Blogging, newsletters, social media. All are effective means of marketing a business but are easily overwhelming without a content strategy in place. In fact, 63 per cent of businesses do not have a documented content strategy.
Most don’t know where to start or don’t have the time or money to invest in one. However, the path to plan, publish and prosper with an intentional content strategy is closer than you think — even if you’ve tried and failed in the past to implement one.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a clearly defined target audience.
Unlike advertising, which is designed to interrupt and convince, content marketing is used to stimulate interest in a product or service without explicitly promoting your brand. Think of it as a subtle sales technique: distributing content your audience will value, by helping them overcome problems, achieve a desire or explore a particular interest.
The end goal is to drive profitable customer action. This is what makes content marketing a worthwhile investment for companies of all sizes.
Planning Your Content Strategy
When approached with intention, content marketing can result in stronger customer relationships, shorter sales cycles and a higher long-term return on investment than traditional advertising.
There are five building blocks business owners need to understand, in order to develop a content strategy and create engaging content: purpose, audience, calendar, content and evaluation.
Think back to the reason you started your business and the spark behind the problem your business is solving. What’s the value your business adds to the world? This is the intention that should fuel your content strategy.
Next, give some thought to your business and marketing goals. Are they to build your email list? Increase repeat sales? Double month-over-month website traffic? How will content help you achieve these goals? Here’s an example:
We want our content to connect newly engaged couples to bridal vendors and resources, so they don’t get overwhelmed by the wedding planning process.
By creating content that supports couples on their wedding journeys, we can achieve our goal of 50 per cent of web traffic referred from social media and driving more downloads to our “No Stress Wedding Guide.” Every new download equals a new contact on our email list and a potential new business lead.
Getting clear on the purpose of your content is a key step in deciding why, what and how to approach content marketing. Your intention, paired with tangible business goals, will ultimately direct the content you create.
Understanding the values, motivations and desires of your ideal customer, as well as how they like to spend time online, is the next step in developing an intentional content strategy.
If you’ve ever read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, you know that the quickest way to win someone over is to talk about something that interests them. It is a similar context when it comes to content marketing. It’s not about your business. It’s the intersection of topics your audience cares about and topics that relate to your product or service that will motivate your target audience that will motivate your target audience.
Some questions to ask when defining the audience of your content strategy include:
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What are their challenges, motivations, desires?
- How can your business help solve or support these challenges, motivations, desires
- What’s the best way to reach your customer online?
Once you’ve defined your purpose and audience, choosing marketing channels and deciding how often you’ll publish is the next step toward building a content strategy.
Too often, content creation gets put off because it’s overwhelming. You can avoid the deluge of an arbitrary content plan by structuring your calendar first, then backfilling it with the necessary content ideas.
Start by choosing a time frame, like monthly or quarterly, and outline your content calendar for that time period. Make sure this schedule is something you can repeat on a regular basis. This is essential for creating content consistently in the long term.
A few questions to consider are:
- How much time do you have to create content?
- Which channels will you publish to?
- What types of content will you create for each channel?
- How often will you publish content to each channel?
Business owners tend to have one of two problems: they either have so many content ideas that it’s hard to prioritize, or they struggle to come up with content ideas altogether.
One way to determine whether a content idea is a good fit for your strategy is to refer back to your purpose, audience and calendar, to evaluate your idea.
- Does it support a business goal or underlying intention?
- Does it appeal to a challenge, motivation, or desire of your target audience?
- Will it work for the marketing channel(s) and publishing frequency you have on your content calendar?
If a content idea doesn’t meet the above criteria, it’s likely not a good fit for your content strategy.
If you struggle to come up with content ideas, try brainstorming a few topics using the questions below, and select only what you need to fill your content calendar. For example, if your calendar outlines three blog posts per month, four Instagram posts per week and a bi-weekly Facebook live stream video, you need nine ideas to fill up your content schedule.
- What do you want to market this month?
- What are you an expert in?
- What frequently asked questions come up from your audience?
- What’s something that interests your audience?
Reusing content ideas across marketing channels can help you become more intentional about the content you create. For example, use your blog topic idea as the content for one or two social posts, as well as the talking points for a live stream video.
Finally, with intentions and ideas firmly in place, identify the metrics you need to measure content performance and the overall success of your content strategy.
Social media and email marketing platforms have built-in analytics, while tools like Google Analytics can help you measure other areas of your marketing and sales efforts.
In addition to pulling reports to understand your numbers, use the questions below to reflect on the data, looking for ways to turn insights into ways to improve your content strategy.
- Did your content meet its intended goal/expectation?
- What insights did you gain?
- How will you improve next time? ′
Sharon Milone is a content strategist and the director of client success at generative.agency, a full-service content creation company.