Whether you’re just beginning with your content strategy or you’ve used the same approach for a while, it’s often a good idea to revisit the content marketing campaigns you’re using.
The first step for a successful content marketing strategy is to know what the competition is doing. You must actively engage your audience and know exactly what they want and who they are.
Content marketing requires you to have a clearly defined audience. You must pay attention to what the people want and what your competition does so that you’re producing relevant content at all times.
However, it’s crucial to have a documented content marketing strategy. According to the Content Marketing Institute, about 63 percent of companies don’t have a content strategy written down.
Here, you can learn everything there is to know about content marketing and the strategies available. That way, you can utilize them in your efforts and see more leads, prospects, and customers.
What Is Content Strategy?
A content strategy takes your business goals and uses content as the most important means to achieve them.
For example, your business goals may include boosting brand awareness to help you drive more revenue later. To achieve that objective, you could implement a content strategy that focuses more on search engine optimization. This increases your website visibility on SERPs pages and drives more traffic to your services and products.
New companies might think that a content strategy is something “nice to have” but not really necessary at the beginning. However, when you produce high-quality content, you can build trust with your audiences, meet your business needs, and succeed over the long term.
A good content strategy is the foundation of the buyer’s journey where you can attract and delight them. It also lets you bring in new prospects and boost customer satisfaction and more sales.
Roughly 70 percent of marketers invest in their content marketing needs. Therefore, you must have a strong content strategy to keep up. However, to do this, you need to answer a few questions:
Who Is Reading the Content?
Who is the target market for this content? How many audiences are you creating content for? Your business probably has more than one customer type. Therefore, your content strategy should cater to various viewers and readers.
What Problems Are You Solving for the Audience?
Ideally, the service or product you produce solves a problem that your audience is bound to have. Along those same lines, the content educates and coaches the readers about this problem to move through it as they start to identify the issue and address it.
An excellent content strategy supports people who are figuring out what the challenges are they face and those who already use your product to beat those issues. The content you create reinforces the solution you provide. This makes customers qualified users of the product.
What Makes Your Information Unique?
Your competition probably has similar products and services as you. Therefore, your potential customers must know why yours is better or different. This is where your content comes into play.
To prove why you are the better choice to buy from, you must show why people should listen to you.
What Content Formats Are You Likely to Focus On?
What forms might your content take? Do you plan to use blogs, videos, or infographics? Once you identify the topics you want to write about and portray in a different light, you must determine what formats to budget for. That way, you can express your position the way you want.
What Channels Might You Publish On?
It’s possible to create content using different formats. However, there are various channels to publish to, as well. Channels can include your blog and website (owned properties) or social media options.
The content strategy must include the types of channels you want to use. That way, you know what’s in store and how to attain it (by continuing to read this guide).
How Do You Plan to Manage Your Content Creation and Publications?
Sometimes, it is daunting to determine how to create and publish your content. The content strategy must contain who writes what, where to put it, and when to go live with it.
Most strategies use an editorial calendar. Plan it around the topics to visualize the company message. This also assets yourself as the authority figure in your industry with time.
The Four Elements Needed for a Content Marketing Strategy
An effective content marketing strategy requires four core elements for success: business case, owned media value proposition, brand positioning, and a strategic plan:
You need a clearly defined product and brand positioning to ensure that you offer a consistent experience for each audience member. This also helps you build the best brand image through your various channels.
Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm your position within the market:
- Who are your potential customers and existing ones?
- What experience do they want?
- What’s your competitive landscape?
- How do the top competitors market themselves?
- What’s your brand’s unique value?
- What problems do your products solve?
- What makes you a better choice over the competition?
- How can you highlight brand personality?
Owned Media Value Propositioning
To establish your brand as the most credible publisher, you must define the owned media value proposition. Ask yourself: What unique value do you offer to your audience through your content? How can you stand apart from the other content creators out there? Why should people choose your content channels?
Research the audience to find out what information they need and their favorite places to get it. Then, analyze the content strategies of your competition to find an editorial niche.
Most of the time, brands focus on content marketing from the wrong spectrum, such as the market rivals, without considering the creators. Once you choose to develop some owned media, all other publishers in that industry are potential competitors. Therefore, any unbranded media, such as influencer video channels, industry blogs, and online magazines, are also part of the competitive research you must do.
