What does a content marketing strategy look like?
CREATING A CONTENT STRATEGY IS A TIME-CONSUMING PROCESS; IS IT WORTH IT? HOW AND WHERE DO YOU START AND WHAT SHOULD YOU INCLUDE? WHEN IT COMES TO CREATING THE CONTENT, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT?
hen it comes to your content marketing strategy, as a small business owner, you’ll be asking one question. What do I spend my time on for maximum effect? That means being clear and precise about what you do and why you are doing it.
Make no mistake; it’s hard sitting at the bottom of the “content mountain”. As you look up at the snow-capped peaks it can seem impossible to find a clear path to the top. You need a plan. Content marketing strategies are complex beasts and it can be hard to know where to start and in what direction to head.
Let’s start with something I’m sure you already know. Digital content marketing is a subset of your general marketing. You need to have established your brand, product or service targetting and positioning, segmentation, promotional tactics and monitoring and evaluation techniques before you think about diving into content marketing. Do bear in mind that content marketing is a subset again of your overall digital marketing strategy; which will also encompass SEO, PPC, Social and other digital marketing. A digital marketing plan follows many of the same rules as a traditional marketing plan. This is hardly surprising when you think about it; you’re not really doing anything different. I’m not saying they’re the same, but the process is similar.
It starts with your customers
Just as with traditional marketing, you need to know what your customers look like. Our first complexity is that for each product or service you sell, there will be many target customers and each of them will have differing needs from the content you develop. So, start profiling. Need some help with that? Maybe check out this infographic.
Having fully understood who you are trying to get hold of we can look at the next element of the plan; where do you hang that content for maximum effect.
Where (and when) do your customers look for content?
Ask yourself the following question, “where do my customers look for content?” Be honest; if your customers aren’t on facebook then there is little point spending time, or your best content, on that platform. Place the best content where it will be seen by the most number of people you identified in your customer profiles. Be honest about your own site; does your blog attract new visitors because of the quality of the content or because your SEO, outreach or PPC brought them there? Generally, unless they are die-hard fans, it’ll be the latter.
Locating places that will accept your content efforts means some relationship building. Yes, there are places that will simply take all submitted content but ask yourself why this is. Maybe a better way forward is to locate the actual places your target readers hang out and then go after those sites specifically. It’ll take you some time to find an approach that works, and one shoe won’t fit all, but you’ll get there with some perseverance.
Do your content consumers want content at a particular time? Is there topical subject matter that will get their attention quicker? Do consider an editorial calendar to help you keep on top of things. Remember you’re in this for the long haul and anything that makes it an easier process should be given serious consideration.
What message will resonate with them?
Enter stage left the customer journey. There are a few ways to look at this, but the key takeaway is this :
The customer journey goes from “never having heard of you” to (hopefully) “being a die-hard lifelong-fan of your brand”. There are many stages of progression through that journey and you need to present a different message (and possibly using a different medium) in each of them. We can call those points “moments that matter” or “touchpoints“. This spans a whole range – offline and online and before, during and after you do business with them.
Today’s customer journey is an iterative, complex, pinball of touchpoints. – David Louis Edelman
You’re going to need to really get to know your customers at each stage of their journey. This means getting feedback, careful measurement, and A/B testing. There are some general rules you can use to create content that will resonate. Understand where to use hard facts and where to use emotion to drive customers onwards in their journey. While a customer journey map might be a stretch for you to create, it’s a good place to aim for. The Salesforce State of Marketing 2017 report tells us that 91% of high performing marketing teams say a customer journey strategy positively impacted their overall customer engagement.
Actually creating the content
As with creating blog posts, 90% of the work involved is in the planning. As the above shows, by the time you’ve got to this point you’ve done a lot of work surrounding what content you need. You know who you want to talk to, where they are looking and what they want to hear. So here you are, blank page in front of you, ready to make the content. You’ll be glad to know this is the easy bit! You’ll know from your previous research what the best type of content is to reach your intended reader and how you need to phrase the message. So get going! Not so sure how to begin? This is a step that can be, and often is, outsourced to a freelancer or agency. However, if you want to have a go at it yourself, try to make it ;
- Branded thoughtfully
- SEO friendly
- Sharing friendly
- Meet any site guidelines (if you’re going to try submitting it to another site)
- Legal, it must be checked for copyright
How will you get your content in place?
Sadly we’re back to a hard part. This part takes research, effort, and time. You need to locate somewhere to hang your content. You may have created the content for your own site or blog. Great, then publish away. Or you may be planning on publishing the content to an outreach location, in which case submit away. The trick is taking the time to correctly identify where your customers go to get their content fix. It may be social media or a particular site on the web. Finding outreach partners that will accept your content regularly can be a time monster since you need to be sure it’ll be seen by the right people. One way to do this is to simply poll customers about where they like to go when browsing on matters related to your product or service. In some cases this is easy to guess in others it’ll be far more granular. The time taken here will pay off later as you will be able to pick and choose sites based on your content type and message.
Measurement and feedback (some expectation management)
There are a wealth of ways to measure content ROI. Just keep in mind why you created it in the first place; to achieve business goals. Also, you need to accept that it’s unlikely you’ll get clear data about exactly how many new customers you got from any single piece of content. You’ll need to be happy measuring general changes.
So, with that caveat drawn, let’s look at what you can measure. What you can measure will be largely dependent on where the content is.
Try to measure the following if you can :
This basic metric allows you to gauge basic success for the content. Are people coming to view your creation? Do remember that a visit to a blog post is not the same as a download of a whitepaper. Adjust your data accordingly.
Knowing where consumers of your content are situated. This will help with future content generation and targetting.
Mobile Vs Desktop
The Hostingfacts.com survey of 2016 suggested that there are more mobile internet users than desktop, with mobile traffic taking 52.21% of the share. Finding out how your content is viewed is important when it comes to optimising for specific platforms.
Clearly, you don’t want to be losing your visitor before they’ve devoured your content. A high bounce rate may mean a disconnect between what they wanted and what they got. Don’t panic, look at how they arrived at the content and work out why they might be leaving.
Movement and click patterns
If you are able to get a heat map or click map. You may get some really useful ideas about how people are interacting with your content. Google Analytics offers some functionality, or you may need to seek a specialist provider like heatmap.me or Crazyegg.com.
It can be difficult to allow unrestricted two-way conversations when it comes to your content. Maybe not everyone will take it as you’d hoped? You need to embrace all the comments you get, even negative feedback, since they will give you insight into what people really think. Don’t leave it hanging, offer some thoughtful and measured responses where possible. That your content is creating discussion should be taken, overall, as a positive!
Social interactions (signals) are now a firmly entrenched SEO ranking factor; exactly how much they mean remains a subject for debate. But be sure of one thing, measure them and build a picture of what gets shared and what doesn’t. Use that data to improve and build a better picture of your customers.
The Sum up
Take all of this, build it into a dynamic process that changes and improves on each cycle, and you’ve got a content strategy. You will have answered the following questions :
- Who do you want to talk to?
- What stage of the customer experience are they at?
- Where will they look for content?
- What content do they want to see?
- What message will make them want to move forward?
- How do you get the content in front of them?
- Did it work?
You’ll go down some wrong turns, you’ll need to experiment a little, and there will be moments of confusion; but keep on persevering. Having a strong content marketing strategy allows you access to the hard-to-reach locations that other marketing techniques may miss.