Once considered a fad, content marketing has proven it’s “King” and shows no signs of slowing down. In a world where no one wants to be sold to, content marketing is an effective way to get your brand and story in front of your target audience through thoughtful, relevant and timely content that helps meet their needs and solves their problems.
With 2017 coming to a close, now is a great time to revisit your marketing plan and amp up your content initiatives. Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute shows businesses are doubling down on content marketing.
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads, according to DemandMetric.
Here are a few other great reasons to invest in content marketing:
- Increase traffic & leads to site
- Improve SEO
- Generate awareness
- Reinforce brand
- Build loyalty
- Generate revenue
- Reduce costs
What Is Content Marketing and How Do I Get Started?
Content marketing is the process of creating valuable and customized content geared towards your target audience and then delivering it at the right time in the right places. So how do you get started with content marketing? Answer these three questions:
- What are your goals?
- Who is your target audience?
- What metrics will you use to measure your goals?
A content marketing plan is of no use if you don’t know what you want to accomplish with it. Start with 3-5 goals and keep them simple. Do you want to establish yourself as a trusted resource and industry expert? Do you want to double the traffic to your site? Your goals will help craft your strategy and identify what type of content and topics to focus on.
The more specifically you can define your target audience, the more customized content you can produce for them.. You probably have more than one key audience, so break down customer segments and personas, then prioritize them. Defining these audiences will allow you to create content that speaks to them directly, and select the most appropriate channels to reach them. This step is so important and will guide the rest of the process!
How will you measure your results to know if you are meeting your goals? Blog views, page views, Facebook click throughs? Evaluate your resources and determine what metrics you will use to gauge success. It is easy to become overwhelmed and inundated with the numbers and data available. Determining the analytics you will use now will save you so much time later. Again, keep it simple. I recommend 2-3 metrics per goal and compiling them in a monthly tracking sheet to compare results.
How Do I Create a Content Strategy?
Now that you’ve done the hard part of identifying goals, defining target audience(s) and key metrics - creating a content marketing strategy is fun and easy. Follow these six steps to create your own!
1. Brainstorm Topics
Start with a good ol’ brainstorm session. This should include everyone in your marketing and community departments. Brainstorm for days! I recommend a formal brainstorm session, then give everyone another week to let the ideas flow in. Research and see what your competitors or others in your industry are talking about. Keep lists of ideas on your phone, in your office - everywhere! FAQ’s are a great starting point for topics. What questions do you get asked over and over again? Answer those questions. How-to’s, lists, and guides are also great to start with. What topics are you the expert on?
2. Consider Audience
Go back to your identified target audience(s) and narrow your list of content topics down based on their personas. Make sure you have a good mix of content for every one of your audiences. If you don’t, brainstorm some more. The goal here is to develop content that will solve the problems of your target audience and make their life easier.
3. Consider Format
Now that you have identified your best topics, decide on the most appropriate format for each. Consider your resources: time, talent, skill set, software programs, etc. If your resources are limited, you may choose to just start with a blog. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- White papers
- Discussion Posts
- User-Generated Material
Start small and repurpose. A worthy topic can be published as a blog, a video and a podcast or audio recording depending on your audience and their preferred media.
4. Consider Channels
Once you have determined your topics and the format for each, take a quick inventory of the channels used to reach your target audience. Email, community forums and social media are great ways to share your content with your audience. What channels does your target audience use and which ones make the most sense for your preferred content format?
For example, blogs can be published on your community and then shared on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Develop a channel plan and decide which channel you want to be the “source” of your great content. Publish your original content on that source and then share and disseminate from there. As a community manager, I recommend making your community your priority channel. Then, use social media and the other channels available to drive traffic back to your source!
5. Create an Editorial Calendar
It is now time to organize all your content into an editorial calendar. This will help ensure your content is timely and relevant and keep everyone on track. Start by plugging time-sensitive and seasonal topics into the calendar, then fill in the gaps with evergreen content. Work backwards to assign deadlines and tasks to get the finished product in place. A simple excel file can make for a great content calendar. I also love the sharing capabilities of a Google Calendar.
6. Develop a Process
The process looks different depending on how many people are on your team. If you are a team of one, you may want to look for some outside resources such as free stock images (I love Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay) or to create professional looking graphics (check out Canva and Snappa). If you have a handful of folks working together to get the job done, then clearly outline who is responsible for each step of the process and assign deadlines. For example, the process to create a typical blog may involve researching and writing the copy, editing, finding or creating a featured image, publishing, and then sharing on the right channels at the right time.
Evaluate and Improve Your Strategy with KPIs
These six steps will guide you in creating a content marketing strategy that will turn your community into a content-producing engine and drive traffic back to your site. But your work isn’t over yet! Watch and evaluate. Use your key metrics to identify what’s producing results and meeting your goals. Tweak and improve your strategy by doing less of what doesn’t work and doing more of what does work.
Content marketing is still in its formative years. Now is a great time to focus your time and money on a strategy that is proven to move the needle!