Content Marketing is becoming a key aspect of marketing today. Its popularity is increasing by the day. Many marketers around the world are turning to content marketing. According to Demand Metric, 78 percent of CMOs think that custom content is the future of marketing.
When you think about it, what better way exists to build brand loyalty within a community than with content marketing?
But the most frequent question that is asked is, if it is increasing in popularity why do many marketers not see immediate results?
The thing about content marketing is that – It takes time! Content marketing is not an immediate reward attaining process but a future investment. It is essentially focused in a thought leadership perspective to engage with customers – not to build brand exposure or sell products
When creating a content marketing strategy, it is necessary to have a documented one as opposed to something you just build in your head. This is where most content marketers go wrong. They do not document their strategy.
A recent research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute revealed that 60% of businesses that have a documented strategy reported effectiveness and good results.
In this article we share with you the easy steps to building an amazing content strategy in record time.
1. Create a planning document
As we said earlier, documented strategies perform much better than verbal strategies. That’s why it is important for you to develop a document where you and your team can come up with and follow a specific plan, make changes, and develop ideas.
Just create an Excel spreadsheet and name it “Content Marketing Strategy”.
Kathryn Aragon and Neil Patel have put together an awesome guide on creating this planning document. You should read it when you have free time. In the meantime, I recommend that you follow the tips below.
Note: Make sure to update this document every year.
2. Set your business objectives
Every business owner knows that objectives are extremely important. Without them, you can’t go anywhere, and when it comes to content marketing you need to make sure that all your content has a specific objective.
Follow these steps to define your objectives properly:
Step # 1: State the goals you want to accomplish with content marketing
Contrary to popular belief, content marketing can directly impact your bottom line. In other words, content can make you money.
The problem is that content effectiveness is not easy to measure, and that’s why many people are disappointed. Quick results are expected, but in truth, content marketing is a long-term strategy.
With that in mind, it’s time to set your goals.
In your document, create a box called “Business objectives” and add 1-2 main goals, and 3-4 secondary goals.
- Increase newsletter sign-ups
- Increase number of people who start a free-trial
- Increase Twitter followers
- Improve search engines rankings
- Increase traffic
Step # 2: Add specific numbers (benchmarks)
The more the specificity, the better.
For example, instead of saying, “My goal is to have more traffic every month”, you should say “My goal is to have 30,000 visitors every month”. Or, even better, “My goal is to see a 10% increase in traffic every month”.
Try to add benchmarks to every business objective. That way, it will be easier for you to track and measure results.
Step # 3: What’s the business impact?
Now that you have set your goals and specific benchmarks, it’s time to add a “reason why” to each of them. In other words, how will those objectives directly benefit your business?
For example, how 30,000 extra visitors every month will influence your bottom line, or why do you want a 10% increase in sign-ups every month? How will your business benefit from those goals?
3. Define your core message
Businesses are becoming more and more competitive. If you don’t offer a unique value or benefit to your customers, they will see you as just one more voice in the crowd.
So, how can you distinguish yourself from other brands and businesses?
It’s simple: by defining your core message and unique value proposition (also known as UVP). These elements are the blood and sweat of any content marketing strategy, and without them you’re very likely to fail.
Here are the steps to develop a powerful message and UVP:
Step # 1: Who’s your target audience?
In order to create a compelling message, you need to understand who your audience is and what their problems are. If you don’t understand that, your content won’t benefit them at all.
Here’s where buyer personas come in handy.
These are semi-fictional characters that define your average reader. I won’t go into further details here, but you can start by reading the following guides:
- How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas For Your Business
- A Guide to Buyer Persona Development
- The Complete Beginner's Guide to Creating Marketing Personas
A major part of a successful content marketing strategy involves knowing your audience.
First things first. Find out where your target audience is hanging out online, what they are sharing. Gathering this information will help in your content creation.
Put together a buyer persona gathering as much information about your audience as possible. Social listening will help in picking up on their likes and dislikes and their characteristics.
Ask yourself these three important questions:
- What are the types of content pieces they share (format, tone, source, length)?