A successful content marketing strategy requires you to provide value to the audience. It’s an integral part here. However, you aren’t just attracting new followers and readers; content marketing must also drive the company forward.
To do that, you should identify the goals you want to achieve and how the content can bring you closer to those goals. What resources must you invest? What results do you want to see?
Documented business cases can help you understand the costs, benefits, and risks of implementing your strategy. This also convinces decision-makers that this is a worthy investment.
A strategy plan focuses on your goals and how you achieve them. In a sense, it helps you focus on each step of your content marketing effort.
The plan helps you choose who to reach with the content marketing efforts, how to deliver the content, and how to measure and achieve the preferred results.
Why Marketers Must Create Their Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing can help companies plan and prepare for cost-effective and reliable website traffic sources and generate new leads. If you only create one blog post, and it sees steady amounts of organic traffic, you can then use embedded links to a free tool or e-book to continue generating leads as time goes on.
In a sense, you create something and then repurpose it (evergreen content). That way, you have more flexibility and can experiment with other content marketing tactics to boost revenue. This includes distributed content, social media advertising, and sponsored content. Plus, the content helps to educate the target prospects to generate more awareness for your brand.
How to Create Your Content Marketing Strategy
Now is what you’ve been waiting for. This is where you learn the specifics on what content marketing tactics are out there and how they can help you:
Define the Goal
What is your aim for developing your content marketing strategy? Why do you wish to create your content marketing plan and produce content? Know what your goals are before you start planning. That way, you’ve made it easier to determine how to do it.
Many people are more comfortable with traditional frameworks for goal setting, such as SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.) However, flexibility is crucial to setting realistic benchmarks here. Therefore, you might want to use the CLEAR framework instead. That way, you are more agile in the fast-paced world of content marketing.
Here are the CLEAR objectives based on their main characteristics:
- Collaborative – The goals you choose should encourage teamwork.
- Limited – They’re limited in duration and scope.
- Emotional – They motivate and inspire the team.
- Appreciable – They’re broken down into smaller and more manageable objectives.
- Refinable – They’re redefined according to needs and circumstances.
If your find that your key performance indicators (KPIs) are too limited in scope or too technical, you can set objectives and key results (OKRs) to ensure that the goals are flexible:
- Set each goal to be a challenge.
- Define three to four key results.
- Measure the goals with progress indicators from zero to 100 percent.
- Make the goals transparent and collaborative.
- Assess the goals according to new concerns.
- Adjust goals if they are irrelevant (even if that wasn’t anticipated.)
With such an approach, you target a more ambitious result and set a minimum threshold to reach the goal. Progress indicators let each team member see how attainable the goals are and understand what still has to be done.
Unlike KPIs, OKRs can be updated anytime they need to be. You’re not wasting time working on objectives that aren’t relevant to you anymore.
Conduct Buyer Persona Research
Finding your target audience and drawing them to you with relevant content is the key to being successful with content marketing. To do that, you must understand their concerns, lifestyles, needs, and problems.
An audience doesn’t automatically equal buyers. You must create a buyer’s persona for content marketing, but the audience isn’t just made up of people who want to buy things. Audiences also include those who are just starting to interact with the brand and aren’t close to making a purchase.
It’s crucial to deliver content that attracts potential customers before they even become web visitors or enter into the buyer’s funnel. That way, you draw them into the universe that your brand has created with valuable content they need and want right now.
You can follow up with more content that shows the target market how your brand can assist them when they’re ready to buy.
Ultimately, you must research your target audience to know what they need. With time, it could change.
Your target audience can be anyone who has a problem your service could help with, bought a competitor’s product that didn’t work, or anyone else. Take the time to find out who they are.
Run an Audit for Content
A content audit helps you stand apart in the crowd with so much mass content production being done right now. There are over 1.6 billion websites out there, with over 70 million blogs published a month. With so much information out there for your audience, it’s crucial to know what you’re dealing with.
To create content without an understanding of what might work for your audience and brand is a waste of precious resources and time.
