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Content marketing strategy – 5 simple steps to success

Paper Clips
author
Peter-John Lewis

From objective-setting to analytics, your content marketing strategy should involve a logical process.

To be effective in content marketing, your business must commit to continuous, never-ending strategic action. Content marketing is not a campaign-based activity. Rather, you need to create, curate, distribute and share relevant content on an ongoing basis to engage audiences and build trust over the long term. This engagement and trust will, in turn, help your business to achieve its broad marketing and bottom-line financial objectives.

Doing something (anything) in terms of content marketing activity is better than doing nothing. However, in a modern business environment where all your competitors are no doubt producing useful content of some kind to gain an edge, it pays to have an integrated strategy.

From my experience, a successful content marketing strategy comprises five simple steps:

  1. Set objectives and determine how to measure results
  2. Identify who’s who in the conversation
  3. Build your content systems
  4. Produce your content
  5. Publish and promote

1. Set objectives and determine how to measure results

What are your reasons for creating content? What’s your vision for success? What are your timeframes and deadlines for achieving your projected marketing and business outcomes?

Typical content marketing objectives include:

  • Driving traffic to your website;
  • Driving brand awareness (especially in terms of positioning you or your brand as a thought leader in your industry);
  • Reducing marketing costs;
  • Generating and nurturing sales leads;
  • Converting leads to prospects and prospects to leads; and
  • Nurturing customer relationships and increasing brand retention/loyalty.

It’s not enough, however, to simply set objectives. You’ll also need to determine how you will measure your progress towards achieving them.

There are many ways to measure the return on your content marketing investment. The trick is to develop the most relevant metrics and present them in a meaningful way to stakeholders.

Accordingly, some content marketing analytics to consider include:

  • Website traffic volume;
  • Content views and downloads;
  • Social media reach, engagement and shares;
  • Blog/email subscriber numbers;
  • Links to your content;
  • Lead generation numbers; and
  • Conversion numbers and percentages.

2. Identify who’s who in the conversation

Content marketing is an ongoing conversation – between your brand and your target audiences. It’s therefore essential that you can clearly identify the key traits of the participants in the conversation.

Your brand

If one participant is your brand, you need to determine the voice and tone your brand will use in all the content items it produces. An appropriate voice and tone ensures that your content engages audiences and helps you to create an emotional connection with them.

Audiences are most likely to trust your brand if the voice used in your content is consistent across every channel and accurately reflects your organisation’s personality. Readers (or video viewers or podcast listeners) should feel they are enjoying a conversation with a friendly, approachable, trustworthy industry expert.

While your brand voice may be consistent, the tone can vary according to the different audiences (or personas) addressed, the different content channels or formats, and the different types of message within each channel. For example, you might use a casual, friendly tone on Facebook or Twitter, and adopt a more formal, professional tone in a white paper.

Your audiences

The other participant in the content marketing conversation is your audience, so it helps to understand specific audience needs and preferences.

You can enhance this understanding by developing buyer personas – distilling the typical attributes of a customer segment into a fictional representation of a specific, individual, fictional character.

Personas help you to identify the types of content you need to produce – formats that will appeal to the persona’s preferences. Likewise, personas help you to identify the topics your content should cover. As suggested above, they can also help you determine the language (i.e. brand voice and tone) to use in your content and the ways in which you should distribute your content for optimum consumption.

3. Build your content systems

After you have identified the participants in the content marketing conversation – and before you produce your content – you need to build the systems that will support your ongoing content marketing program.

Key system components to consider are:

  • Your content mix;
  • Your content calendar; and
  • Responsibility allocation.

Your content mix

In terms of content mix, the types and formats of the content you produce should align with your objectives, audience preferences, your brand personality, the skill sets in your business, and your budget.

There are many formats to choose from, such as:

  • Blog posts;
  • Articles;
  • Case studies;
  • Fact sheets and checklists;
  • Worksheets and templates;
  • E-books, white papers and research reports;
  • Image galleries;
  • Infographics;
  • Slide decks;
  • Videos/vlogs;
  • Podcasts; and
  • Webinars.

While articles and blog posts usually form the basis of an effective content marketing program, it often pays to complement these with a balanced mix of additional content formats.

The types of content you produce at any time should also fit with a target audience’s stage in the buying cycle. For example, a product specifications fact sheet won’t generally help in terms of driving brand awareness, but it may be useful for those prospective customers who are on the cusp of buying.

