So here’s something that happens a lot: a business owner is looking for good ways to get the word out about her product or service. She hears through the grapevine that content marketing is where it’s at. Blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, the whole shebang.
She gets really excited and immediately recruits someone to create a blog for the business, then puts the marketing guy in charge of it. He signs up for the major social media sites. Without really having an idea of the company end goal or how they should proceed, he updates the blog every so often with company news, and if he remembers, he’ll also post it to Facebook, Instagram it, post to Medium and send out a tweet. After a couple of months of not seeing great returns on the blogging and posting, content marketing takes a back seat to everything else on the marketing guy’s plate. This business’ last blog post was in December 2015 and the social media accounts have been all but abandoned. Just another case of failure to develop a content strategy beforehand.
What is a Content Strategy?
Simply put, a content strategy is the plan you’ll use to create, share, and curate content. It doesn’t have to be anything flashy or super impressive, yet it’s vital for making content marketing work for you. Why’s that? It’s because content marketing without a strategy is pretty much like going to the Super Bowl without a game plan. It’s like making a pie without a recipe. Building a house without blueprints. Taking a road trip without Google Maps. You’ve got the idea, right?
So if content marketing hasn’t worked for your brand in the past, it’s likely because you haven’t had a good strategy in place to guide your efforts. A report by Content Marketing Institute found that 61% of the successful marketers they surveyed had a content strategy in place, while only 13% of the unsuccessful marketers had one. How many of the remaining 87% of unsuccessful marketers would’ve been successful if they’d taken time to make a game plan?
Today, I’m going to show you how to create one in just five easy steps. So if you’re ready, let’s get to the first of four essential questions you must ask yourself.
Who is your audience?
Do you know who you’re marketing to? I mean do you really know your ideal customer? Whether you do or not, now is the time to solidify it in writing. This part might be the hardest, since you’ll likely have to do some digging to get your answers. A good place to start is to go off of information about your current or past customers. From there, dig into your social media analytics, like Facebook Audience Insights, to see demographic info about the people who follow you. You can even send out surveys and conduct interviews (hint: incentivize the surveys with relevant freebies to get more respondents. You can offer to send the results of the survey to them for free in a report, offer a discount, or even offer gift cards). Visit industry forums and haunt the comment sections of popular industry blogs to see what people are talking about. Read the case studies of your competitors.
While researching, look for the answers to some of these questions:
- What products or services are these people likely to buy from you, and why? What results do they want to achieve?
- What is it about similar products and services that they consider the most important? Where are competing products falling short?
- If they’re not buying from you yet, why not?
Once you’ve done all of this research, your job is to condense it all down into one or two buyer personas that represent your ideal customer or customers. What’s this guy’s name? How old is he? What does he do for a living? How many children does he have? Where does he live? What problems does he have that your business can help him solve? By doing this work, you’ll always have a single person to keep in mind when creating content for your business. You’re more likely to create stuff that’s useful and engaging if you know it’s something that your buyer persona would dig.
Remember, this first part is the most challenging, so try not to overwhelm yourself. Just jot down useful notes and use what you have to complete this first step.
Where does your audience go online?
You should have some idea of this from the research you did in step one. Try to identify two or three websites, social media platforms, apps, etc. that your persona would frequent. This means (thankfully) that you don’t have to be on every social networking site in existence. Just being consistent and building an audience on two or three of these channels is better than spreading yourself too thin over ten of them. If you’re not sure where your audience hangs out, you can include this question in your research. Talk to your customers, send out surveys, and otherwise get the nitty gritty on where your tribe is hanging out online.
What do they like to see online?
Again, you should have an idea of this from the steps above. What is it your customers are most interested in? If you’re a B2B company whose ideal audience frequents LinkedIn, they might be looking for research content including whitepapers and annual reports, and also slide decks and infographics. If you have a big potential audience on Facebook, then video and list posts might be right up their alley. The goal is to find out what pieces of content perform the best with your audience so that you don’t waste your time on things that won’t get results.
So what if you don’t know exactly what your audience is into?
- Start by dipping into your own archives and seeing what content you’ve produced in the past has performed well with followers.
- Interview industry thought leaders. See what content is performing well on their websites. Briefcase from Appsumo has a lot of useful online business tools, including one that lets you research blog posts in various industries by popularity.
- Again, talk to existing and past customers to see what they like. Note any trends that you see.
- Go to industry-related forums and online communities and start a conversation around the topic.
Chances are you’ll find some useful info to use in creating your content strategy.
What info do they need, and what do you hope to accomplish with your content?
You can answer the first question by asking what problems you want to solve for your customer. For example, say you’re a company that helps manufacturing businesses to better manage their supply chains. Your ideal customer will likely be interested in supply chain management, but also related topics like human resource management, finance, management practices, and resource planning. Think of all the various ways that your expertise can help your audience. This is important since your readers are unlikely to buy from you based on a single piece of content; you have to create multiple pieces of content that will be useful to them and steadily convince them over time that you’re the best option to alleviate their pain points.
In content creation, you should also keep in mind your company sales funnel and buying cycle. At the top of the sales funnel you have people who might not know about you, but might be interested in what you have to offer. Maybe you want them to sign up for a webinar, or download a free whitepaper that will help them solve a major business woe. This initial piece of content needs to be compelling and also free of charge.
Further down the sales funnel, offer content that answers these questions: what does my audience need to know before giving us their business? What objections or concerns might they have that I can help them to overcome?
How will you measure your content marketing success?
Tracking the progress of your content marketing is rather fun, since you get to see all your hard work in action. Think about ways you can track your success. This can include tracking Google website analytics, the size of your email list, or using social media tools like HootSuite. Also, think about tools and resources you’ll need. Will you need dedicated landing pages? How about tracking links? Devise a simple plan and try it out for a while to see if it’s useful in tying your content marketing efforts to your overall marketing goals. Planning this step ahead of time will save you from later scrambling to figure out if your content marketing is actually working.
Do you see how simple creating a content strategy can be? The best part is that you’ll be better equipped to actually succeed at content marketing instead of spinning your wheels endlessly. And if you find that something isn’t working, it’ll be easy to go back and see what you need to tweak to do better next time. Have at it!
Do you need help in creating and implementing your content strategy? Contact me today to talk about how we can get a solid, practical content strategy in place for your brand ASAP!