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.
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:
In other words, grow. your. business.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Think of it as reverse engineering backward from the goal. That way every piece of content has a purpose.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Again, make sure it’s a fit for your customer persona.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
If you decide to DIY your content, here are a few resources that can help:
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 Brand Messaging Guide puts 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:
For 20 useful examples of what to include in your brand copy style guide, get my FREE Brand Messaging Guide Template with 30+ brand messaging examples. Knock out your own brand messaging guidelines in just a few hours!
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!
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.