Collect what content you have now and analyze the data sets to understand its state. What content attracts the audience? What brings you the right results? Where should you improve?
Most people start off their content marketing strategy with blogs, but you can venture out and do other content pieces.
Those who have been in their business for a while should review their content through a content audit. That way, you know what happened last year and can get an idea of what you could do differently. This can also help you set up new goals to attain. With that, you can align the team’s objectives with the organization’s mission and values.
Choose the Right Content Management System
You must have a content marketing management system in place to help you with content creation, management, and tracking. A CMS must focus on publications and analytics.
There are many options out there. The goal is to find something that helps you plan and produce the content. You also gain insights as to when to publish and how to measure success.
If your company runs on email marketing, and many of them do, then it can also assist with this. For example, you can get free forms, CRM access, live chat, and email marketing (with integration).
Brainstorm Ideas for Creating Content
To begin, you must figure out what topics attract your audience and pique their interest. Remember, these are different as to how they’re progressing through the customer journey. You can find many research tools to help you get ideas.
Content marketing should focus on subjects to cover, related questions, headers, possible subtopics, and more. These are all things that content marketers can use.
Once you know what topics to include, it’s crucial to do some keyword research. This is the only way to know what ranks high on search engines. From there, you can easily incorporate those terms and phrases to boost your rankings, as well.
If you’re not sure what ideas to consider for your project, here are a few tools to help:
HubSpot Website Grader
The Website Grader from HubSpot is excellent when you hope to see where you are with digital marketing needs. From blogging to social media marketing, this tool grades vital areas of your marketing, sending you a detailed report to ensure that you know how to improve and optimize each one.
With this tool, you can even figure out ways to make the website SEO-friendly while discovering new ideas for content.
Get the gears running in your mind with BlogABout, a unique idea generator for content. This tool is similar to Mad Libs, but it shows common headline formats, putting in blanks you can fill in with the right subject matter.
This technique helps you input general ideas and contexts that might be appealing to the target market. Once you’ve got a headline, it lets you add it to the notebook to save it for later use.
HubSpot Blog Idea Generator
You can also get blog post ideas for a full year when you use the Blog Idea Generator from HubSpot. You just enter general terms or topics you wish to write about, and the generator does the rest.
Feedly is a great content marketing tool with an RSS feed. You can keep track of trending topics within your industry while you locate content ideas.
You can find popular content ideas with BuzzSumo. The company offers various market research tools, such as social media shares. That way, you can see if a content piece is well-liked. With that, it’s possible to find out what content ideas might do well if you chose to create content with them.
Blog Post Headline Analyzer
The Blog Post Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule analyzes different titles and headlines. You get feedback on word choice, length, keyword search volumes, and grammar. If you’ve got something in mind, you can run some title options through this tool to see how to make it stronger. This can also move your idea along within the brainstorming process.
Determine the Types of Content You Wish to Create
There are many options available for content that you can create. However, keyword research is crucial. The words you choose must be strategically placed but not stuffed into the piece too many times.
With that, you must focus on the target audience you’re writing for. That means you must think about where they are and how to reach them. Later, you can learn about the different content options available:
Develop Your Editorial Plan
Planning the content ensures that you can allocate the resources you have appropriately. You may also see what workflows might take longer than you imagined. That way, you can adjust the content marketing expectations accordingly.
One of the most important elements for efficient planning is to learn how to prioritize. If you plan the actions correctly, you identify critical tasks that you should be doing first or things that can easily be tested. When you do that, you protect your strategy from pitfalls and failure. Plus, you can find more opportunities to experiment with things to boost your results.
Use Editorial Calendars to Organize Everything
Once you know your topics and the format you want to take, you can put them on your content calendar. This makes it easy to track upcoming deadlines or see if you’re about to go over on your timing.
To ensure that you are doing all you can for content marketing needs, you need to use an editorial calendar. That way, you can monitor your progress and streamline communications across different team members while you publish, create, and analyze content.
In a sense, the editorial calendar keeps everyone on the same page. With it, you can add new tasks, assign them to employees, and set deadlines. The good news is you can collaborate with team members while you do this.
There are various tools out there, and you can choose the one that meets your needs. However, make sure that it helps you cut down on emails you receive about different projects. It should also keep everyone involved and on track.