Your content calendar

Content marketers need to think like publishers and broadcasters.

To that end, it pays to build a calendar that schedules all the content you produce. It helps to ensure you create, curate, distribute and share each content item at the right time, in the right format and to the right audiences. A calendar also helps to ensure you involve the right team members in the publishing process.

Your calendar can be a relatively simple document, perhaps in an Excel spreadsheet that you can share with your team on a daily or weekly basis. It can be developed for your content program for a month or more in advance.

Allocating responsibilities

Where possible, a content marketing program should be a team effort that involves a number of people in your marketing department or across your business. Each person should bring a specific skill set to the program.

Typical roles within a content marketing team include:

  • Managing editor;
  • Subject matter experts;
  • Writers/editors (in-house and/or outsourced);
  • Designers;
  • Photographer;
  • Video/audio producer/editor; and
  • Social media specialists.

4. Produce your content

Content production involves an integrated process of creation, editing and design.

Content creation

Creating your content is generally a three-stage process:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Outline
  3. Write

Brainstorming can be done as a regular team activity in which each member can suggest ideas without fear of immediate criticism or rejection. After concepts are recorded, they can be cross-checked with business objectives and audience needs to determine their relevance and viability.

When you have a viable concept for a content item, the writer and subject matter expert can create an outline of how it might be executed. This outline will generally include key messages, creative approach, structure (i.e. the order of points to be covered) and the proposed final format (e.g. article, white paper, video, webinar or podcast). A single concept might also be repurposed to create additional, parallel content items in different formats.

For written content, once you have a basic outline of each proposed item, it’s usually best to write a first draft as quickly as possible. Set a deadline and keep your hands moving on the keyboard. Don’t stop to correct spelling mistakes or syntax errors. You’ll have time for that later. Just follow the outline and give free reign to your stream of consciousness until your draft is complete or time is up.

Editing

The difference between effective content and ineffective content often lies in the time and effort given to the editing process.

Too many marketers use the first draft of a blog post, e-book or even video script without a second look. They then wonder why the content fails to engage with audiences to the extent they had hoped.

In editing, you simply need to ensure that your content item is clear, succinct and relevant to audience needs. To achieve this, it pays to be ruthless. In fact, I often describe editing as a ‘slash and burn’ process. Where possible, eradicate redundant phrases, eliminate dense jargon and replace formal syntax with more conversational turns of phrase.

It’s also worth reading a draft out loud. If a sentence doesn’t make sense when you hear it, you know to change it.

In addition, your business needs a style guide for all team members to follow. This helps to ensure the writing is consistent and aligns with the brand ‘voice’.

Design

Your target audience is unlikely to read or view your content if the design or layout is poor. From simple PDFs to web pages, infographics, slide decks and videos, the visual elements of each content item should aid clarity, readability and ease of consumption.

The style of your design should also be consistently relevant, both to your brand personality and to the needs and preferences of your target audience personas.

 

5. Publish and promote

Once you have set your objectives, determined your analytics, established your brand voice, created your audience personas, built your content systems and produced your content, it’s finally time to publish and promote.

Publishing your content

All your content should be published on your website and, to ensure it is accessible, it’s a good idea to create a ‘content hub’ there.

A content hub or resource centre can be a central repository that’s organised in categories that enable visitors to easily search for the subjects (relevant to your industry) and/or the formats (e.g. articles, videos, factsheets, webinars etc) that interest them.

You should also look for opportunities to repurpose and re-publish your content on third-party sites, such as social media platforms, blogs, industry magazines and news sites.

Promoting your content

It’s not enough, however, to just produce content and publish it on your website. You also need a promotion strategy to inform your target audiences that it’s there – at least until you can build a self-sustaining, word-of-mouth reputation.

Examples of channels you can use to promote your content include:

  • Social media – organic and paid;
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) – organic and paid;
  • Email;
  • Content syndication;
  • Advertising;
  • Media relations; and
  • Telemarketing.

Next steps

Of course, once you’ve published and promoted your content, you’ll then need to go back to measuring the results, reviewing your objectives, deepening your understanding of audience needs, fine-tuning your brand voice, and so on.

The process never ends. It should just keep improving. With continuing process improvement, your business outcomes should just keep getting better.

 

Want to find out more about developing an effective content marketing strategy? Contact Momentum Connect to see how we can help.

Content marketing strategy – 5 simple steps to success
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