How to Create a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

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3 Things I Wish I’d Learned Sooner in My Freelance Writing Career
December 11, 2020
how to create a successful content marketing strategy

A lot of business owners think content marketing is easy. You write some stuff and then post it to your website, right? Heck no! 

Content marketing is more than just “having a blog”. It affects your emails, website copy, social media, sales funnels, and the brand overall. Then there’s SEO, design, and content promotion to consider…

Basically, content marketing is connected to almost every other aspect of your overall marketing. That means developing and deploying an effective content marketing strategy gets complex pretty quickly. So while I won’t (couldn’t possibly) cover everything, this post will help you create a solid plan, before you start writing those blog posts. 

Why You Need a Content Marketing Strategy 

The internet is a crowded place. If you’re just putting stuff out there with zero strategy behind it, you’re likely just wasting time. The point of content marketing is to create value for your customers and for your business. In other words, your content needs to be useful for your customers—and it has to inspire them to act (ie work with you, buy your product, or engage with your business).

When done right, content marketing has the power to:

  • Build brand awareness 
  • Build trust
  • Develop authority 
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Generate leads
  • Close sales 

In other words, grow. your. business. 

What’s the Point: Building the Base of Your Content Marketing Strategy

Clearly, even the best content marketing strategy is nothing without well-written content. And well-written content is useless without a solid strategy. So where does one begin? If you ask me, it should always start with these two things: your goals and your audience.

  • What business objectives do you hope to achieve with your content marketing?
  • Who exactly is the content for?

The answers to these 2 questions are the base for your strategy. They’ll dictate what you’ll create, on which platforms, and how you’ll know if your content was successful. 

Defining Objectives

Ok, let’s start with objectives. Ask yourself “Why are you even doing content marketing?” You can start with something big or high level like: 

  • Generate sales leads
  • Improve search visibility (SEO)
  • Increase trials or new members

From there, you need to drill down to something more measurable. Think of a specific action or actions you want someone to take after seeing your content.

For the goal above ‘Generate sales leads’, the concrete actions (metrics) might be: 

  • Download a lead magnet such as an ebook or white paper
  • Join the email list via a website popup 
  • Click the contact us button at the end of a blog post, etc. 

Now that you’ve broken your primary objective down into measurable, specific actions, you can start putting the pieces together. Think about the content types that will drive those actions. In the example above you know you’d need: 

  • Relevant blog posts with “Contact us” call to action (connected with contact form)
  • An ebook, white paper, or other lead magnet
  • Website popup form (integrated with email marketing platform)
  • Email nurturing welcome series

Think of it as reverse engineering backward from the goal. That way every piece of content has a purpose. 

Identifying Key Audiences: Buyer Personas

We’re going to talk about content planning really soon, I promise! But first, let’s finish the base of your content strategy: your goals or objectives and your audience

Knowing who you’re talking to is important – duh! When you know your audience really well, it’s easy to create content they’ll love. It also helps determine which channels you’ll target (for both content creation and content promotion). See, it’s all connected! 

Ask yourself: where does your ideal customer hang out? What websites, social media platforms, and podcasts do they prefer? How will they respond to email or text marketing?  

When it comes to knowing your audience, buyer personas (also called customer personas or ideal client avatars) are the way to go. A persona brings your ideal customer to life by creating a detailed profile or avatar.

A good buyer persona goes beyond age, profession, marital status, location, and salary. It also includes understanding their: 

  • Wants
  • Needs
  • Desires
  • Values
  • Worries
  • Pain points
  • Questions
  • Online behaviors
  • Shopping behaviors
  • Lifestyle behavior

Get really familiar (like, borderline stalker familiar) with your ideal client. Give them a name. Think about what restaurants they like. Where do they get their news? Do they drink coffee, tea, or matcha?

Most businesses will have multiple buyer personas: Mompreneur Megan, Startup Sam, Techie Tom. Once you have developed your personas, you can create content with a specific reader in mind. You’ll know how to speak to them – not only when it comes to words but in gifs, tone of voice, pop culture references, emojis etc.

Want help creating your buyer personas? Get my FREE Buyer Persona Worksheet to get crystal clear on your ideal client.

Identifying Key Channels

Now ask yourself, where does Mompreneur Megan (or Techie Tom or whoever) hang out? Is she a Pinterest junkie or always on the ‘Gram? A Facebooker or more partial to LinkedIn? Or maybe the old inbox will be the best way to connect with Megan. Use your buyer personas to help you figure out on which channels to create and promote your content. 

More Important Than You Think: Content Promotion Strategy 

You need to have a plan for how you’ll promote the content you create. Almost everyone forgets this – but it is 100% mission-critical. If you don’t promote your content, you can’t expect people to read, like, or share it. So let’s get your great content seen. 

Social Promotion

Content promo goes way beyond Tweeting your article or posting it on your company Facebook page. But social promotion is important. Beyond sharing your article your existing audience, consider these additional social tactics:

  • Content sharing swaps with other brands
  • Sharing content with social curators/influencers (via DM or tag)
  • Use sharing buttons, a “Tweet this quote” widget, and other tools to encourage sharing

Also, don’t be afraid to invest in paid ads to promote your content. Targeted social ads are a great way to gain exposure to a new audience beyond your current fans. You control the budget and you can stop the ads anytime. 

