A How-To Guide to Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
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While content has always been an important part of marketing, it is now indisputably one of the most critical elements of any online presence. More than 2 million blog posts are created every day, and more than 60 percent of marketers create at least one new piece of content per day. If you want to keep your website on par with your competition, you will need to develop and use a content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is also indisputably profitable. Consider the fact that the creation and distribution of strategically generated content creates 3 times the number of leads as traditional marketing, while costing almost two-thirds less. And, those who employ a successful content marketing strategy generate almost 8 times the number of leads than everyone else. That means that content marketing can provide a significant ROI for those who do it right.

Developing a successful content marketing strategy, however, requires more than just throwing some blog posts onto your website and hoping for the best. Before you write a single blog post or white paper, you need to have a plan in place that will guide what and how you write.

Without a plan, one of three things is likely to happen. One, your content gets lost among the millions of other pieces of content published today. Two, your content reaches people outside your target audience. Three, you find consistent content marketing to be unsustainable because you never established a plan for long-term content creation. In order to avoid these problems and maximize the benefit you enjoy from your content marketing endeavors, take the following steps to think through your strategy:

Identify your target audience.

Successful content marketing is all about getting people to respond to the material you produce, either by feeling better about your brand, talking about your brand, exploring your website, or converting into leads and customers. In order to get the response you want, your content needs to be relevant to your target audience. This means that the people who produce the most profit for your company need to find your content interesting and useful.

The best way to identify your target audience is to identify those people who generate the most profit for your company. For instance, do you find that CEOs are the ones purchasing your leadership development courses, or is it human resource representatives, middle managers, or even entry level employees looking to move up in their company? Each of those groups of people will want different content from you, so deciding which ones are most important to target is vital.

You may think you know who your target audience is. However, businesses occasionally discover that their actual customers are different from the types of people they thought they would serve. That is why the best way to identify your high value customers is to look at profiles of your current customers.

In addition, you should try to determine who the influencers are for your high value customers: Who are the people who sent them in your direction? For example, entry-level staff in corporations may be purchasing many of your leadership development courses, but you may find that they are often influenced by the recommendation of their HR managers. As a result, you may decide to target HR managers, because they are the ones who will be sending you the majority of your high-value customers.

Once you have identified a few of the most valuable types of customers you hope to engage, you can create buyer personas to give these customers names and faces. For instance, you might create a persona for CEO Jane who is 55 years old and looking to cultivate a leadership culture in her business, and a persona for HR Joe who is 40 years old and looking for a way to teach the fundamentals of leadership to new hires. Building these personas gives you a very specific “person” to target in your writing, allowing your content to have that sharper point to it that will gain and keep the attention of the people you most want to do business with.

In addition, you might benefit from targeting beginners in your industry. For example, a business specializing in home automation might want to reach those people who are just beginning to explore the home automation industry. If you can be the one to supply these beginners with useful, relevant content, you are more likely to be the one they turn to when they are ready to start spending money in their new field of interest.

Choose the types of content you wish to produce.

Once you have identified your target audience, it will be time to think about the kind of content that will appeal to them. There are many types of content from which to choose. For instance, blog posts (both long and short), white papers, guides, videos, emails, newsletters, interviews, and podcasts are just a few examples of the different kinds of content you can create.

If you hope to build an effective content marketing strategy, you will have to narrow this list down to a few of the most relevant types of content for your company. The kind of content you produce will depend largely upon the audience you identified in the first part of the planning process. For instance, CEO Jane might want to read a longer white paper or blog post, while HR Joe might be more interested in a weekly email, newsletter or podcast.

Regardless of the type(s) of content you decide to create, remember that diversity is an important ingredient in engaging your audience. No matter how much they might enjoy 2,000 word blog posts, for example, your audience might still also need shorter, more digestible bits of information. Plus, getting them to read your longer blog posts might require you to pique their interest with a regular email or newsletter. Some businesses have enjoyed success by interspersing written content with videos or podcasts.

In fact, some of the most successful content marketing strategies have employed a number of different types of content in order to 1) reach a broader audience and 2) keep their audience more engaged over the long term. If you struggle to decide on which types of content to create, or if you need help diversifying your content pool, consider hiring a professional web design or web development company that can help you produce an array of useful content for your business.

Choose the topics for your content.

What you write about is as important as how you write about it. That is why a successful content marketing strategy should include a list of topics you hope to discuss. When selecting the topics for your content it is vital to consider two elements: relevancy and timeliness.

Relevancy

Relevancy means that everything you create should be of interest to your target audience. For example, you should address topics focused on leadership culture for CEO Jane and topics focused on employee development for HR Joe. Otherwise, CEO Jane and HR Joe are likely to go elsewhere for their information, even if you produce the best video or the most humorous blog post.

Creating relevant content might also mean addressing a variety of topics. For example, you may find that your content marketing strategy yields more leads when you write informational blog articles for new visitors and in-depth case studies, videos, etc. on the impact of your products for visitors who are familiar with your brand and are considering a purchase. This kind of variety allows all of your audience members to find content that is meaningful to them wherever they fall within your sales cycle.