- Where does my target audience hang out online? (Social networks, blogs, forums, etc.)?
- What is the best way to reach my target audience? (Organic social media, advertising, search)?
Once you have your market figured out, you will need to start interacting with that group. What do they want from you, what matters to them, what information they want?
Step # 2: Develop your mission statement
According to Entrepreneur Magazine, a mission statement is:
“A sentence describing a company's function, markets, and competitive advantages; a short written statement of your business goals and philosophies”
In other words, why are you here in the first place?
Here are some guides that will help you develop a successful mission statement:
- How to write your mission statement
- How to Write a Mission Statement in 5 Easy Steps
- Answer 4 Questions to Get a Great Mission Statement
Step # 3: Develop a value proposition
As we said earlier, if you want to be different from other businesses out there, you need to develop a unique value proposition, but in order to develop a good one you need to understand a few important things.
First, a UVP is NOT:
- A slogan
- A headline
- Something funny
- A tool to manipulate readers
So, what’s a UVP?
“A unique value proposition is a statement that directly communicates a specific benefit to your main audience and distinguishes you from your competitors”
To explain this, here is an example:
The legendary copywriter Claude Hopkins was hired by Schlitz Beer back in the 1920s. The company wanted Claude to help them develop a stronger UVP (at the time, Schlitz Beer was the number 5 brand in the American beer market).
(Image source: OVG MARKETING)
Claude started to study the product, the company, and even the process they used to craft the beer. After some time, he realized that Schlitz Beer devoted rigorous attention to purity and quality, so he asked why the company did not tell that story to their customers.
The answer was (I’m paraphrasing): “There is no reason to do that, every beer company devotes a rigorous attention to quality and purity, and we are not doing anything different”
But Hopkins replied: “Yes, but nobody has ever told that story before”.
After a few months with the new “UVP”, Schlitz Beer became the number 1 brand in the American market.
In other words, you don’t need to possess anything different, but if you manage to state your value proposition in a unique and better way than your competitors, you’ll win.
Step # 4: Secondary messages
Ok, now that you have stated your core message, it’s time to state a few secondary messages. These are topics or subtopics that are directly related to your main niche. You’re doing this with the purpose of creating content around those topics.
For example, if you are in the SEO space, your secondary messages could be:
- Link building
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- List building
State 5-6 secondary messages (these will be the categories of your blog).
Step # 5: Develop a common brand language
As a part of your strategy, it is important to develop a common brand language. When a team agrees on a set of words that will bring out the brand’s philosophy, the entire process of writing content becomes easier and more efficient. Tools like Acrolix a terminology management tool, help in managing brand language.
Step # 6: Determine the frequency of posting
Time is of the essence. Keeping your audience in mind, you will need to come up with a ‘Posting Plan’. When do they browse the net? When will they be accessing your content? When is it most likely that they will see it? When is it most convenient for them to attend your webinar?
Step # 7: Honesty is the best policy
Be honest with yourself. It may be hard at first, but a necessary skill to develop. Blindly creating content without thinking and sharing that content without considering its effectiveness will only lead to a failure, waste of time and energy. Even though you may think what you have created is useful content, it may not be to your audience. Know where you are at with your marketing strategy and take it forward from there.
Step # 8: Entertaining content
It is not necessary for good content to always be entertaining. But as humans we have an admiration for content that makes us cringe, laugh or cry. Boring content can be made much more digestible to the audience if there was an emotional connection or it was entertaining. Audience also tend to share the content that they find entertaining.
4. The Content Amplification Plan
Creating good content isn’t enough. That is just the beginning. You need to amplify this content. You will have to market your own marketing. Social media can help drastically here. Apart from social media there are many other places that you can amplify your content- say with the help of influencers.
- Website analytics is one important factor you will need to study – when your audience visits, they leave a bunch of clues regarding their interests and needs. You can unwrap this by analyzing the key word performances, user behavior, internal search data and bounce rates.
- Surveying your customers is another way to understand where to amplify your work – ask the audience specific questions about the topics they are interested in, the features that are important, their favorite websites, the kind of information the piques their interest.