Plan for Content Production
Before you start your content creation process, you should think about the purpose of the pieces you wish to create. Ensure that the content covers each part of the customer journey. That way, you support the prospects at every stage to develop a relationship between your customers and the brand.
The buyer journey can change slightly, but here are the basics:
- Awareness Stage – These content pieces focus on questions the leads might have at the top of the marketing funnel. They’re becoming more aware of their needs or problems. This content can also tell the brand’s story, inform, educate, and entertain the audience.
- Consideration Stage – As your prospects move through to the consideration stage, they want to know more. You can help them understand the issues and why they need help to overcome their problems. Guide them by explaining how others have dealt with those issues in the past and talk about the steps that could be necessary to follow up.
- Decision Stage – These content pieces are there to help potential leads realize why you are the right choice and can assist them. Case studies, specific analysis of your past work, and client reviews might be helpful here because users are comparing you with other providers.
- Retention Stage – You can showcase the many ways to get more from your service or product. It’s also possible to discuss ways to solve the most common issues and new features you offer. Try to anticipate the questions these prospects might have and preemptively address them to keep them from getting frustrated with the information.
- Advocacy Stage – These content pieces highlight the brand parts that transform regular customers into evangelists (those who are fiercely loyal to you). This could include pieces that spotlight community efforts, corporate values, or outstanding team members. Remember, your content marketing efforts aren’t just focused on getting customers; you want them to shout your brand name from the mountaintop as free publicity.
Diversify the Content
Your content marketing strategy should focus on a diverse mixture of content types to appeal to various people within the audience. While some people might prefer blogs, others might want to see a video or have something interactive (test or quiz).
If you have fairly limited resources to create your content, here are some tips to ensure productivity and efficiency:
Create SEO-friendly Content
About 35 percent of your traffic comes from organic search through search engines. That’s why you need a strong SEO strategy to create any content piece. Once it’s made, you can use various writing assistants and tools to ensure that the blogs are optimized for more organic search.
Another great content marketing strategy is to repurpose existing content. Once it has been published, reuse it to appeal to new readers by using a different format. Here are a few easy ways to repurpose what you already have:
- Turn articles into slideshows, infographics, or videos.
- Segment long videos and articles into shorter pieces, effectively offering a series.
- Combine your shorter pieces to create a long-read article or white paper.
- Create more slide presentations.
- Make informative images and usable snippets for social media outlets.
For example, if you have a webinar, you could turn it into slides for LinkedIn, visuals for your social networks, short videos, and replay videos on YouTube.
Then, you can write an article to recap what happened in the webinar. From there, you can create an article about a couple of similar topics, invariably creating a white paper.
Consider User-generated Content
It’s important to consider user-generated content in your narrative. That way, you grow your reputation with the audience. This can include comments, reviews, videos, and photos that help to add more legitimacy to the claims you make. Plus, it’s easy to gather and share this content, giving you plenty of resources.
Once you start getting mentions of your products, brand, or services, you should use a tool to analyze them. That way, you can tell which ones are most popular and include those. Some of these tools also let you plug in the competition’s information to see how they’re doing compared to your brand.
Plan Content Distribution
Owned media development is one of the core elements for content marketing (which you learned about earlier). Paid and earned media represent elements for your distribution strategy, as well.
Your owned media includes webinars, blogs, branded social profiles, and video content. As you add things to the content calendar, you can gain organic traffic, organic media distribution, and organic social engagement. This earns you more mentions, shares, and external publications.
On the other side, you can use PPC campaigns to get paid traffic driven to your owned content from paid channels. That way, you can advertise with paid publications, social media ads, display ads, and search engine ads. Both earned and paid media then drive your social engagement.
Create an Omnichannel Experience
You should provide omnichannel communication to your preferred audience to keep your brand in their minds at all times. When you align your brand goals and messaging throughout these various channels, the audience has a clear picture of what you offer and who you are.
Identify Relevant Channels
Primarily, resources should go first to the channels where the target audience spends most of their time. That way, your content has a good shot of getting seen.
