Developing a content marketing strategy that works
Do you want to generate leads and acquire motivated customers? If yes, then you need to take content marketing seriously. But more than that, you also need to go above and beyond in developing a content marketing strategy that works.
Truth is, content is at the heart of the internet, ecommerce, and everything online. This is why content marketing is known as the wave of the future. If you have to succeed online, the dead simple rule is to master content marketing. Some 91% of businesses and marketers are already using content marketing.
What is content marketing?
Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Wikipedia views it as a form of marketing that is focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content to a target audience.
Here are some of the few noticeable aspects of content marketing:
It’s a marketing approach or a type of marketing.
It’s focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content.
The purpose is to attract and/or retain target audience, which is clearly defined.
Content marketing isn’t just about creating and publishing content. There’s more. The published content has to be distributed effectively so that it will be read and shared by the target audience.
Overview of a content marketing strategy
In order to create, publish, and distribute content to attract the target audience, you have to have a well-written strategy. Businesses that use written content marketing strategy are more effective in all aspects, as reported by MarketingProfs.
But the irony is, only 32% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. Your content marketing rests on the strategy that you have devised. If it doesn’t exist or if it is not documented and communicated to the entire team, you can imagine where it will lead.
Content marketing strategy tells you:
Who are the readers and what they are interested in?
What are the problems of the readers?
How content marketing is linked to the marketing strategy?
What is the objective of every single piece that you publish?
How to measure the success content marketing (KPIs and metrics)?
Content marketing strategy gives direction to your efforts. You know what you have to achieve, how to track the performance, and how to improve your marketing strategy.
At the core, content marketing strategy has two main pillars:
Target audience personas
Understanding of customer journey
The crucial question is how to develop a content marketing strategy that will never let you down?
6 steps for developing a content marketing strategy
A content marketing strategy is an outline of your business objectives, customer needs, and how you can address them with the help of content.
Simple, right? There are no templates that can be copy-pasted for instant success because no two businesses have the same objectives and similar target audience. You’ve got to create a strategy for your business from scratch based on your business goals, customer needs, and content strategy.
The following 6-step will guide you in creating an effective content marketing strategy. This should work for all types of businesses and are sure to work for you too. Let’s dive in…
Content marketing strategy begins from research – in-depth research. The aim of research should be threefold.
a). Find your competitive advantage (if not already known):
The strategy should be based on the most powerful feature of your business that should, technically, be a competitive advantage. For instance, if your customers choose you because of superior customer support, this is your competitive advantage.
For example, H&M has a unique competitive edge, which makes it stand tall above other fashion outlets. Content based on things you do best will entice readers to take action. List at least three competitive advantages.
b). See what type of content your top three competitors are producing and how well (or bad) it’s doing:
Next, identify the best performing content published by your competitors. Use the best content as a benchmark and generate better content. Brian Dean used this technique to increase search traffic by 110% in 14 days.
c). Understand your target audience:
This can be different from your business’s target audience. You can choose to target a specific chunk of the target market with your content. You cannot reach the entire target market with a single marketing approach, therefore, target users who are interested in the content. Conduct surveys, use social networks, or maybe directly ask your existing users as to how they want to receive content from your brand.
2. Create target audience personas
Basically, a buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal buyer. Personas help understanding your ideal customers, their needs, problems, and more.
The idea is to define your potential buyer in terms of demographics and psychographics. It will help you understand the real challenges that your buyers face and how your content can solve them.
It makes sense.
For example, Ferrari has its buyer persona clearly defined.
Average age 47 (North America)
Forty-five percent entrepreneurs
Forty-five percent are MBA or PhD
Do you think it will be hard for a Ferrari sales person to find people interested in buying from him, not at all. Your job is to create similar but detailed buyer personas.
So how do you do it?
Use analytics, existing customer database, conduct surveys and interviews, analyze comments, monitor social following and social activity, and use advanced tools like Buxton. This will enable you to customize content for your target audience. It’s been reported that buyers are 48% more likely to buy from brands that provide personalized products and offers.