5. Perform a competitive analysis
No matter what niche you’re in, your competitors are valuable assets for your business, and when using them wisely you can find incredible opportunities.
Competitive auditing is the best way to find new marketing channels you may never have heard of before.
But what the heck is a competitive auditing?
“A competitive auditing is a strategy that consists of analyzing your competitors to find gaps, premises, and marketing channels they use, and then apply them to your business”
This is also called “Benchmarking”.
Here are the steps:
Step # 1: Define who your competitors are
The first step to perform a successful competitive analysis is to know who your competitors are. No worry, finding your competitors is not that hard, just follow one of the two techniques below and you’ll be fine:
Option 1: Use Google Search
Usually, businesses that dominate Google’s first page are strong, and that’s a useful trick to find competitors.
In order to do that, you need to prepare a list of your keywords, closely related keywords, and then start analyzing the first 40 results that appear when searching those keywords.
For example, if you sell SEO software, you can search for that specific term on Google, and you’ll find dozens of good targets:
Option 2: Use BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo is a tool that gives you the most popular content for specific terms and words. For example, if you search for gardening, BuzzSumo will show you the most shared content on that specific topic.
That’s a good way to find your stronger competitors.
Just go to Buzzsumo, type keywords related to your niche or products, and the tool will show you popular content on that niche.
Make a list of all the websites that seem a good target. Those are strong competitors.
Step # 2: Find the right insights and apply them to your strategy
Once you’ve a list of competitors, it’s time to perform a competitive analysis on their content. Here are the main things you need to analyze:
- Their headlines
- Types of content they use
- Topics they cover
- Social networks they use
- Style of their content
- How often they publish content
- The gap (what they don’t cover in their content marketing)
Add all the information you found to your document:
Step # 3: Borrow competitors channels
Now that you know who your competitors are, the type of content they use, and what they don’t cover, it’s time to see which channels they use and who their main audience is. It’s very probable that you and your competitors share the same audiences and that could lead to future ventures.
But for now, it will be very useful to find untapped marketing channels.
Just keep in mind, not all channels work equal. For example, if you run a B2C business, channels like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook will work much better than if you run a B2B business.
That’s why competitive auditing is very important. That way, you can find some channels that work very well in your niche.
Here are the steps:
Option 1: Use Alexa
Alexa is a tool that tells you how popular a website is (according to their own algorithm), but also tells you who their average reader is (demographics and psychographics).
Just type your competitor’s URL in the form and Alexa will show you powerful insights:
Option 2: Use Similar Web
Like Alexa, SimilarWeb shows you useful insights about any website; insights that you can apply in your own business.
Just insert one of your competitor's URLs and Similar Web will start analyzing it. After a few minutes, the tool will show you everything from the number of visitors they have every month, social networks, and even native advertising platforms they’re currently using to promote their content.
6. Choose the right instruments
Now it’s time to choose the tools and instruments you’ll use to implement your content strategy:
Step # 1: Choose a CMS
Content management system is a system used to manage the content of a website or blog
These systems are extremely useful because you can manage all the content in a single place, but a majority of them are also SEO-friendly and really easy to use.
Here are some of the best:
Step # 2: Define the content types you will use
There are different types of content, and some might work better for you than others. The best way to figure this out is through trial and error & by tracking what content performs well for your competitors.
These are the 3 most popular and effective types of content:
1. Blog post: Typically blogs are written by bloggers, but if you have a larger team with resources to write eBooks, then they should make time for blog posts as well. SEO specialists must work closely with these resources as blog posts are usually a company’s best gateway to higher organic search rankings.The types of blogs include:
- How-to – Posts: Typically the well performing posts on the organic search, these are posts that teach a reader how to do something.
- List Posts – These are search friendly posts that can be informative or just entertaining.
- Thought Leadership Posts- These posts are those that make the reader rethink a convention wisdom or explain the fundamental shifts in an industry.
- News jacks – This is content on news in the industry or unexpected tie-ins with the popular news.