Specific social media demographics and analytics can help you see which channels to use to engage with your clients. It also eliminates the ones that might waste your budget quickly. For example:
- Pinterest distributes visual content, such as original illustrations, infographics, and schemas, attracting traffic to your site.
- Instagram is where you go to tell visual stories to develop your brand’s identity. It’s relevant for B2C companies, especially in areas like lifestyle, beauty, travel, etc.
- Snapchat usually has a younger membership, so it’s crucial for brands marketing to tweens and millennials. However, it’s less important if you’ve got an older demographic (baby boomers or Generation X).
Using the research you’ve been gathering about buyer personas, you can tell where your audience is likely to consume and see the content.
Automate Social Media Posts
It can be time-consuming to create the seamless user experience across different social media channels, but there are ways to speed up the process. You can automate the postings to various social media platforms to save more resources and ensure timing accuracy.
Schedule your social media posts ahead of time with various online tools. You can also use them to check to see which ones see more engagement from your followers.
Analyze Content Performance
The best way to learn what content type connects with the audience is to analyze the content performance. That way, you can determine which pieces to generate next. The target audience gives you clear signals about what piques their interest most. Therefore, it’s easier for you to create new content that intrigues them.
Metrics can fall into these four categories:
- User behavior – This includes pages per session, unique visitors, and bounce rates.
- Engagement – That can include mentions, comments, shares, and likes (all forms of customer feedback).
- SEO results – This primarily focuses on link-building, dwell time, and more.
- Company revenue – That includes the existing leads affected, number of leads, and conversion rates.
Understanding these categories is crucial. With that, you have various ways to measure the key metrics you want to know more about.
Look for tools that can analyze existing content you use that connects best with the audience. You can also segment the content into groups and keep track of your articles.
Make sure that the tool can:
- Offer performance-driven tips to improve pieces that don’t perform well
- Help you find out what content attracts your audience
- Show you the impact of specific content pieces for conversion needs
- Analyze/measure the content funnel performance for each stage
Types of Content Marketing Options
Here are the most popular types of content you can create for your different content marketing strategies:
If you haven’t noticed yet, most people want valuable content. Blog readers make up most of your audience. These blogs live on your website, and you should publish them regularly to attract visitors to your site.
The posts must provide appropriate content to the audience to make them want to share it on social media. Typically, blogs should be anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 words long, but you can always experiment to see if they should be longer/shorter.
With that, you should have a mixture of blogs, such as how-to articles, curations, listicles, and much more.
Content marketing and e-books go hand-in-hand. E-books can be tools to generate leads once they’re downloaded. Once a potential customer submits a lead form with contact information, you can present the e-book, which contains valuable information. They’re often longer and more in-depth than traditional articles and blogs. Plus, you publish them less frequently.
However, you can use e-books for different purposes based on your goals. Awareness-level e-books educate prospects about their pain points and are a great lead capture tool. The content here should be informational and introductory.
E-books can also be used to convert leads in your funnel by providing them with useful tools to consider their needs more thoroughly. Here, the e-book might dive deeper into a problem and offer solutions with calculators or templates.
Further in the funnel, e-books are more personalized and provide more sales content. For example, case studies and comparison guides work well at this stage.
Ultimately, e-books are a great step for your inbound marketing process. Once they read a blog post, visitors can get more information from you.
This is typically where your calls to action come into play. They direct people to the landing page, whereby they submit contact information to download the e-book and get more value.
Case studies are an opportunity to tell the story of one customer who solved their problems by working with you. They are one of the most versatile content marketing types because they can take on many forms.
In fact, case studies can be blogs, podcasts, e-books, or infographics!
The goal for a case study is to show prospects that the proof is out there and that your products work. Before you choose a customer for your case study, make sure you know what testimonial style to use and the area of business where you want to drive value.
Once you’ve been publishing content on your own site, you can distribute it on other sites. Consider repurposing content into new things and put them on various social media sites.
Even if you don’t have a content marketing department, you can create compelling content with the right content marketing strategy.
Your goal is to create valuable and relevant content in ways that the audience wants to consume them. There are many steps to build a successful content strategy, which you learned about today. Now, you’ve got the information necessary to do better, create more, and keep everything organized to bring in more business.