3. Content creation and publishing
Now is the time to create and publish content for your target audience that’s already defined in the previous step. The content creation phase is the challenging part. Trust us, it’s a lot of hard work. Though it’s the responsibility of the content creators, you have to provide them with an editorial calendar.
To get better results, make sure you create content that will appeal to your target audience, is unique to your brand, and has something to offer. If it doesn’t deliver value, it will not convert.
How do you do it?
Content strategy is the answer.
Note: Content strategy is different from content marketing strategy. Because it only deals with content creation and distribution. Plan content and align it to customer journey.
A content audit will reveal whether you need to update existing content or new content has to be created.
While production plan determines the type of content, how it’s to be produced, who will write it, what should be the topic, how it has to be covered, and so on. Once content is ready, publish it on your website/blog.
How often should you publish?
There’s no set rule. Some 26% of content marketers reported that they publish new content multiple times a week. Publishing 2 to 5 times a week seems to be a decent idea.
4. Content promotion and distribution
Publishing high quality and valuable content on your blog will not drive traffic – promoting them will. God’s truth. You have to put your content in front of the ideal customers and readers. This is perhaps the most crucial part of the entire content marketing strategy.
To a large degree, the success of every single blog post depends on the number of people who have access to it. For better clarity, there are three possible ways to promote and distribute your content:
Paid media such as PPC ads.
Owned media like your own blog and social accounts.
Earned media includes organic reach, word of mouth.
The best approach is to use all the three channels for promoting and distributing your content. Buffer has a simple yet effective content promotion strategy that will help you reach your target audience effectively.
5. Content Repurposing
Did you know that converting your blog posts into multiple formats is a strategy that some of the top marketers like Neil Patel use? If you can repurpose your blog post into a video tutorial, you’ll certainly reach a new audience.
Do you think converting a blog post into a video or a podcast need additional resources and time? Well, it doesn’t. You don’t need a whole bunch of resources, manpower, or money to convert an existing article into multiple formats.
Let’s quickly recap the type of formats you can use:
Once you’ve converted a blog post into different formats, the next step is to distribute and share the content. For instance, publish infographics on sites like Visual.ly, videos on YouTube and Vimeo, slides on SlideShare, and so on. Each type of content format will target a different customer group. For example, there must be a specific group of your target audience that’s in love with videos and spends more time on YouTube, videos will bring this target group onboard.
More formats mean more eyeballs – more reach.
6. Track ROI
Statistics show that only 21% of marketers successfully track ROI of their content marketing. It’s crucial to measure the success of your content marketing strategy so as to see how it’s doing.
Let’s keep this tracking simple.
There are three components of ROI on content marketing, you just have to measure these three and you will know how it’s going.
i). Cost: This includes the cost of everything ranging from content marketing strategy development to content creation to conversion to multiple formats to tools and more. A simple rule is to calculate the average monthly cost and the number of content pieces produced each month. You will get the average cost per piece.
ii). Content utilisation: It refers to the percentage of content that has not been used. Unused content eats your resources but is never used, therefore, the percentage of unused content should be as low as possible. But reports show that as much as 70% of content is never used. The campaign manager or content manager can generate a report of unused content.
iii). Performance: It refers to content performance. How well it performed. Google Analytics is your best friend to measure performance but the question is what metrics you should use to measure content performance? Clicks, shares, comments, conversions, or anything else. Michael Brenner recommends measuring engagement rate instead of traffic statistics. A certain blog post generated 51 leads, great – but ask yourself, how many of these leads are active and engaged? With these three components, you can measure the cost per lead or cost per engagement. Is it costing you too much?
Is it cheap?
Does your strategy need minor or major tweaks?
You have the reports and data to make informed decisions.
Five best practices for creating a content marketing strategy
Carmen Hill, content strategist at Babcock & Jenkins, says:
“Whether it’s a targeted campaign or a comprehensive program, you need to plant a strong foundation of content that attracts prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey, seeding awareness and nurturing ongoing interest.”
