It’s clear that content marketing is one of the most effective methods of brand promotion you can adopt. You’ve seen the potential that high quality content has to yield incredible results, in terms of website traffic, lead generation, and ultimately conversion to sales. But even so, “content marketing” isn’t some magic spell that you can mutter over potential clients to drive them to your site. If you just jump into it without any idea of what you’re doing or why, you’ll be doomed to failure. If you want to be successful in content marketing, you need a solid content strategy. Here are 9 steps to creating a viable content machine that can deliver the results you want.
1. Define Your Goals. What do you want to accomplish with your content? More traffic to your website, or maybe more Likes for your Facebook page, but those are both means to an end, not goals in and of themselves. Sit down and figure out exactly what you want to do. Increase overall brand awareness? Generate more high quality leads, or convert more leads into sales? Once you have your goals mapped out, use them as a guideline for all of your future actions. How will this decision or this piece of content help drive our brand towards our goals? If any action or decision doesn’t fit with your stated goals, then eliminate it or revise it until it does.
2. Create Buyer Personas. You have a general idea of who your target demographic is and what they want, but as you create your content, it’s important to be able to address your audience directly and personally. So take the information you’ve gathered and use it to create a buyer persona: a profile of the average person who’s looking to buy your product or service. List what they’re looking for, what problem they want to solve, and reasons why they might be hesitant to choose your company. But also fill in personal details. Give them a name, like “Marketing Mike” or “CEO Cyd.” Fill in details about their job, their home life, education, etc. Then, as you’re creating each piece of content, do so as if you’re talking to Mike or Cyd personally, and address any issues they may have. By putting a face to the collection of statistics, it helps you create content that your target audience can better identify with.
3. Look at Your Competitors. One of the best ways to get a feel for how you should use content marketing is to look at how your competitors use it. Don’t just copy what they do, of course, but use it as a jumping off point. What kinds of content do they publish, and how often? What social media platforms are they on? What ideas do they have that might work for you? Is there anything that doesn’t seem to be working for them? Are there any ideas they have that you can do better? The better you know and understand your competition, the more effectively you’ll be able to define your own strategy.
4. Figure Out What Content to Create. Take another look at your buyer persona.. What types of content are they most likely to consume, and how? Do they read blogs on their tablets? Watch videos on their smartphones? Do they look at white papers to stay informed on a particular topic? Once you know what your audience is paying attention to, you’ll be able to figure out what type of content your brand should release. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin, either. Don’t try to maintain a blog and a video channel and a podcast and a weekly webinar, unless you have the resources to do all of them effectively. Find the two or three types of content that will be most effective in reaching your target audience, and concentrate all of your efforts on creating the best content possible for those platforms. You can always expand into other types of content later.
5. Find Your Voice. Your brand is your company’s personality. It affects how your customers view you and how you relate to them. Therefore, it’s essential to establish a unified voice for your brand. Is your tone formal or casual? Are you helpful and informative? Playful and funny? Passionate and dedicated to a cause? Find your voice and make sure that all content you release fits in with that voice.
6. Find Relevant Keywords. Search Engine Optimization has become somewhat of a controversial topic. Google continually changes its algorithms to penalize people who try to raise their site’s search rankings artificially by using certain keywords over and over. However, in spite of that, the use of certain words and phrases relevant to your topic can still help improve your content’s visibility. The key is to use them in moderation. Do some research and find out what people in your target demographic are searching for on Google. Do they need help with a particular problem in your field? Do they have a question about your industry or product? Design content around these topics and include the relevant keywords in it, so that next time someone goes searching for information on that topic, they’ll find your site.
7. Create an Editorial Calendar. One of the most important steps for a content strategy that boosts ROI is to release content regularly and frequently. Every piece of content you release is another opportunity for potential customers to find you, so the more you put out, the better results you’ll see. Additionally, if you want to develop a following for your content, you need to release it on a regular schedule. When someone reads your blogs and likes them, they’ll want to keep coming back to read more. And if they know that you release new blogs every Tuesday and Thursday, then they’ll check back on those days to see what you have to say. On the other hand, if you only release content sporadically, or say you’ll post on a particular day and don’t, it becomes difficult to keep track of your content over time, and eventually people will lose interest. So how do you keep a regular schedule of high quality content across all of your various channels and platforms? Create an editorial calendar. Determine the rate of frequency at which you want to publish your content—at least once or twice a week, for each type. Then, make a list of topics you want to post about and the dates they’ll go up on your site. Assign each piece of content to a person or team to produce, and as each piece nears completion, update its status on the editorial calendar. That way, you’ll know what content is on deck to be posted at any given time, and whether or not it’s ready to go up. And if it’s not ready, you can tell well in advance, and either take steps to expedite it, or make other arrangements, so that you always have something ready to post on the dates you’ve decided.
8. Get the Word Out. All the content in the world won’t do you any good unless your target audience can see it. Using SEO keywords can help increase your visibility, but you need to do more than sit around waiting for someone to happen across your site on Google. This is where a strong social media presence can help. Post each new piece of content to Facebook and Twitter. Establish a network on LinkedIn and post your content to forums and groups that are related to your field or industry. Send it out to the people on your e-mail list. Find as many channels as possible on which to share your content, and encourage your audience to share with their social circles it as well. The more people see your content, the better you’ll be able to develop a regular following.
9. Evaluate and Repeat. One of the keys to any content strategy is content measurement. Once you’ve released your content, you need to be able to evaluate whether or not it’s pushing you towards your goals. Are you reaching as many people as you thought you would? Are you developing a regular following? Do you have a million Likes on Facebook, but almost no improvement in actual sales? Figure out what impact your content is having: what you’re doing right, and what you’re doing wrong. Then reevaluate your strategy based on those results. See what works and what doesn’t. If one particular type of content is proving more popular than anticipated, then do more of that. If another is less popular, find something else to do instead. Learn from your experiences and continue to tweak and improve your strategy as you go along, to bring yourself ever-closer to achieving your stated goals.
These 9 steps provide a basic guideline for how to create and implement your content marketing strategy, from beginning to end. But the content marketing process is different for everyone. Who your brand is and what you do is the most important factor in defining your content marketing strategy. Figuring out what works for you and finding your content marketing niche is the best path towards achieving your marketing goals.