There is a tremendous amount of buzz surrounding content marketing and its need within a brand’s overall marketing strategy.
Doing content marketing is much more than publishing on your blog occasionally and posting your thoughts on social media. “Do stuff and maybe it will work” is not a strategy, it is a gamble. A risky and expensive one, at that. Even so, many brands have yet to create an effective content marketing strategy.
What does such a strategy look like? Where are the examples of brands doing it well?
What is Content Marketing:
Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.
This generation of customers are taking drastic steps to avoid marketing messages. As consumers, we use DVRs to skip television ads, pay internet radio subscription fees to avoid commercials, mentally block out — or use plug-ins to avoid — internet click ads, and gloss over road-side billboards, rendering them useless and ineffective.
So how are marketers supposed to combat this shift?
Consumers are still buying and making purchases, but the way they go about making a decision has changed. With all of the world’s information at their finger tips, savvy consumers are doing enormous amounts of learning and self-education before stepping into a showroom or talking to a salesperson.
Knowing this is a huge opportunity for brands. If you know consumers are looking for information, be the source of that information. Not with sales-y content that puts your priorities before theirs, but information that the buyer really wants and needs.
The Marketing and Sales Departments must align to create a buying path for this new era of consumers that provides authentic and transparent information about a product or service (the mission of Marketing) and closing the sale (the mission of Sales).
Content marketing closes this gap by using brand-created educational content to satisfy the prospective buyer while helping the sales team convert anonymous visitors into buyers.
Thought leaders and marketing experts from around the world, including the likes of Seth Godin and hundreds of the leading thinkers in marketing have concluded that content marketing isn’t just the future, it’s the present (see the video below on the history of content marketing).
The key ingredient to using content to attract new customers is in the advanced planning. The strategy.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy:
A content marketing strategy is a roadmap; a “User’s Guide” to how your brand will do the following:
- Meet the customer at their specific point within their buying cycle
- Align the customer’s needs with your knowledge and expertise
- Use your brand’s assets to meet these objectives
Business-to-Business marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy are 66% more likely to consider themselves effective compared to only 11% of those without a documented strategy.
A content marketing plan helps you see the end-game before you have even started. Further, it gives a clear, articulable vision for your entire team and keeps you on track throughout the campaign.
Just like New Years resolutions often fade into a foggy memory, our intentions are good – but we allow resolutions to fail. To be successful in any strategy, we need to be intentional.
For proper sales and marketing alignment, and for the success of your bottom line, you must have a plan in place.
How to Start Your Content Strategy:
The framework of a content marketing strategy is fairly straight forward:
- Who are you targeting? What are their needs?
- How are you going to reach them? (Attract new and nurture existing)
- What content do you have now to get started?
- What is your plan to develop and share more
- How will you measure your efforts
Take some time to consider who you are targeting. Are they male or female? Does it matter? Do they have a career? Children?
Are they affluent? Coupon cutters?
What are their goals? What happens if they do not reach them? Is their a monetary penalty for them? Will meeting this goal further their career? Will it make them happy?
Clearly defining your targeted personas will save you a lot of time, energy, and money as you continue your business. With this person in mind, your content marketing strategy will begin to fall into place and you will feel that you are having a conversation with this “person”, rather than blindly throwing stuff out there.
Content marketing and social media are often used synonymously. This is a mistake. Content marketing is a broad method of marketing whereas social media is a tool that complements getting your content seen.
Imagine your website as your online hub, where all of your brand-controlled content resides, your social media profiles are spokes that lead back to your home base.
Social media has the power to reach incredible numbers of potential customers, influencers, existing customers, and even the opportunity to convert customers from competitors. Social media, in and of itself, is not content marketing. It is one of your outreach tools.
3. Available Content
Next, take stock of materials you have on hand already.
Many of us sit in offices filled with brochures, flyers, handouts, manuals, and documents loaded with helpful information, but we do little to extend that information to potential customers on the web. Make a list of the content available to you immediately and start identifying which persona is most aligned, where they are within their sales process, and what pain point they are currently facing.
Getting started, you can use what you have on hand. But I recommend expecting this low-hanging fruit to run out. You should plan on developing your own, unique content.
For a number of reasons, search engines reward fresh, unique content. Further, your prospective customers will be looking for information that is not available everywhere. Your unique perspective and “voice” (the tone in which you talk, the way you communicate, and what you share) may be the first experience a prospective customer has with you. This is the beginning of a long business relationship.
4. Schedule and Share Your Content
After you have compiled your educational materials, grab a calendar. I recommend looking out 3-4 months to start. Mark holidays, special events, and milestones. Working backwards, prepare your marketing message for these campaigns.
For example, one client of ours hosts 4-5 annual sales. They all surround major US holidays (New Years, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving/Black Friday). By knowing this, it is easy for us to prepare everything from banner ads, Pinterest images, blog posts, Facebook Status, videos, and even newspaper ads (don’t shoot the messenger).
Once you have those events marked, consider a “theme” of the week for those 3-4 months. With that theme, and your personas in mind, write out the following for each week:
- 2 Blog Posts
- 8-10 Facebook updates
- 20-30 Twitter updates
- 4-5 product photos for Pinterest
- 3-4 Instagram ideas
- 1 Video
By no means is this list all-inclusive. It is a starting point to get you thinking about how to plan content. To get a specific content marketing plan designed for your brand, I need to interview you and understand your goals, personas, and timeline.
Finally, how are you going to measure your work? Remember when we set up our goals earlier? Were you specific in identifying how many leads you want to generate?
“Get more leads” is a horrible strategy, better is “Gain 50 new leads by September 1st” or “increase from 6% conversion rate to 12% conversion rate” These types of goals are easily measured and tracked.
Do you have a mechanism in place to measure, monitor, and gauge your efforts? Further, do you have the right people on your team to help you know what is working and what is not? Can you explain why certain marketing dollars are generating a return on your investment while others fall flat?
Just like runners know the course of the race before they start, your brand should know the route you will take to your finish line. Having a strong content marketing strategy in place will ensure your team is setup for success.
Using content is a great way to use search engines to bring people to your website/blog. Then use that content to share on social media where your ideal reader is hanging out.
If you'd like help, please drop me a note here.
All the best,