- Info graphics/Slide Shares – These are blog posts that primarily use visual content to tell a story.
2. Premium or Gated Assets: Premium or gated assets are the more intense pieces that are in the longer form. These don’t exist on a blog. They are used for lead generation, building a contact base, and the brand building purpose.
Types of Premium Assets to Create:
- Ebooks – One of the popular formats, content is represented through a PDF format.
- Research Reports - Often presented as a gated PDF, or an ungated microsite.
- Webinars - Though time-intensive, webinars may feature a guest speaker who brings his or her own audience, which can help broaden the top of the funnel.
3. Visual Content: Visual Content is one form of content that is created by everybody. A bulk of the work will be done by the designer, but most of the content will be done by the content curators or social media specialists.
Types of Visual Content to Create:
- Info graphics – Info graphics can be embedded in a blog post or shared on social media.
- Slide Shares – Social media managers lay their focus on Slide Share as a channel, and create content exclusively for it.
- Video - Whether for YouTube or a blog post embed, short videos for the sake of entertainment or education can help you diversify your content portfolio and improve your SEO.
4. Social Media: Not all companies have blogs or newsletters that they send out every week. Instead they may be the ones all over social media. Companies like these post a huge amount of their content on social media.
Step # 3: Define the channels you use to promote your content
Now that you have selected your CMS and know which type of content you’ll create, it’s time to choose the right channels. These channels are the ways you’ll use to promote and distribute your content.
You can do two things to find the right channels:
Option 1: Start to think like a customer
The best way to find distribution channels is by figuring out where your main customers usually hang out. For example, as I said earlier, fitness and health niches perform much better on Facebook than on Twitter or Linkedin.
On the other side, marketing related niches work best on channels like LinkedIn and Twitter since those two platforms are more business inclined.
Option 2: Take a look at your competitive analysis
The easiest way is to look at the competitive analysis you performed earlier and see which channels your competitors are using to promote their content.
These guides will give you detailed strategies to find the best channels:
7. Develop an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar is a simple document where all your content is programed and where you can plan your next moves. It’s extremely useful to keep you organized.
According to Wikipedia, an editorial calendar is-
“…used by bloggers, publishers, businesses, and groups to control publication of content across different media, for example, newspaper, magazine, blog, email newsletters, and social media outlets”
Here’s how to develop a successful editorial planner:
Step # 1: Set your frequency
How often will you publish each type of content?
- One post per week
- Two infographics every month
- Four tweet posts every day
- One in-depth research every quarter
Step # 2: Structure the workflow
86% of highly effective organizations have someone in charge of content strategy. So if you’re a team or a big organization, you may need to design your workflow. That way, all your content will be organized, and each task will be assigned to someone.
- First, content will be written by one member of your staff
- Second, writers will send the finished content to the editor
- Editor will proofread content and send notes to writer
- Writer will make requested changes and send the content again
- Editor will schedule finished content
If you’re a solopreneur, you’ll do everything from writing, editing, publishing, and promotion.
Step # 3: Track results
Once your content is published, you need to track results to figure out which type of content performs better and your audience interacts more with. That way, you’ll be able to put less effort into less-effective content and start paying more attention to content that gives you results.
8. How often must your Content Marketing Strategy be updated?
As your content marketing program grows, you need to update parts of your strategy whereas some bits will remain the same like your business goals and your mission. It will be beneficial if the other parts of your marketing strategy are reviewed and updated periodically. To ensure that your content marketing program remains on target, consider revisiting your channel strategy, core topics, and team processes on an annual basis.
Developing a good content marketing strategy can become really tedious, but eventually all of your efforts will pay off.
We’ve given you all you need. All that is left to do is: Get down to your plan. Get organized and plan your goal. Follow the steps to enhance your strategy. Take your time with your planning. Make a well laid out strategy and tactics that you will implement in your content strategy. Make your vision become reality. Aim to influence!
Click here for Simplilearn's Content Marketing training.
What other tips can you offer to develop a winning content marketing strategy? We’d love to hear your thoughts about it!