These five best practices will give your content marketing strategy a decent jump star
1. Get everyone onboard
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. Therefore, it’s ideal to take everyone onboard. All the stakeholders must be fully committed to back the strategy. If your team isn’t committed or in worst case, if nobody knows in the organization what is their content marketing strategy, it will lead to nowhere. Ardath Albee says:
“You need executive backing to fund and source a content strategy. You also need the support to ensure there is enough commitment to see a content marketing strategy through.”
Without a strong support from stakeholders and your team, the strategy will most likely fail.
2. Develop an editorial calendar
After you have developed your target audience personas, you should create an editorial calendar. It can be as fancy as the Lamborghini Aventador or it can be as simple as a one-pager summary. But you should have one.
An editorial calendar shows you what you have to publish, when it has to be published, why it should be published, and how it’s expected to help the content marketing strategy. You can create an editorial calendar from scratch or you can use a template.
Some of the basic constituents of an editorial calendar include:
The date and time when it has to be published
Product/offer it will promote
Sources, images, and videos
Make sure your editorial calendar has all of these parts to make it effective.
3. Utilize content to its fullest
There are multiple ways to use content to its fullest capacity. First, convert it into multiple formats (already discussed). Distribute and promote all the formats simultaneously. Second, unused content should be used. Statistics show that as much as 90% content goes unused. In another study, 60% to 70% content is reported to be of no use.
The cost of unused content is well over $50 billion a year.
You’ve got to do two things:
Minimise content wastage.
Put unused content to good use.
Here are a few tips to minimize content wastage and tap into its potentials:
Your teams should be aligned. Everyone should know what’s happening in the last cabin of your organisation. Lack of communication among departments and individuals lead to content wastage.
Motivate your employees to get involved.
Create a central hub for content publication within your organization. All the content should pass through the hub. Let your content manager monitor the content hub.
Identify and use unused content starting today.
4. Revive old content
Your new content has no value if your old content isn’t updated. Reviving old content such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc., should be a must part of the content marketing strategy. Updating old posts will drive traffic, increase conversions and engagement. Additionally, it leaves a better impression on your target audience when they see that you update old content regularly. Nobody likes reading outdated posts that do not make much sense.
5. Link content marketing strategy to business goals
Content marketing strategy is a subset of your overall business and marketing strategy. It should be linked to marketing strategy and to business objectives and goals.
The content marketing strategy should help fulfill marketing goals and business goals. If it doesn’t do so, then something is wrong.
Examples of an effective content marketing strategy
Logicalis used multiple content types to generate $8 million in revenue with the target audience of 2000. It used eBooks, microsites, and emails to share valuable content with its target audience. As soon as the new content marketing strategy was implemented, leads and sales started to come in.
DemandBase is a B2B marketing technology provider that generated more than $1 million in revenue with its content marketing strategy. These guys used infographics, SlideShare, white papers, and webinars as the main content types for their new content marketing strategy. The objective of the strategy was to generate leads and it did it. Over 1700 new leads were generated. Not bad.
3. Crowe Horwath:
Hold tight, the content marketing strategy of Crowe Horwath and the awesome results will blow you away. Crowe Horwath is an accounting and consulting firm that launched its content marketing strategy to target financial institutes with $1 billion in assets. They only generated 50 different content pieces including case studies, videos, infographics, and executive briefs. Guess what, it worked great. One infographic generated 800 leads and two contracts worth $250K. If this doesn’t motivate you to have a content marketing strategy, nothing else will.
There you’ve it. It’s no secret that content marketing can transform your business at every level. Most importantly, when you begin to create custom content that provides answers to your customer’s questions the results will dazzle you.
According to a study, 78% of content marketers are of the view that custom content is the future of marketing. In this digital age, you can’t afford to run your business without a proven strategy. Since content is the lifeblood of every successful online business, you need an effective content marketing strategy. Go and create one today.
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