify and Know Your Target Audience
If you were Coca-Cola, there would be no need for you to define a target audience—you can blanket the entire consumer market. But for most brands, effective content marketing is about educating, entertaining, and inspiring members of a particular audience so that they bond with and trust you. Then, when they need your product or service, they think of you. Content marketing is all about the customer, not your company or your product/service.
- Develop a customer persona. If you have been in business for a while, you already have a pretty good idea of who your typical customer is. Create a profile of that customer – age range, gender, socio-economic group, educational background, typical career, marital/family status, and so forth. For example, let’s say you are a clothing retailer specializing in young adult career and casual wear. Your target market is clearly millennials and recent college grads. What do you know about millennials?
- Their buying decisions are usually made by recommendations from family and friends
- They have student loan debt
- They value their personal and social lives
- They do not want to be “pushed” into decisions by others
- They like doing business with companies that have a sense of social responsibility
- They hang out on Facebook, Twitter, and more recently on Instagram. Many do have LinkedIn profiles as well.
- They look for entertainment when they are online and they share funny, interesting, and cool stuff with their communities
This is a huge amount of information that you can get just by doing a bit of research.
- Figure out the typical “buying journey” of your target. This will involve first becoming aware of you, usually because someone has shared something with them. Next, they may develop an interest in getting to know more about you and your product or service. The third step will be to consider making a purchase, and the fourth step will be to make the decision to purchase.
At each stage in this journey, certain content will be important. And because your audience members will be at all four stages at different times, you will need to be certain that your content rotates so as to appeal to them at each stage. This is a pretty big task, but it can be done if you map out the buying stages, the types of content you should produce at each stage, and then scheduling those types of content on a rotating basis.
Focus on your customer, not your product. The idea is to create content that your customer wants and needs, not stuff that you think you want them to know.
- Study the content of your competitors. What type are they publishing and where are they publishing it? What kinds of conversations are going on between them and their customers or prospects?
- Use some of the great tools life Buzzsumo to find out the most popular topics in your niche
- Ask your current customers what types of information they need or want, what type of content they find useful, entertaining, or inspiring, and so forth. Ask them where they hang out online.
Your content topics and platforms should be determined by these things.
Objective 3: Determine the Right Content Approaches
Your goal is to develop a relationship and promote your brand by providing content your target wants to read or view.
- Develop a wide variety of content that you can publish across those channels you have identified. This may include storytelling; it may include featuring current customers; it may involve support for a cause; it may involve a “how-to” video or slide show; it may involve just posting a joke or quote a day; it might include a humorous quiz, a survey, or some other medium in which your audience can participate.
- Develop an Amplification Plan: How can you create content in many different ways to appeal to different styles of viewing? Take a blog post and turn it into an infographic, a survey, or a video. Take several blog posts and create an e-book for free downloading. Take an e-book or white paper you have produced and break it up into single posts. And always, have those snippets and teasers with great titles published on your social media platforms
- Make sure you have easy methods for readers to share the content on your blog; make sure you start conversations on each post you publish. Ask questions on your Facebook page to engage.
- Curate the best content of others that you find elsewhere and share it with your audience. You become more “expert” and loyalty is promoted.
For further tips on figuring out what content is the right fit for your audience, check out this article from Fit Small Business, with advice from 26 content marketing pros.
Objective 4: Create a Publishing Calendar/Schedule
You have to publish consistently and you have to be certain that you are honoring all phases of the buying cycle as well as all styles of your audience. And you have to determine which content will go on each platform and when. This means you have to develop a calendar and stick to it as much as possible. To make your publishing more efficient, you need to do three things:
- You have to know when and where your target audience is online. Again, much of this work has already been accomplished for you. You need only access the information and make sure that your publishing times and days are optimal.
- Once you have that calendar and you create your content, use a tool such as Buffer to automate your publishing. You will have all kinds of options, and that work is “off your plate.” For example, a Twitter post will have to occur several times a day for several days and then back off gradually. You can schedule this automatically.
- Make your Content SEO-friendly
- One keyword per page
- Keywords used 3-4 times in your copy
- Make sure you are consistent with the exact term everywhere
- Provide longer content on your blog posts with lots of headings and bullets for easy scanning. Search engines love longer content, but your audience needs to be able to move quickly and pause to read only those parts which are of real interest.
Objective 5: Measure Your Content Effectiveness
Content marketing is amazingly inexpensive – it is the cost of the content creators’ salaries and benefits or, in the case of a small business, the contract fee you pay monthly. Even if you move into some paid advertising, it is still cheap marketing. And, you can reduce the need to buy advertising by developing reciprocal arrangements with businesses that are related to yours. You post and promote each other’s content. Still, you have to measure it to know if it is working and to justify what cost there is.
- You must use analytics tools to gauge traffic. Even if customers are not yet buying, getting significant increase in traffic is important. Increased traffic will always eventually result in increased sales.
- Which of your publishing platforms is working best? This should help to drive your scheduling.
- Which of your types of content are getting the most hits and shares? This should drive topic selections and modalities of delivery.
Here are the KPI’s you should be looking for:
- Consumption: This is your start point for measuring the success of your strategy. You need to record data related to the number of page, post, video, and document views, the number of downloads, and, if you have an email campaign, how many opens for each one?
- Engagement: Good content should result in shares, comments, re-tweets, from content you have written and published on your blog or through social media platforms. The metrics should include, how many shares, like, etc., how many forwarded emails, how many comments on your blog posts, and how many inbound links you are achieving. It should also include bounce rates and the average time on your site and various pages.
- Conversions: How have you defined conversions? You probably have several types that you want to look at. How many form fills; how many registrations; how many blog and/or email subscriptions; how many leads have you pulled from these conversions, and, most important, how many sales.
If you have the right tools, you will receive detailed reports, with data you can use to re-evaluate, modify, and refine your strategies. Further, you will have regular progress reports to share with higher ups.
These five steps will give you a full strategy that will be easy to implement and evaluate. Remember this is a long-term strategy of developing relationships first, and promoting products second. If you stick to that overriding principle, you’ll get the payoff.
Rick Riddle is passionate about the self-development process and wants to share his experience with more people via his articles. You may find more his articles on this blog and follow him on twitter!