Online Communities

Amplify your content’s reach by publishing it in other communities where your audience spends time. The “syndication” strategy leverages established platforms which may have more traffic and higher domain authority than your own. This could be: 

  • Medium.com 
  • Reddit 
  • Quora
  • GrowthHackers
  • Indie Hackers
  • Product Hunt
  • Industry-specific blogs or forums
  • Slack communities

Again, make sure it’s a fit for your customer persona. 

Email Marketing

If you don’t have an email list, start building one now. Email is still a highly effective way to communicate with your audience. Did you know that:

  • 99% of consumers check their inbox every single day, or multiple times a day 
  • Companies report $44 earned for every dollar spent on email marketing (44x return – holy smokes!) 

So, promote every piece of content you create via email—whether it’s a blog post, video, or infographic. Don’t assume that if you posted it on your Facebook page, your entire audience has seen it. Everyone consumes content differently. 

Finally, don’t forget to involve your employees and personal networks in content promotion. They are often the most willing to support you and share your content. 

Putting it into Action: Elements of a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! You’ve accomplished a lot. Now that you know why you’re doing content marketing in the first place, who you want to reach, and how you’re going to do it…you can look at the what. Namely, what specific topics are you going to cover?

Topic Development

To start brainstorming strategic content ideas, first go back to your objectives and goals. Content should flow from that. Think about your audience and the problem they are trying to solve. What questions do they have related to your industry, competitors, and your product or service? Create content that answers or explains those questions. 

Keep in mind that a single piece of content doesn’t need to meet all of the objectives you’ve laid out. It may meet one or two. That’s why you’ll use multiple pieces and types of content to work together and collectively achieve your goals. 

Keyword Research 

The first thing I want to say about keywords is—write for humans, not for robots! Keyword stuffing is outdated, frowned upon, and it could actually hurt your rankings, rather than help. 

If you’re intimidated by keyword research, think about it this way. Finding keywords is about understanding your audience. What questions do they have, what topics are they researching online, and how can you provide content that introduces your business into their journey? 

Again I can’t possibly cover everything here, but here are a few places to start for keyword research:

You can also use Google itself. Just start typing in a word or phrase into the search bar and see what Google starts suggesting. The suggestions are things that lots of people have already searched for. 

Process and Content Calendar 

Once you’ve brainstormed a bunch of strategic and topical ideas, you’ll want to organize everything. You can use Google sheets to create a simple content calendar for keeping track of what you want to post and when. Or a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite, Gain, Planoly, or Buffer (to name just a few).  

Other things to consider in developing your process: 

  • Who will create content?
  • Who will publish and promote content?
  • What platforms will you use to schedule and manage content, store images, etc?
  • How often will you check metrics and make changes or iterations?

If you decide to DIY your content, here are a few resources that can help: 

Branded Copy Style Guide 

When you have different people writing copy for social media, emails, newsletters, and the website, there can be inconsistencies in the writing style. If your brand is all over the place, your audience will be confused. If your audience is confused, they probably won’t buy from you. 

That’s why you’ve got to set guidelines. Get everyone who writes for the brand on the same page. Your sales and the trust of your customers depend on it.

Basically, if you’re going to have contractors or more than 1 internal person creating content, it pays to lay out some ground rules. A copy style guide put those guidelines to paper so you can refer back to them. Not to mention it reinforces your brand values, voice, and message. 

In what form does this magical marketing piece appear? Usually a branded pdf. But it can be housed on your website, too. They can be formal or informal, funny or serious, short and sweet or mega-detailed. It totally depends on your brand. 

When building your guide, consider: 

  • Your brand’s most important communication elements
  • Common mistakes surrounding usage  
  • Mission, vision, and values
  • Tone of voice 
  • Muse, if applicable
  • Style & formatting 

For 20 useful examples of what to include in your brand copy style guide, get my FREE Copy Style Guide Builder. Reinforce your brand and start communicating more consistently right away.  

Analytics & Ongoing Iteration 

Your content marketing strategy may not be perfect from the get-go. And that’s ok! There are eleventy million data tools out there to help you see what’s working and what’s not working. Then change and tweak as you go. 

Google analytics and Google Search Console are great sources of information for your business. You can also do market research in the form of surveys, IG polls, etc to get feedback from your audience. 

Your content strategy may change as the industry changes or as you learn more about your audience. It’s not a one and done thing. Yep, there’s that complexity again. But don’t worry, it’s worth it when you start seeing the leads and sales roll in! 

Final Thoughts

Big exhale—you made it to the end! As I said, I can’t cover every little detail of a successful content marketing strategy in a single post. But I tried my best to provide helpful resources along the way. And I truly hope you learned something.

If you’ve gained some confidence in how to go about planning and executing your plan for world domination—I mean content marketing—awesome! And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out! I love talking shop. 

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