No matter the industry, content marketing allows you to:
- Communicate your brand’s story and purpose to your target audience
- Provide extra value to your customers
- Engage with customers and nurture them through the sales funnel
These benefits are some of the key reasons companies invest in content marketing. In 2018, 53% of all businesses used content marketing to promote their brand; 51% of them reported publishing content on a daily basis. Unfortunately, only 33% of companies have a systematic, documented content marketing strategy in place, and more than one in four respondents operated with no strategy whatsoever.
Developing a strategic approach is one of the biggest challenges organizations face in their content marketing initiatives. If you’re not improving your efforts, you’re already behind your competition. Keep reading for the six steps to building a solid and effective content marketing strategy.
More from PostFunnel on Content Marketing:
1. Define Your Goals for Your Content Marketing Initiatives
Your first order of business is clarifying your content goals. There are two sides to consider:
- Your audience-related goals
- Your business-related goals
When thinking about the audience-related goals, focus on the following question:
“What do we want our audience to get from engaging with our content?”
The answer should focus on value—using your brand to help customers grow.
The German company Bavarian Clockworks, for example, created content on clockwork and clock repair, and also discussed topics like German culture, woodworking, and travel. This generated a significant amount of organic traffic—which led to incredible growth for their company. Speaking of growth, it’s also important to have a clear idea of how your company stands to benefit from your efforts.
A few positive outcomes:
- Enhancing loyalty
- Spurring further engagement
- Generating brand awareness
The Bavarian Clockworks team focused on generating brand awareness, then shifted to building engagement with their new audience. Once you’ve determined your goals, choose the KPIs that’ll indicate success. As we’ve discussed before, this means looking beyond “vanity” metrics and digging into the KPIs that truly represent growth.
2. Define Your Target Audience
You may already have a number of clearly-defined audience segments and customer personas at the ready—but if not, begin by addressing these key points:
- What problem you can solve
- What the customer wants
- How to close the loop
- What makes our brand exclusive?
- When and where are customers engaging?
The answers to most of these questions will differ depending on where customers are in the sales funnel. Individuals at the “awareness” stage, for instance, will likely have a few surface-level problems, which you could solve with a longform blog post or quick how-to video.
Once individuals reach the “decision” stage, you’ll shift toward assuring these individuals that your product is the solution for them. You’ll likely want to create content such as demonstration videos, customer testimonials, and success stories. Once you have a better grasp of who your audience members are and what they’ll expect from you at various stages of the sales funnel, you’re ready for the next step.
3. Determine Which Channels You’ll Distribute Content On
Once you’ve selected potential channels over which to operate, consider how your audience uses them. Maybe they’re more apt to share a piece of awareness-level content with their Facebook friends, but actually engage with “Shoppable” posts on Instagram, making that the ideal platform to present decision-stage content. This goes back to knowing who your customers are, what they expect from you at different stages of the sales funnel, and how they’ll react once they’ve received it.
As with all things marketing, if you can get the right content in front of the right person at the right time, you’ve won half the battle.
4. Develop a Plan of Attack
We’re now ready to plan the content creation.
First, define which types of content you’ll use during the campaign by considering the following:
- What type of content does my audience expect on each channel?
- What type of content can I present?
- What type of content do we have the bandwidth to create?
Once you’ve decided on content formats, you can then start planning out your content calendar. While there’s no one way to go about creating a content calendar, you should include the following information:
- The to-be-published date
- The overarching topic of the content
- The author of the content
- The channel(s) on which to publish or share the content
- The format of the content
HubSpot provides its audience with the following content calendar template:
As Chief Strategy Officer of Mantis Research Michele Linn explains, you’ll want to begin planning your content as follows:
- Determine 5-7 key category topics
- Brainstorm at least three subtopics to discuss within each category
- Determine the most efficient and effective formats to use when tackling each subtopic
As you schedule the content, focus on your audience’s expectations, tantalizing them for whatever you have in store for them next.
5. Put Your Plan into Action
We could go on and on about how to create your content. For a deep dive, check out some of the following articles from the PostFunnel archives:
- Hoping for a piece that’s more viral, less virtually invisible? Start with the headline.
- Don’t let cart abandonment trip you up. Use these examples to get back into the game.
- People love stories. Tell them a good tale.
- Video is taking over the content marketing world. Here are the ins and outs of the medium.
- Sometimes the best way to create content is by repurposing what you already have.
6. Analyze, Assess, and Improve
Once your content has been live for some time, you’ll want to know whether or not it had a positive impact on your audience and business. This is where your KPIs come in, showing you what worked, what didn’t, and where your efforts fell short so you can begin making improvements.
If your content received little to no engagement, for example, but provided value to your target audience, consider promoting it on a different channel; if it received significant engagement but only a small percentage of your audience took further action, tweak your CTA. The only way to improve the effectiveness of your content marketing initiatives is to continue digging deeper into what your customers want and expect from your brand—and work tirelessly to bring it to them with every piece of content.