Timeliness

Timeliness is an important element to consider when choosing topics for your content because it influences how long your material will be relevant. In general, you should focus on evergreen topics that will remain relevant over the long term. Even months (or years) later, you can generate leads from these articles because they still address questions your target audience has.

Do be aware of times when it is appropriate to create content around a topic that is not necessarily evergreen. For example, a leadership change in your business (such as a new president), a major industry controversy, a major shift in your industry (such as a groundbreaking new software release) and more might require you to address these issues in your content. While these topics might lose their relevance quickly, they are important enough in the moment to warrant discussion.

Coordinate your content marketing and search engine optimization campaigns.

Content marketing and search engine optimization are so closely related that it is difficult to successfully do one without the other. Search engine optimization relies upon content to deliver keyword-focused material that search engines can use in the search results. Content marketing, likewise, needs search engine optimization to get in front of the right audiences. As a result, your content marketing strategy should always coordinate with your search engine optimization campaigns.

One of the best ways to integrate your SEO and your content marketing is to use the keyword research from your search engine optimization campaign to inform your content. For example, every keyword you use in your SEO campaign should have its own landing page on your website. These landing pages are a great source of content. If you start your content marketing simply by writing landing pages to match your keywords, you will quickly have a large body of useful material that will boost your leads and sales.

SEE ALSO: Search Engine Optimization in Austin: Why Choose an Austin-Based Company?

Plus, your keywords can provide topic ideas for your content. For instance, if you take long-tail keywords and turn them into blog posts, you immediately have 1) a way to rank higher for that keyword and 2) a ready-made topic that you already know is relevant to your target audience. The use of keywords works both ways, as well. For example, you can use keywords to generate topic ideas for your content. But, once the content is created, you can use it to generate better rankings for those keywords, which means your SEO campaign thrives and you get better visibility in the search results.

The use of keywords is just one example of what is possible by coordinating your SEO and content marketing campaigns. For example, you can use content to show your expertise in your field, which will also benefit your search engine rankings. You can use your presence in social media as a platform to showcase some of your great content. You can use your content to develop a stronger brand identity. All of these benefits lead to better performance in the search results, more leads, and more conversions.

In order to make the most of the cooperation possible between SEO and content marketing, you may need the help of a professional SEO service. They can help you to launch your SEO and/or content marketing campaigns with a view toward getting them to work hand in hand. Even if you already have an SEO campaign in progress, you might benefit from the help of professionals who can join the two endeavors together into a seamless whole.

Develop a schedule for content creation.

One problem which derails many content marketing campaigns is an inability to sustain the creation of content over time. A business might start by churning out 3 blog posts a week, but eventually become overwhelmed. Over time, their productivity might dwindle to 1 post a week, 1 every other week, once a month, and then sporadically. In order to succeed over the long-term, your content marketing strategy needs to include a plan for creating content on a regular basis.

Regularity is the most important element in how often you produce content. For example, you can update your blog once a week, twice a week, four times a week, or daily. Your video series might occur weekly or monthly. A newsletter might come out once a month. As long as your audience knows how often your material comes out, you will gradually build awareness of and interest in your content.

In order to ensure that you can keep up with your content creation schedule, consider starting small and working your way up to daily content. For example, if you are just starting a blog, plan to update it once a week. Once you are in the habit of producing good content once a week, you can gradually work your way up to more frequent blog updates (or videos, photos, etc).

If you find that producing content on any kind of schedule is difficult for you, or if you want more material than you can produce yourself, you may want to hire a web design or web development company to create that content for you. Their expertise can also help you more easily identify what type of content you need, where it should go, and how it should work with your other marketing efforts.

Decide how to promote your content.

The last part of creating an effective content marketing strategy is to decide how to promote your content once it is created. If you just post it to your website, the search engines will eventually find it as they crawl your site. However, if you want more immediate attention for your content, you should consider a more active promotional campaign.

Perhaps the most common (and easiest) method is to link to your content on social media. By doing so, you encourage your followers to read and share your material. Plus, you provide your social media followers with updates that are more meaningful to them than a discussion of your day at the office.

Another method for promoting your content is to use email to encourage your networks to use your content. For example, you can send your newest content to everyone in your network and ask them to distribute it if they like it. You can also use your content in newsletters sent out to your email list

Finally, you can promote your content by reusing it in different ways. For example, if you create a long white paper, you might be able to divide that white paper up into several blog posts. You might be able to turn a blog post into a video. You might be able to take a newsletter article and create a podcast centered on that issue. The result will be more material created with less effort getting out to a wider audience.

Your content marketing campaign will be more effective and rewarding if you base it on an effective strategy. This means that you will need to identify your target audience, choose the types of content you want to produce, choose the topics for your content, coordinate your content marketing and SEO campaigns, develop a content creation calendar, and decide how to promote your content. By doing so, you will set yourself up for a more successful campaign and a better performing website (and brand) overall. If you need help getting your strategy started or implementing any of the elements in your strategy, you may benefit from consulting with professionals such as WEBii. They can help you get your content marketing strategy on track so you can enjoy the leads and conversions possible through successfully creating and promoting your own content.

Want to leave your content marketing to professionals? Contact us to learn more.

Writer, WEBii

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