Strategies are known drivers of any goal or vision. Basketball coaches constantly study games from the sidelines; making adjustments according to the tactic boards that reflect strategies they mulled over in the locker room with the team. “So what’s your strategy?” even comes up in courtship discussions between friends at a bar, where a guy has to figure out a way to woo the girl of his dreams that just walked in across the room. Having an action plan in place is critical for the success of any idea because it provides direction, prioritizes commitment and aligns activities.
Content marketing is no different from aiming to win a basketball game or the girl of your dreams. All three have the same objective in mind and that’s achieving a set goal. Meeting the needs of your audience and providing valuable, high-quality content is a sought-after goal in any business setting. However, if the content does not prompt a desired action from your consumers, then all efforts are futile. A content marketing strategy is a plan that outlines how to promote relevant content on marketing platforms that can best reach your intended audience. It also assists in finding ways to solicit leads and conversions. Basically, it’s a framework that details how you will navigate towards your end-goal.
The key factors to consider when developing a content strategy are:
- The target audience you are creating the content for
- What needs the co ntent is going to fulfil for the target audience
- The unique selling point that sets you apart from your competitors
- Content format you’ll focus on. E.g. Blog posts, videos, infographics, etc.
- The channels you’ll publish your content on
- And, how you’ll manage creation and publication
Now, let’s get you started on how to create a successful content marketing strategy that will help you grow your business.
Step 1 – Establish a mission statement and define your goal
Establishing a content marketing mission statement and setting a goal is always a good starting point. A mission statement helps narrow down what’s important and assists in keeping your content marketing strategy on track. This brief statement outlines who your target audience is, the content you’ll use to reach them and what benefit they will get from receiving your content.
Goals on the other hand, focus on what your business will get out of the strategy. Typical business goals always include getting more traffic, generating sales & leads, audience engagement, brand awareness, expanding email lists, gaining influence & authority, improving revenue, etc. Knowing what you want to achieve as a business allows you to align your content with these goals so that you deliver actionable results. Make certain these are goals that can grow your business and save you costs.
Step 2 – Establish KPIs
Key performance indicators (KPIs) provide milestones that let you know when you have achieved your set goals. They will outline what you plan to accomplish regarding traffic, revenue, sales and more. KPIs are specific and measurable and may include for example, getting a certain number of shares a day on social media; attaining a specific number of email subscribers a month; enquiries on a specific product; hitting a certain revenue target within a quarter of the year, and so on. Being able to meet all of these will serve as an indicator of where you are concerning your goals. Failure to do so will also provide an opportunity to go back to the drawing board so to come up with another strategy.
Step 3 – Conduct Buyer Persona Research
Knowing who your audience is will need you to conduct in-depth research. A successful plan requires that as a brand you clearly define and know your content’s buyer persona . Doing this guides you in creating the most relevant and valuable content that your audience will want to read. It increases the probability of conversion as well.
The first step to take when conducting buyer persona research is to collect demographic data. Find out the age, gender, education, interests and income of your consumers. Secondly, gather feedback from your existing customers to learn more about your target audience. How they feel about your content & what their urgent needs are will reveal insight into their priorities and the best places to reach them. After collecting all of this information, the last action in this step will be to then create buyer personas.
Also known as customer avatars, buyer personas model your ideal readers and customers. Exemplary avatars include your consumers’ challenges, information sources and what motivates their behaviour. Access to such data will help you understand the kind of content your audience will most likely respond to & how it will fulfil their needs.
Step 4 – Run a content audit
Is your current content helping you meet your goals? The next step is to conduct an audit of your current content which may include blog posts, videos, social media posts, etc. Log all content pieces and assess if they still serve their purpose. To evaluate how useful specific content is, you’ll have to check how many backlinks it has, the number of keywords that it ranks for and how often the post is shared.
Identify gaps as well and make a note of how you can fill them in. In other words, seek out keywords related to your niche that you haven’t targeted already and plan your new content around them. Go through your content that already ranks but could garner higher rankings and rework it to suit new search phrases, current trends and questions being asked by your audience that you are not answering yet. Here’s a couple of examples:
We can see below that there was some initial engagement with this particular article but it was not sustainable or consistent traffic:
By running the URL through Ahrefs, we also see that there are no ranking keywords or backlinks:
In this case, you would need to decide if this article would have more potential if it was updated with fresh data, extra images which support the theme, or if it would be better to redirect this page (301 redirect for SEO value) to another similar and relevant page which is performing better. Very often, tons of content on your website which is not performing can actually hurt you.
Step 5 – Decide on placement channels
During the process of researching buyer persona, you will get a good sense of which channels your audience is seeking for content on. Do you have online presence on these platforms already? Which other ones could you expand to that will ensure success in reaching your ideal consumers? These are questions you will have to deliberate on and set up the appropriate channels that will encourage engagement and shares for your content. Additionally, make certain that these are platforms where your audience can easily share the content. For example, if you’ll be publishing blog posts, add social share buttons to your website so that visitors are able to share your content to their own social media profiles.
Step 6 – Create a content calendar
After you have decided on the right platforms to distribute your content on, devise a content plan that will reveal when you want to publish the content, on which specific channels, content type, the person responsible and the tools you will use to market & keep track of the results. Being specific about role allocation and the tools needed is very important because you need to ensure you have everything you need to deliver on your content marketing strategy. With role allocation, ask the following questions – who will be in charge of content creation and management? Should the content you create need to be visual, do you have a videographer or graphic designer in-house? If not, will you have to outsource those services or who will oversee that process? Moving onto tools, how will you deliver your content? If you will need to schedule it, what tool will be best for the type of content you want to put out?
A lot of companies also factor themes into their content calendar. It all depends on what results you have established during your research. If your audience asks questions that need you to deliver more about your niche, a “Thought Leader” theme would be ideal. This is when you will create content that aims to teach more on subjects in your field. Here, thought pieces would feature based on current trends; or you’d have infographics that provide statistics aiming to inform your consumers about a particular topic they have asked questions about. In a nutshell, creating any type of content that places you as a credible source and thought leader in your industry is the main aim. Keep this in mind when coming up with themes and topics for your content calendar.
Step 7 – Create Content
Finally, the part we’ve all been waiting for – content creation. Clichés are fashionable for a reason and “Content is King” is no exception to the notion. Two decades ago, Bill Gates coined this phrase and it remains true. This is why it’s critical that such vigorous preparation goes into ensuring that you have a strategy that will help you deliver relevant, informative content to your ideal audience. Select a topic from the content calendar in the previous step and start putting pen to paper. Or fingertips to keyboard – whatever works. The first thing to do in this final step is to do your research. Find out what is currently being spoken about and how you can tailor that to suit the needs of your audience. Conduct keyword research as well to identify key terms for better SEO and improved search rankings.
When it’s time to write after your research, make a decision on the kind of tone you want to use. How would you like to reflect your brand’s personality? How do you want to come across in your article? Establish consistency with your brand voice and remember SEO ranking factors too. After all, is written and done, post your content according to the content calendar through to the appropriate channel, using the tools mentioned as well. Remember to distribute and market while capturing the results to measure against the KPIs that were set in step 2.
You’re now finally ready to dominate the content space in your industry!
Speaking of content domination, find out Why Video Marketing Is Vital For Any Brand Success In The Digital Age